Critical Thinking Skills and activities for Project Managers

Weaving critical thinking into your projects

Brought to You by Dave Litten


Think back to how project management is applied. Activities, methods, processes, procedures and techniques only go so far... Think about planning, monitoring and control.

Think about estimating and identifying risk respnses

Think about project strategies and approaches

Think about project controls

Think about delivery approaches

ALL of the above, and more, depend 100% upon Critical Thinking.

Think You Can Do WITH Critical Thinking?

Critical Thinking Skills and activities for Project Managers Critical thinking is for everyone yet few are able or willing to do it. Critical thinking is a set of transferable skills that can be learned for one thing yet equally useful for any other. Critical thinking cuts across all academic disciplines and is applicable in all spheres of human activity - particularly project management where it becomes a toolbox for driving both career and project success. So what are the key activities, abilities and attributes of a critical thinker? Analytical skills Like any one skilled in debate, critical thinkers demand properly constructed arguments that presents reasons and more sound conclusions Tolerance Critical thinkers delight in hearing diversion views and enjoy a real debate Confidence This is key since critical thinkers must be confident and able to examine views made by others, often those in authority Curiosity This is the essential ingredient for ideas and insights Truth seeking The critical thinkers are looking for objective truth even if it turns out to undermine their own previously held convictions and long cherished beliefs and even if this goes against their own self interest "There goes another beautiful theory about to be murdered by a gang of facts" You need to learn how to identify other peoples arguments and conclusions and go on to interpret and produce your argument more effectively. This means you will want to read between the lines, see behind services and identify false assumptions. To be successful as a project manager it is vital that you apply critical thinking within the planning, monitoring, and control of your projects

The Soft Stuff Matters

Critical thinking skills is the backbone to Critical Decision-making, which in and of itself, leads to successful change management and project delivery success. But don´t take my word for it…just listen to The Project Management Institute (PMI), and their Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) 6th Edition now includes The Talent Triangle:

Critical Thinking in Project Management

Check out the “technical, strategic and business management bits above…these cannot be learned by rote alone.

See, Critical Thinking Skills is about a range of skills and understandings – the kind of open-mindedness that allows you to make creative leaps and gain insights.

Get this...

Demand over the next 10 years for project managers is growing faster than demand for workers in other occupations. Organizations, however, face risks from this talent gap.

This talent gap analysis shows that project managers are important contributors to productivity. Talent shortages in the profession can potentially create risks of nearly $208 billion in GDP over the next 10-year period up to 2028

The latest PMI-commissioned talent gap analysis has found outstanding opportunities in jobs and career growth for project managers.

From the present day up to 2028, the project management skills and jobs are expected to grow by 33 percent, or nearly 22 million new jobs.

By 2027, employers will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles

If you need to become a Project Management Professional (PMP), then click below

What has this to do with Critical Thinking Skills and activities for Project Managers?

critical thinking skills project management

To answer this, we need to look again at the life-skills of critical thinking…

Critical thinking Questions - The Assertibility Question (AQ) This weeds out wobbly views having shaky evidence from sensible theories that are worth serious consideration. To use AQ you ask what evidence allows you to assert that the claim is true.

This will include questions such as:

  • Does the idea fit well with common sense or is it crazy?
  • Who proposed the idea, and is the person biased towards it being true?
  • Have statistics been used and presented in an honest way, and are they backed up with references to other work that supports the approach?
  • Does the idea explain too much — or too little — to be useful?
  • Have they been open about their methods and data?
  • How many artificially decided settings are there that constrain and affect the theory?

Every day we are bombarded by problems and situations needing to be evaluated and solved.

The challenge is to view these from different perspectives and all too often we make decisions only based on previous similar situations or experiences.

This can lead to cloudy decision-making since we are often affected by emotional thinking, poorly prioritized facts and external influences that may not be relevant.

Then compare and contrast this with critical thinking which builds a rational and open minded process built upon information and empirical evidence.

Critical Thinking Skills Definition:

“ an intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information that has been gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication ”

Critical thinking provides the skills to judge and evaluate situations that is based on understanding the related data. It is analyzed to build a clear understanding of the problem, a proper solution identified, and then to take actions based on that solution.

The power of the critical thinking process is that it prevents our minds from jumping directly to conclusions, and instead, leads the mind through a set of logical steps to widen the range of perspectives, to accept the findings, sidestep personal biases, and consider reasonable possibilities.

Critical Thinking - The 6 Basic Steps

To determine what are the critical thinking questions, here are the six basic steps:

critical thinking skills project management

Step 1. Knowledge Here, we need a clear vision, starting with identifying the argument or the problem that needs to be resolved. Open questioning is used to acquire a deep understanding about the problem or situation. This involves the use of open ended questioning to discuss and explore the main reasons or root causes. A clear understanding must be obtained of what the problem is and why do we need to solve it. Step 2. Comprehension You need to fully understand the situation along with the facts that align and support it. The way in which you collect such facts will depend upon the research methods used, and this in turn will depend upon the problem, the type of data and information available, and any constraints. Step 3. Application This is the next practical step following comprehension, and builds to fully understand the different facts and resources needed to solve the problem. Mind maps are helpful here to analyze the situation while building a strong relationship between it and the core problem while resolving the best way to move forward. Step 4. Analyze This step builds on the information and linkages identified from the main problem, and analysis to close to identify the strong and weak points plus the challenges faced one identifying a solution to the problem. The main causes are prioritized to determine how they can be applied, and one of the most often used tools here to analyze the problem and those circumstances that surround it, is the cause and effect diagram, which isolates the problem from its root causes and identifies such causes so that they can be categorized on their type an impact on the problem. Step 5. Synthesis Once the problem has been fully analyzed and the related data has been considered, a decision needs to be taken how the problem can be solved along with the initial set of actions required. If there are several identified solutions, then each should be evaluated and prioritized to identify the best solution approach. It is here that SWOT analysis can be helpful in identifying the solutions strength, weakness, opportunity, and threats.

SWOT Analysis

critical thinking skills project management

If they are to interpret and use the SWOT analysis, the project can form the strategy based on the following factors:

  • ​​ ​​ Strength vs. opportunity . The strategies or approaches build on the available existing strengths and how they may be used to leverage existing or new opportunities
  • ​​ ​​ Weaknesses vs. opportunities. This strategies suggest ways of overcoming existing weaknesses while building new potential opportunities
  • ​​ ​​ Strengths vs. threats. These strategies identify approaches to build on the organization, product, or project strengths while reducing threats and risk to the main objectives.
  • ​​ ​​ Weaknesses vs. threats. These are strategies designed to prevent such weaknesses from the influenced by external threats.

Step 6. Take Action The final step is to build a problem valuation that can be put into action, as the final result of critical thinking should be transferred into actionable steps. Within a project, a plan of action should be implemented to ensure that the solution is adopted and implemented as planned. Summary The critical thinking method is used to replace the emotions and biases when dealing with a situation or a problem. The advantage of using critical thinking is its contribution to widening perspectives about situations and providing a broader range of action choices to ensure that the decided resolution is implemented and integrated between all the involved individuals and organizations.

Critical Thing Tools

The Cause and Effect Diagram

The cause and effect diagram is helpful when exploring problems and their solution:

critical thinking skills project management

How to solve problems using the cause and effect diagram The cause and effect diagram is also known as the Ishikawa diagram or fishbone diagram. For its successful use, a clear problem definition is first needed so that the proper solution can be targeted.

Additionally, the root causes behind the problem must also be carefully analysed. The Ishikawa diagram has two main sections, causes on the left hand side, and effect on the right-hand side.

Possible problem causes are thought through by creating branches from the line that links cause and effect. This type of diagram has a focus on solving problems rather than exploring ideas which is normally the case when applying critical thinking skills. The headings used to brainstorm the various problem causes, can vary from industry to industry, and as an example here are typical cause headings for three industries:

  • The service industry. S urrounding, S uppliers, S ystems, S kills, and S afety
  • The manufacturing industry.   M achine, M ethod, M aterial, M anpower, and M easurement
  • The marketing industry. P roduct, P rice, P lace, P romotion, P eople, P rocess, and P hysical evidence

There are four steps to create the Fishbone diagram:

  • 1 Identify the problems. The defects, or problem, results from one or several causes, for these reasons the problem must be clearly identified so that potential related causes can be investigated
  • 2 A straight horizontal line should be drawn as a link between cause and effect, so that general causes such as the three cause models mentioned above can be drawn as branches from this main line
  • 3 ​ Once the main general categories have been added, all possible causes for the problem can now be investigated and organized under the general categories
  • 4 The final step is to investigate and discuss each possible cause and organize them in priority and influence order

Critical Thinking and Mind Mapping Mind mapping is a tool to help understand ideas and collaboration. Those who use Mind mapping for critical thinking can improve their productivity by 25%. It is also used to support the project management process and can easily be integrated when performing project management planning. I include here an excellent example (not my own) showing how the use of diagrams and colors help convey easily identified and remembered relationships. As stated at the center of this diagram, this is an example of brainstorming the various elements of time management:

critical thinking skills project management

Critical Thinking  - Real World Example

Here at Projex Academy, we have the market leader in online streaming training the world´s project management community. Our Flagship training course is for the PRINCE2 Methodology. First, I generated a Mind map on the structure and application of the PRINCE2 Methodology, then I performed root cause analysis to determine customer-demand potential training spin-offs. This resulted in created TWO new products - BOTH of which are UNIQUE to the project management training industry. They are:

  • PRINCE2  SCRUM Masterclass for fast-to-market and high ROI projects
  • PRINCE2 Lite for tailoring and blending smaller projects

Both have been selling like hot cakes since their launch a few months back - click on their images below to find out more... THANK YOU Critical Thinking!

critical thinking skills project management

Want to become a PRINCE2 Practitioner?

A personal learning experience.

Study anywhere, anytime at your own pace. We will be at your side every step of the way.


Our mission is to exceed your learning expectations in the most professional and efficient way possible. In the unlikely event that you are not 100% satisfied - we will gladly arrange a full refund with no quibbles. That's how confident we are :)

  • Free PM Courses
  • Testimonial

.css-s5s6ko{margin-right:42px;color:#F5F4F3;}@media (max-width: 1120px){.css-s5s6ko{margin-right:12px;}} Join us: Learn how to build a trusted AI strategy to support your company's intelligent transformation, featuring Forrester .css-1ixh9fn{display:inline-block;}@media (max-width: 480px){.css-1ixh9fn{display:block;margin-top:12px;}} .css-1uaoevr-heading-6{font-size:14px;line-height:24px;font-weight:500;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;color:#F5F4F3;}.css-1uaoevr-heading-6:hover{color:#F5F4F3;} .css-ora5nu-heading-6{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:start;-ms-flex-pack:start;-webkit-justify-content:flex-start;justify-content:flex-start;color:#0D0E10;-webkit-transition:all 0.3s;transition:all 0.3s;position:relative;font-size:16px;line-height:28px;padding:0;font-size:14px;line-height:24px;font-weight:500;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;color:#F5F4F3;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover{border-bottom:0;color:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover path{fill:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover div{border-color:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover div:before{border-left-color:#CD4848;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active{border-bottom:0;background-color:#EBE8E8;color:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active path{fill:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active div{border-color:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:active div:before{border-left-color:#0D0E10;}.css-ora5nu-heading-6:hover{color:#F5F4F3;} Register now .css-1k6cidy{width:11px;height:11px;margin-left:8px;}.css-1k6cidy path{fill:currentColor;}

  • Collaboration |
  • How to build your critical thinking ski ...

How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

Decision-making tools for agile businesses

In this ebook, learn how to equip employees to make better decisions—so your business can pivot, adapt, and tackle challenges more effectively than your competition.

Make good choices, fast: How decision-making processes can help businesses stay agile ebook banner image

Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

Related resources

critical thinking skills project management

12 tips for effective communication in the workplace

critical thinking skills project management

Unmanaged business goals don’t work. Here’s what does.

critical thinking skills project management

How Asana uses work management to drive product development

critical thinking skills project management

How Asana uses work management to streamline project intake processes


How it works

For Business

Join Mind Tools

Article • 8 min read

Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.


Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

critical thinking skills project management

You've accessed 1 of your 2 free resources.

Get unlimited access

Discover more content

How to Guides

Planning Your Continuing Professional Development

Assess and Address Your CPD Needs

Book Insights

Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork. Start the Work That Matters.

Michael Bungay Stanier

Add comment

Comments (1)

priyanka ghogare

critical thinking skills project management

Get 20% off your first year of Mind Tools

Our on-demand e-learning resources let you learn at your own pace, fitting seamlessly into your busy workday. Join today and save with our limited time offer!

Sign-up to our newsletter

Subscribing to the Mind Tools newsletter will keep you up-to-date with our latest updates and newest resources.

Subscribe now

Business Skills

Personal Development

Leadership and Management

Member Extras

Most Popular

Newest Releases

Article am7y1zt

Pain Points Podcast - Balancing Work And Kids

Article aexy3sj

Pain Points Podcast - Improving Culture

Mind Tools Store

About Mind Tools Content

Discover something new today

Pain points podcast - what is ai.

Exploring Artificial Intelligence

Pain Points Podcast - How Do I Get Organized?

It's Time to Get Yourself Sorted!

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Boosting Your People Skills


What's Your Leadership Style?

Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Way You Like to Lead

Recommended for you

Business Operations and Process Management

Strategy Tools

Customer Service

Business Ethics and Values

Handling Information and Data

Project Management

Knowledge Management

Self-Development and Goal Setting

Time Management

Presentation Skills

Learning Skills

Career Skills

Communication Skills

Negotiation, Persuasion and Influence

Working With Others

Difficult Conversations

Creativity Tools


Work-Life Balance

Stress Management and Wellbeing

Coaching and Mentoring

Change Management

Team Management

Managing Conflict

Delegation and Empowerment

Performance Management

Leadership Skills

Developing Your Team

Talent Management

Problem Solving

Decision Making

Member Podcast


  • The Magazine
  • Newsletters
  • Managing Yourself
  • Managing Teams
  • Work-life Balance
  • The Big Idea
  • Data & Visuals
  • Reading Lists
  • Case Selections
  • HBR Learning
  • Topic Feeds
  • Account Settings
  • Email Preferences

A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

  • Matt Plummer

critical thinking skills project management

Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.

Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.

With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.

critical thinking skills project management

  • Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

Partner Center

Key Project Management Skills You Need In 2022

Key Project Management Skills You Need In 2022

Want to become a project manager ? Or maybe you are already a PM and now looking for ways to upscale your knowledge and opportunities?

Download PDF

In both cases, you will require skills to get you somewhere. 

But with so many things to learn and concepts to adopt, how does one know what skills are essential and relevant in 2022, 2023 and onwards? 

We are here to help! The Bordio team has searched far and wide, looked back at our own experience in project management, analyzed the web, and listened to what other professionals have to say about it. The result of our work is in front of you – the list of most sought-after project management skills that you absolutely need to possess to succeed in the field.

Top project management skills everyone must develop

Let’s dive into the essential project management skills that every project manager needs now and moving forward.

Ps – for more theory and insight on project management, check our list of best project management books with some of the top works that have helped millions of project managers worldwide.

#1 Communication skills

We know, not very ground-breaking. But just like with dieting and exercises, we all know we should do it to be healthy and toned up, however only a few really take it into consideration and follow through.

Same with communication – we often know the right thing to do but the old habits get the best of us.

A good project manager is almost like a diplomat. They must understand everyone’s roles and perspectives, and handle negotiations and conflicts.

How to develop communication skills

Effective communication is not about listening, it’s about hearing what somebody is trying to tell you.

Learn to be an attentive listener: don’t multi-task or dream about something else while you’re having a conversation. Many projects fail because all stakeholders only want to push their agenda but are not interested in hearing what others have to say.

But communication skills do not only mean listening to others speak. It’s also about speaking up when necessary and sharing your feedback.

A successful project manager also knows how to streamline communication channels to ensure that everyone in the project team gets the information they need on time and in a convenient format. If you’re not sure how to build an efficient system, create a communications plan to guarantee nothing gets missed in the swing of things.

#2 Leadership

Leadership is a tricky one. How does one become a leader? Or an inspirational one? It’s something that is hard to track and measure, yet we instantly know a good leader when we see one.


Leaders are followed, but managers are tolerated.

How to develop the leadership skill

There are as many ways to develop leadership skills as there are leaders.

Here’s what we can recommend:

  • Learn to make hard decisions and put others first.
  • Learn to take responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your team.
  • Find inspirational leaders and learn about their journeys. Look for interviews on YouTube, TED talks, and books where they share their experiences and hardships that helped them become who they are today.
  • Find an inspiring mentor and ask them for guidance.

Leadership is not easy, especially when your team members are spread across the city, country, or globe. We’ve written a separate expert guide on managing remote teams , so make sure to read it if you’re managing a hybrid or remote team. We can also recommend you to use remote collaboration tools to handle the process.

#3 Adaptivity

Change is good, and change is well.

Nothing is set in stone these days, really. Circumstances change, so do our plans, and we, ultimately, need to follow.

Being able to adapt means thinking and reacting quickly, seeing the positive in the change, and being creative and open-minded. It also includes a forever-student attitude, where the project manager is eager to learn new things, be it a new project management software , the latest hottest methodology, a new niche or industry where the company is investing in, or anything else.

How to develop adaptivity

Start small. If your first instinct to change is to object to it, force yourself to analyze it and see how it can turn out for the better.

Practice project management frameworks that encourage and support flexibility and change. Agile , Scrum , and Lean will help you see that adapting is not necessarily hard and painful, and that change is not a villain.

And to remain objective, have a peek into PRINCE2 and Waterfall to understand those less flexible frameworks better. They have their strong sides too, and, for some projects, they turn out much better than trendy methodologies.

Project management is pretty much people management.

And it’s much better to deal with a large number of people in a stressful environment when you can sympathize with them. Empathy helps avoid conflicts and find a personal approach to stakeholders and team members. Together, that makes the project stronger and less likely to fail or become mediocre.

How to develop empathy

Some people are more empathetic by nature than others.

But don’t worry if you don’t think you are among the lucky ones. To become more empathetic, start building personal connections with the team and practice self-reflection.

Make an effort to not jump to conclusions but take a step back and see why someone did or said something.

An interesting life hack that we’ve found is to read more fiction books. You should, of course, look for great team management and psychology books too, but it is believed that living through those fictional characters’ lives helps us grow and learn to understand the perspectives of someone very different from us.

#5 Calmness

Call us biased, but calmness is an essential project management skill for any project manager who wants to build a successful long-term career.

There’s nothing more damaging to the project and irritating to the team than a project manager who gets fired up over nothing (or something) and lashes out at everyone around, or panics and makes short-sighted decisions that damage the project in the end. To have more peace of mind during the project and to control time you can use software for work management .

Calmness helps deal with stress and fast-paced environments, it makes you a better listener, colleague, and manager.

How to develop calmness

If you are open to meditation – great! We would highly recommend it as a tool to learn to focus and stay grounded.

Another good way of staying calm is through regular exercising. We’ve briefly talked about the power of exercising in our how to be productive at home article. But we’ll say it again – doing a workout, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, can do wonders to your mind and soul. Not only will you be more healthy but you’ll be able to re-charge and release all the negative energy and tension. Many successful project managers and other professionals schedule workouts in their weekly planners at least a few times a week. You should try it too! By the way, you can use free task maker with reminder notifications for convenience.

#6 Negotiation

Negotiation is all about finding the middle ground and coming to a compromise that satisfies everyone.

Project managers negotiate all the time: project planning, talking with suppliers, dealing with a grumpy team member, and demanding stakeholders. Finding win-win solutions through negotiations is a necessity in a project manager’s job.

How to develop the negotiation skills

Put yourself in situations where negotiation is needed. Ask to participate in meetings and watch others. Read between the lines and analyze why someone succeeded and others did not.

When you are discussing feature ideas, project budget, or anything else – use this opportunity to negotiate better conditions for you. Now, we don’t encourage you to argue with anything that comes your way, but a little bit of going back and forth will not hurt. Plus, you will probably get more than you could have hoped for initially if you don’t just agree with the first offer you get.

#7 Research

Research skills help the project manager make their project successful.

Best project managers are not experts in everything but they know how to google and where to look for information.

Some of the examples of what project managers research for the project:

  • Market potential: what clients are asking about, what competition offers, recent trends.
  • Best suppliers who can deliver top products in the shortest time for the project.
  • Any technical stuff that team members are working on and the project manager needs to supervise.

Tip: One thing you don’t need to research is a great online calendar planner because we have it ready for you! Also check out Bordio’s other projects such as time organizer app and online electronic planner .

How to develop research skills

Ask around – if you work with a colleague who can find anything, then don’t be shy to ask them how they do it. Listen to their advice and practice it right away.

Another route would be to take a research course but be careful as many of them go into deep scientific methods that might be beyond what an effective project manager needs. You can look for specialized learning opportunities in project management. Perhaps the most well-known in the field would be the Project Management Institute (PMI).

#8 Critical thinking

If it was up to us, critical thinking would be a taught discipline in schools!

Critical thinking is one of the most important project management skills because:

Critical thinking in project management

  • It helps withstand manipulations and distractions.
  • It allows for making quick decisions within constrained circumstances.
  • It helps us foresee the implications of our actions and decisions.
  • Makes the data analysis process easier.

Becoming a critical thinker can seem somewhat tiring as it basically means questioning everything. However, in project management, where risks are all around you, being slightly paranoid is a true virtue. Well, to not get into situations where you need to urgently think of something fast, should use planning tools like online planner and task organizer .

How to develop critical thinking skills

There are countless courses, books, and guides that you can find online that will teach you the basic theory behind critical thinking.

As a quick exercise, anytime you get new information don’t accept it by default. Take the time to understand it, do a quick research of your own, and only then make your own informed decision.

With sensitive or emotional data that is often used to manipulate us, look for alternative sources and what they’re saying. It’s a bad sign if you only have one source claiming something, and everyone else is silent. Also, consider if the source sharing the information is benefitting from it. For example, it often happens with the news in autocratic countries, where people’s opinions and minds are shaped into whatever form the government requires. A quick google can show that the latest sensation is rather exaggerated.

#9 Decision-making

The next project management skill that everyone needs in 2022 is strong decision-making.

The project management team expects us to make informed and data-driven decisions that consider multiple factors, decisions that are prompt and benefit the well-being of the project.

How to develop the decision-making skill

Decision-making is a skill that some people master as they go along. But there is a danger in such a route – a project manager can make too many mistakes and lose their career.

An experienced mentor will be able to help and guide you in the right direction.

A good starting point would be to learn to act quickly but not rushed. Always take the time to analyze the data before making a decision but don’t drag it for too long, risking losing the momentum.

#10 Risk management

Risk management skill is a combination of being able to analyze the current environment, forecast trends, come up with solutions to minimize possible damage, and make decisions quickly under pressure.

It’s not enough for the project manager to identify risks during the project planning stage. Threats can occur later down the line, so it is important to stay alert and always scan for potential risks.

How to develop the skill

Much like everything else in project management, the ability to identify and mitigate risks comes with experience. But only to a certain extent. A lot of the risk management skills can be trained and learned through exercises. It comes down to analytical thinking, learning to look at the situation from multiple angles, and calculating the possible consequences. So any aspiring or practicing project manager can make an effort to look at the project and ask themselves what can go wrong and when.

It would also help to study different takes on risk management and the instruments to work with it. As a starting point, you can read through our risk assessment matrix guide.

Risk Assessment Matrix

The matrix is one of the widespread risk management tools because it is simple yet to the point, and doesn’t take much time to learn how to use it.

#11 Change management

The last two years of the pandemic felt like a one big hardcore change management boot camp. Now everyone understand how important being able to work in a changing environment is. But it’s not enough to be open to change yourself, it’s also important to lead the project through changes.

To ace change management, one should learn to be open to change, to not see it as a threat but as an opportunity. It also takes a quick-thinking process to be able to analyze the change, see how it affects the current situation, and what can be done to make the most of it.

Work on your mindset and use real-life opportunities to master the skill.

#12 Time management

If you manage your time poorly, in most cases your team will do the same.

The project success is a fragile substance. It depends on many factors, including luck, and there is no guarantee of success, even if you do everything right.

Among many other soft skills that help manage projects, time management is a really important project management skill. If you know your way with time and can plan correctly, you will be able to deal with many other issues that often come up in project management.

Time management for PMs

For project managers, time management consists of 3 pieces of a pie:

  • Their own time management.
  • Time management of the team.
  • Project’s time management.

How to develop time management skills

Time management is something we learn and practice all our lives.

Sometimes we are better with time, sometimes we lose track of it. Learn to accept it and not beat yourself up too much. But also learn to understand your strong sides and find the optimal way to save the situation when the time is slipping away.

In terms of getting better with time, we recommend checking out our Best Time Management Books guide for invaluable tips, tricks, and more.

And what we’ve found to help a lot with time management at Bordio is using an online daily planner that PMs and team members alike can refer to and track how well they’re doing. Online planner is with you 24/7, so you can stay on top of tasks even when you’re away from your desk.

#13 Conflict management

Conflicts are toxic in personal life, and they are super harmful in the professional field.

In project management, conflicts create additional risks and delays, causing the project’s progress to slow down. Naturally, any project manager is expected to be able to handle conflicts in their team and with project stakeholders.

Resolving a conflict is not always easy, but a good starting point would be to listen to every party before making decisions or jumping to conclusions. A project manager should be able to face the situation, hear what everyone has to say, and offer a solution. It’s almost like negotiating, but when it goes terribly wrong.

Unfortunately, different team members and project stakeholders will be fighting. It’s human nature that is hard to beat.


So, when the inevitable comes, and you are faced with a conflict, the best tip we can give you is to not sweep it under the rug but address it immediately (and, ideally, in private). Have patience and empathy for everyone involved, and remind them that we are all on the same page and focus on the same goals. Then start getting to the root cause of the issue.

You will learn through practice faster than any theory can teach you, but it would make sense to look for what the classics tell us about conflicts. You will find chapters on conflict resolution in all major project management books out there.

#14 Budgeting

Budgeting or cost management is another critical skill for project managers.

Nobody expects a PM to be a financial or accounting expert but they must be able to deal with the project budget and make it work. There are two main scenarios where budget management skills will be required:

  • A project manager is given a ready budget for the project.
  • A project manager must do a cost estimate and have it approved by key stakeholders.

Even if the project manager has helped with the budget, it is still paramount for them to have a basic understanding of the concept. The project budget is a part of the iron triangle which consists of costs, time, and scope. It is the project manager who works with the triangle and ensures the estimations, and, therefore, the project plan makes sense.

It’s a tricky one. You can learn basic budgeting from personal management finance and apply key principles to the projects. However, it’s likely not enough with complex projects.

If you are already working as a project manager but are not actively involved in budgeting yet, ask to be included in the process. As you sit and watch colleagues do the magic, ask them clarifying questions and write down the key points.

If you are serious about it, there are many short and long-term courses focused on budgeting that you can take. But be prepared for a steep price and long hours that you will be required to spend crunching numbers. So be wary of your schedule and make sure there’s enough time you can allocate to it.

#15 Inclusivity

Inclusivity, or rather inclusive thinking, is one of the soft skills that have recently become more relevant in project management.

Society is changing, and it’s important to accept and welcome people of all backgrounds and profiles. Clearly, a diverse group of people will come up with more breakthrough and innovative ideas than a team of similar-looking and thinking professionals.

Inclusivity allows for different perspectives to be heard, making the solutions that the project team is working on better because it caters to different demographic and it does it in a smart and considerate way.

How to develop inclusivity

Inclusivity is part of emotional intelligence. Developing it takes a lot of deep work with yourself. Do a little self-reflection session to see if you have any bias against some demographics. It’s important to be raw and honest with yourself if you want to progress with it.

Also, you might speak with your HR to see if they can guide you in the right direction. A lot of workplaces today have special programs or access to more information. They will be happy to point you in the right direction.

#16 Creativity

Creativity today is a vital quality for building a successful career. But it’s not just a buzzword.

In the crazy, hectic world of today being able to generate creative ideas is what differentiates a great project manager from an average one. And creativity is not an easy one to automate or teach to AI. So if we are talking about long-term careers in project management, it makes a lot of sense to invest time and effort into building your creative muscle.

How to develop creativity

Nobody has a ready formula that tells you what to do to become creative.

However, one of the proven ways to boost your creative flow is to change up your routine:

Creativity boost checklist

  • Start going on long walks if you tend to spend the majority of your time at home.
  • Try a new hobby that’s outside of your comfort zone.
  • Meet new people and hang out with them. Ideally, look for new friends who are not in the same working field as you are and don’t live a similar lifestyle.
  • Go out more often. We get inspired and creative when we are surrounded by something new. Go to a neighboring city or visit a local museum and a concert hall.

Final thoughts on key project management skills

The list of project management skills can seem daunting, especially if you are only starting in the field.

However, many of the things we talked about will come to you naturally, as a part of the working process, if you are willing to stay open-minded and soak up all the knowledge surrounding you.

Even the top project managers with vast experience behind their backs may struggle with some skills on the list. And that’s okay. Project management is growing and evolving constantly, and so do you. Stay active, learn to listen, use time managers , be curious, use powerful online to-do lists , and you will be fine.

critical thinking skills project management

Related articles

Madina S.

Bordio SIA, Katlakalna 9A, Riga, Latvia © All rights reserved. Terms & Privacy

critical thinking skills project management

Privacy Overview

Using Socially Relevant Projects to Develop Engineering Students’ Project Management, Critical Thinking, Teamwork, and Empathy Skills: The UTAD-REFOOD Experience

  • Conference paper
  • First Online: 01 January 2023
  • Cite this conference paper

Book cover

  • Caroline Dominguez   ORCID: 11 , 12 ,
  • Gonçalo Cruz   ORCID: 11 , 12 , 13 &
  • Adelaide Cerveira   ORCID: 11 , 13  

Part of the book series: Communications in Computer and Information Science ((CCIS,volume 1720))

Included in the following conference series:

  • International Conference on Technology and Innovation in Learning, Teaching and Education

1042 Accesses

3 Citations

Teaching project management to engineering students demands real-world experiences in which they can apply and develop work-ready skills, such as critical thinking, empathy, and teamwork. While a shortage of these skills in new graduates is frequently claimed by engineering companies and educational bodies, there is still a lack of higher education research studies on how to foster them through teaching practice. This paper intends to contribute to filling this gap by presenting an exploratory case study research of a Project-Based Learning (PjBL) experience aimed at designing and implementing a professional (re)integration plan for social and economic deprived people (e.g., long/short-term unemployed), who depend on external food supply provided by a non-profit organization called REFOOD. The experience was carried out in Portugal, from February to June 2021, with 7 MSc mechanical engineering students from the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD). We firstly describe the PjBL experience in terms of the key driving question, the learning goals, the educational activities, the collaboration among students and stakeholders, the scaffolding activities, and the tangible learning artefacts produced. We further discuss the preliminary results of the study from data collected through documental analysis, participant observation, and self-completion questionnaires on students’ perceptions of the PjBL experience. Data analysis shows that this experience positively impacted the development of students’ project management, empathy, critical thinking, and team-working skills, by mainly having challenged their personal belief systems and biases related to the real-world scenarios they dealt with. Finally, we outline implications for the teaching practice concerning the development of similar PjBL experiences, as well as future research directions.

  • Engineering education
  • Social responsibility
  • Project management
  • Critical thinking

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Canney, N., Bielefeldt, A.: A framework for the development of social responsibility in engineers. Int. J. Eng. Educ. 31 (1B), 414–424 (2015)

Google Scholar  

Jamison, A., Kolmos, A., Holgaard, J.E.: Hybrid learning: an integrative approach to engineering education. J. Eng. Educ. 103 (2), 253–273 (2014)

Article   Google Scholar  

Walther, J., Miller, S.E., Sochacka, N.W.: A model of empathy in engineering as a core skill, practice orientation, and professional way of being. J. Eng. Educ. 106 (1), 123–148 (2017)

Korte, R., Smith, K.A., Li, C.Q.: The role of empathy in entrepreneurship: a core competency of the entrepreneurial mindset. Adv. Eng. Educ. 7 (1), n1 (2018)

Walther, J., Brewer, M.A., Sochacka, N.W., Miller, S.E.: Empathy and engineering formation. J. Eng. Educ. 109 (1), 11–33 (2020)

Ballesteros Sánchez, L.I., Ortiz Marcos, I., Rodríguez Rivero, R., Juan Ruiz, J.: Project management training: an integrative approach for strengthening the soft skills of engineering students. Int. J. Eng. Educ. 33 (6A), 1912–1926 (2017)

Ojiako, U., Ashleigh, M., Chipulu, M., Maguire, S.: Learning and teaching challenges in project management. Int. J. Project Manage. 29 (3), 268–278 (2011)

Ramazani, J., Jergeas, G.: Project managers and the journey from good to great: the benefits of investment in project management training and education. Int. J. Project Manage. 33 (1), 41–52 (2015)

Ewin, N., Chugh, R., Muurlink, O., Jarvis, J., Luck, J.: Empathy of project management students and why it matters. Procedia Comput. Sci. 181 , 503–510 (2021)

Guo, P., Saab, N., Post, L., Admiraal, W.: A review of project-based learning in higher education: student outcomes and measures. Int. J. Educ. Res. 102 (101586), 1–13 (2020)

Carmenado, I., Lopez, F.R., Garcia, C.P.: Promoting professional project management skills in engineering higher education: project-based learning (PBL) strategy. Int. J. Eng. Educ. 31 (1), 184–198 (2015)

Amaral, J., Gonçalves, P., Hess, A.: Creating a project-based learning environment to improve project management skills of graduate students. J. Probl. Based Learn. High. Educ. 3 (2), 120–130 (2016)

Cruz, G., Dominguez, C., Cerveira, A.: Enhancing engineering students’ project management skills in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic: an online project-based learning experience. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference of the Portuguese Society for Engineering Education, CISPEE, pp. 1–7. IEEE, New York, NY (2021)

Krajcik, J.S., Shin, N.: Project-based learning. In: Sawyer, R.K. (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, 2nd edn., pp. 275–297. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2014)

Chapter   Google Scholar  

Edström, K., Kolmos, A.: PBL and CDIO: complementary models for engineering education development. Eur. J. Eng. Educ. 39 (5), 539–555 (2014)

Kolmos, A., de Graaff, E.: Problem-based and project-based learning in engineering education: merging models. In: Johri, A., Olds, B. (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research, 1st edn., pp. 141–161. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (2014)

Collingbourne, L., Seah, W.: Teaching project management using a real-world group project. In: Proceedings of the IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE, pp. 1–8. IEEE, New York, NY (2015)

Chen, J., Kolmos, A., Du, X.: Forms of implementation and challenges of PBL in engineering education: a review of literature. Eur. J. Eng. Educ. 46 (1), 90–115 (2020)

Cruz, G., Dominguez, C.: Engaging students, teachers, and professionals with 21st century skills: the ‘Critical Thinking Day’ proposal as an integrated model for engineering educational activities. In: Proceedings of the IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference, EDUCON, pp. 1969–1974. IEEE, New York, NY (2020)

REFOOD website. . Accessed 21 May 2022

Webpage of the Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. . Accessed 21 May 2022

European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education website. . Accessed 21 May 2022

Project Management Institute: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 5th edn. Project Management Institute, Newtown Township, PA (2013)

Schwaber, K., Sutherland, J.: The Scrum Guide (2017). . Accessed 21 Nov 2016

Yin, R.Y.: Case Study Research Design and Methods, 5th edn. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA (2014)

Walker, R.: Naturalistic research. In: Coe, R., Waring, M., Hedges, L.V., Arthur, J. (eds.) Research Methods & Methodologies in Education, pp. 78–84. SAGE, London, UK (2017)

Hsieh, H.-F., Shannon, S.E.: Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qual. Health Res. 15 (9), 1277–1288 (2005)

Frankfort-Nachmias, C., Nachmias, D.: Research Methods in the Social Sciences, 5th edn. Arnold, London, UK (1996)

European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations: Appendix I - the european federation of psychologists’ associations meta-code. In: Francis, R. (ed.) Ethics for Psychologists, 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey, NJ (2009)

Jollands, M., Jolly, L., Molyneaux, T.: Project-based learning as a contributing factor to graduates’ work readiness. Eur. J. Eng. Educ. 37 (2), 143–154 (2012)

Download references

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD), 5000-801, Vila Real, Portugal

Caroline Dominguez, Gonçalo Cruz & Adelaide Cerveira

Research Centre on Didactics and Technology in the Education of Trainers (CIDTFF), 3810-193, Aveiro, Portugal

Caroline Dominguez & Gonçalo Cruz

Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC), 4200-465, Porto, Portugal

Gonçalo Cruz & Adelaide Cerveira

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gonçalo Cruz .

Editor information

Editors and affiliations.

University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal

Arsénio Reis

João Barroso

Paulo Martins

University of Peloponnese, Tripoli, Greece

Athanassios Jimoyiannis

National Cheng Kung University, Tainan City, Taiwan

Ray Yueh-Min Huang

Nova IMS, Lisbon, Portugal

Roberto Henriques

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this paper

Cite this paper.

Dominguez, C., Cruz, G., Cerveira, A. (2022). Using Socially Relevant Projects to Develop Engineering Students’ Project Management, Critical Thinking, Teamwork, and Empathy Skills: The UTAD-REFOOD Experience. In: Reis, A., Barroso, J., Martins, P., Jimoyiannis, A., Huang, R.YM., Henriques, R. (eds) Technology and Innovation in Learning, Teaching and Education. TECH-EDU 2022. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 1720. Springer, Cham.

Download citation


Published : 01 January 2023

Publisher Name : Springer, Cham

Print ISBN : 978-3-031-22917-6

Online ISBN : 978-3-031-22918-3

eBook Packages : Computer Science Computer Science (R0)

Share this paper

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Publish with us

Policies and ethics

  • Find a journal
  • Track your research

critical thinking skills project management

10 Most In-Demand Soft Skills to Put on Your Resume

L ong gone are the days when listing hard skills was the best (and oftentimes only) way to get your foot in the door at a prestigious company. While technical knowledge and training will always be important, soft skills (or essentially personality traits) are becoming increasingly important to highlight on your resume. And it makes sense, as more companies prioritize work culture and, therefore, the personalities of those they’re hiring.

But which soft skills are the ones that standout the most on a resume? Using data from, CashNetUSA scoured job ads for 46 predetermined soft skills to find the ones that appeared the most on high-paid jobs that surpassed the 75th percentile of wages in America’s most populated cities as well as each state. These are the soft skills that came out on top.

10. Resilience

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 34.29%

Resilience is a soft skill that highlights your ability to handle stress and challenges that come up at work. 

A good example of how to add this to your resume could be, “Showed resilience when leading a team after budget cuts by still delivering work on time and within scope.”

* Data comes from a January 2024 report released by CashNetUSA .

9. Financial Management

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 38.24%

If you’ve ever been in charge of a budget of any size, you can say that you have financial management skills. 

For instance, something like “oversaw the financial management of the freelance budget” could work if you hired contractors for a specific project.

8. Innovation

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 39.24%

Sure, this one makes our eyes roll a bit, too, but in today’s fast-paced world, innovation is key. No one wants an employee that stays stagnant or, worse, digs their heels in at the slight mention of change. 

You know who’s not stagnant? Someone who “excelled at brainstorming and ideation in the innovation process for [fill in project name].” You get it.

7. Emotional Intelligence

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 43.11%

We’re actually pleasantly surprised with this one. After all, we didn’t think corporations necessarily had it in them to care about this.

Jokes aside, having emotional intelligence is something that makes a good team member and an even better manager. After all, it’s hard to resolve team conflicts without it. The more a company emphasizes a “harmonious work environment,” the more this soft skill will matter.

6. Mentoring

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 47.89%

Here’s another managerial skill that job ads like to use to weed out the haves from the have-nots when it comes to managers. Do you actually enjoy mentoring people or have you just fallen up the corporate ladder into a management position?

True leaders will make mentoring a priority and want to highlight it on their resume.

5. Critical Thinking

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 47.94%

“Critical thinking” or “problem solving” can be put in the same bucket as resilience. How did you handle a challenging situation at work? It’s even better if you have data to back up your claim.

Well, maybe you “demonstrated strong critical-thinking skills when analyzing financial reports and making forecasts for the following quarter.”

4. Presentation Skills

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 56%

Presentation skills are the nature of the beast when it comes to today's Corporate America. That's because lots of today’s high-paying jobs require working with cross-functional teams and being able to explain your work in easy, digestible terms.

Think someone on a data science team explaining their findings to a marketing team. Along with "presentation skills," you could also add the specific presentation tools or software you use for your presentations on your resume.

3. Persuasion

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 57.41%

Persuasion sounds rather seductive, but it's crucial when trying to get specific projects across the finish line.

It's also a term that's used a lot in marketing when talking about "persuasive marketing skills" required to communicate well with a customer audience.

2. Negotiation

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 58.26%

This skill goes back to business basics. Proper negotiation skills come in handy in any aspect of life, whether you're negotiating a $1 billion merger or whether or not your toddler can have dessert for breakfast.

That said, it's a skill that takes time to hone — which is why it's considered all the more valuable.

1. Strategic Thinking

Percentage of highly paid jobs requiring the skill: 64.77%

Strategic thinking is essentially a combination of innovation and critical thinking, but the best way to incorporate this keyword on your resume is by using the CAR (challenge, action, result) technique.

You could say something like, "Used strategic thinking skills by analyzing user engagement data and running an A/B test that resulted in increased engagement of 20 percent."

For more resume advice, check out "How to Make Your Resume Shine."

10 Most In-Demand Soft Skills to Put on Your Resume

  • Study Guides
  • Homework Questions

Chapter 7 discusses how critical thinking and problem


  1. Critical Thinking

    critical thinking skills project management

  2. Critical Thinking Skills For Project Managers

    critical thinking skills project management

  3. Critical Thinking Skills

    critical thinking skills project management

  4. Critical_Thinking_Skills_Diagram_svg

    critical thinking skills project management

  5. How to Build Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills

    critical thinking skills project management

  6. Project Management Skills for Managing Large-Scale Projects

    critical thinking skills project management


  1. Critical thinking class (ECOSYSTEM)

  2. Core Critical thinking Skills

  3. Introduction to Critical Thinking

  4. Critical Thinking in MEAL Activities: MEAL DPro

  5. Further Exploration Project Management

  6. Time spent planning is important!


  1. 6 Critical Thinking Skills Essential for Project Managers

    Skill #4: Inference. This is a fancy term for drawing better conclusions. This crucial critical thinking skill helps you make better use of the information you collect, the questions you ask, and the potential problems you spot. Think of everything you might have done so far as putting ingredients in a stew.

  2. Critical Thinking Skills and activities for Project Managers

    Critical thinking skills is the backbone to Critical Decision-making, which in and of itself, leads to successful change management and project delivery success. But don´t take my word for it…just listen to The Project Management Institute (PMI), and their Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) 6th Edition now includes The Talent Triangle:

  3. 5 Critical Thinking Skills for Project Management Success

    Project management is a complex and dynamic field that requires a variety of skills to succeed. Among them, critical thinking skills are essential for identifying, analyzing, and solving problems ...

  4. 10 Essential Project Management Skills

    This is a soft skill you can learn, but project management is probably best suited for those who have a natural tendency toward organization and order. 8. Patience. Being at the center of multiple ...

  5. How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills as a Project Leader

    2 The Ladder of Inference. Another tool that project leaders can use to develop their critical thinking skills is the Ladder of Inference, which is a framework that illustrates how people move ...

  6. 25 Essential Project Management Skills [2024] • Asana

    The 25 key skills you need to succeed as a project manager, how you can develop those project management skills over time, and a project manager toolkit. Project management careers are built off a series of technical, hard, and soft skills. ... Critical thinking. Critical thinking, like problem solving, doesn't have a "solution." ...

  7. How to Use Critical Thinking Skills to Evaluate Project Timelines

    Part 1/3 Essential critical thinking skills for project leaders in Telecommunication and IT: 1. ... understanding dependencies and constraints is crucial for effective project management: The how ...

  8. Agile critical thinking

    Organizations today face a multitude of challenges, including growing complexity brought on by globalization, technology, rapid change, and diversity. By incorporating agile critical thinking, project managers and leaders can deal effectively with these challenges. In this paper, the author posits that traditional methods of developing critical thinking across organizations are not well-suited ...

  9. Build Critical Thinking Skills in 7 Steps w/ Examples [2024] • Asana

    The critical thinking process doesn't necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 6. Present your solution. Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers.

  10. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well. Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly ...

  11. Critical Thinking for Project Managers

    Critical thinking is a process of thinking that examines a situation in an objective manner. Critical thinking is the application of excellent problem-solving skills. It requires that the project manager thinks open-mindedly and recognizes and assesses assumptions, implications, and practical consequences. As a critical thinker, the project ...

  12. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]: Universal. Crucial for the economy. Essential for improving language and presentation skills. Very helpful in promoting creativity. Important for self-reflection.

  13. A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills

    A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills. by. Matt Plummer. October 11, 2019. twomeows/Getty Images. Summary. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess ...

  14. 6 Critical Thinking Skills Essential for Project Managers

    Here's a breakdown about crucial critical thinking skills for project managers — or anyone other role. 6 kritisch thinking abilities for project managers ... There are a few problem formats that work specialize well for this stage of the project. These include: Project Management Critical Thinking can NOT about the methods and tools - it´s ...

  15. Strategic thinking for today's project managers

    Strategic thinking is an intentional process easily lost amid the pressures of operational decision-making and tactical leadership. This paper helps project managers step back from the trees to see the forest and lays the foundation for better strategic thinking within project teams, departments, and overall organizations through changing focus ...

  16. What is the Role of Critical Thinking in Project Management?

    Critical thinking allows separating facts and real options from speculations, opinions and wishful thinking when making decisions in project management. Critical thinking recognises biases in you and other stakeholders, enabling rational reasoning to achieve optimal project outcomes. From the top answer, it is clear that we all have biases, but ...

  17. PDF The Role of Critical Thinking in Project Management1

    thinking. Critical thinking, in the simplest form, is the process of using logic and reasoning to remove bias and opinion, and fully understand a topic. Project teams can benefit greatly by operating from this fact-based viewpoint, especially considering the varied skills and responsibilities of the team members. Clarity around the facts and finely

  18. Key Project Management Skills You Need In 2022

    The next project management skill that everyone needs in 2022 is strong decision-making. The project management team expects us to make informed and data-driven decisions that consider multiple factors, decisions that are prompt and benefit the well-being of the project.

  19. Critical Decision Making Skills Project Managers

    Most are relatively unimportant; some are critical and will cause the project to be successful or to fail. To ensure we make rational, unbiased decisions, critical decision-making requires you to: - Obtain complete and accurate data. - Exam your logic and your biases. - Examine your premises. - Be aware of your motivations.

  20. (PDF) Assessing Critical Thinking Skills of Project Management

    Equipping the critical thinking (CT) skills would improve one's abilities in managing projects. This paper reviews the CT theories, and derives a progressive model that assesses the CT competence ...

  21. Using Socially Relevant Projects to Develop Engineering ...

    Among the project's contributions, we highlight improvements in communication, empathy, teamwork, project management, and critical thinking skills. These main results were possible thanks to the consideration of the six hallmarks proposed by [ 7 ] for PjBL in a collaborative learning context, with shared leadership and constant feedback and ...

  22. Creative Thinking: A Must-Have Skill

    The latest "Future of Jobs 2020"  report by the World Economic Forum released in October showed that by 2025 the most in-demand skills to have in the workforce will be creativity, analytical thinking and innovation. "The world is changing all the time, and as we adapt we need creativity," said Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, cognitive ...

  23. The Wonderful World of Power Skills: Achieving Exceptional Performance

    Based on Neal's new book, Power Skills that Lead to Exceptional Performance, Neal reveals 10 critical, best-practice, results-oriented Power Skills that can promote your professional and personal success. Implementing some of these Power Skills may initially cause your palms to sweat and your heart to race. However, your personal limitations ...

  24. 10 Most In-Demand Soft Skills to Put on Your Resume

    Using data from, CashNetUSA scoured job ads for 46 predetermined soft skills to find the ones that appeared the most on high-paid jobs that surpassed the 75th percentile of wages in ...

  25. Chapter 7 discusses how critical thinking and problem

    Management document from Austin Community College District, 1 page, Chapter 7 discusses how critical thinking and problem-solving skills contribute significantly to success in the academic environment. One valuable resource highlighted in the chapter is the CRAAP test, which assesses the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Ac