The Futurist Project Manager



By Charlotte Kemp

South Africa

A good project manager is perfectly positioned to be a futurist.

A handy definition is our starting point. A project manager is a professional who organises, plans, and executes projects while working within restraints like budgets and schedules,

A futurist is a professional who assesses variables, gathers data, crafts scenarios and helps to aim a project towards a preferred future outcome, within certain restraints.

Four stages of a futures plan

There is a simple 4 stage model that describes everything that a futurist would deal with in a project.

Stage 1 to Gather Intelligence. What information do you need? What trends, data, constraints, timelines, stakeholders and budgets are you working with? Who are the people involved and what are their values and the purpose of the future project?

Stage 2 is to Manage Change. Change will happen anyway but how do we anticipate which changes will have the most impact on our project? Which changes intersecting with each other will have new outcomes? How will the people involved in the project cope with the changes, or resist them?

Stage 3 is to Describe the Future. This is the stage of scenarios and visioning. This is where we use our imagination, intuition and data to hold different potential versions of the future in our minds, and then decide which direction we want to go in and start to craft a plan to get there.

Stage 4 is responsible Testing of the Strategy. Here we can look at our KPIs and outcomes and finances in comparison to budgets and check the timelines of our Gantt charts. This is where we monitor our projects, or our future plans, to stay on the right track.

Any futurist talking about any of the many good models and approaches to futures thinking, or strategic foresight, will be discussing something that can fall into one of those four stages.

The tasks of a project manager include all of the above 4 stages as well.

Describe the future with scenarios

Perhaps the biggest difference between a project planner and a futurist is that the project planner probably has a specific picture in mind when they start. There is an intended outcome. A futurist begins a project with a problem question and no intended outcome in mind, just yet. But when we get to the stage of Describing the Future then we see how a great project manager really displays their experience and skill…


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Editor’s note: This article is based on a presentation by the author at the 2022 Project Management South African (PMSA) Annual Conference in November 2022.  Article coordinated by PMSA who approved its publication in the PMWJ.

How to cite this article: Kemp, C. (2023).  The Futurist Project Manager, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IV, April.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/pmwj128-Apr2023-Kemp-the-futurist-project-manager.pdf

About the Author

Charlotte Kemp

South Africa


Charlotte Kemp is the Futures Alchemist, a futurist keynote speaker who works with organisations to co-create preferred futures. Charlotte is the Immediate Past President of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA), President Elect of the Global Speakers Federation and is a professional member of the Association of Professional Futurists (APF).

Charlotte is also the author of a number of books, including ‘Futures Alchemist’ which presents a narrative of how to use her Map, Compass and Guide model to navigate unknown futures. Charlotte also serves on a number of association boards and steering committees and works as an Association Futurist.

To learn more or to contact Charlotte, go to https://www.charlottekemp.co.za/