Project management refers to the process of designing, developing, analyzing and evaluation of a project. International projects are those that are carried out beyond a country’s boundary (Bartsch, Ebers, & Maurer, 2013, p. 240). It is the duty of a manager to design, develop, analyze and evaluate a project. The directors of such ventures are mandated to formulate the specific frameworks that they will use to involve the participation of the stakeholders. Project management, therefore, involves the following process; initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation and finally closure (Davies, 2002, p. 23). However, there are challenges faced by project managers when working on international projects and many at times these barriers hinder the growth or success of international projects. These barriers are difficult to avoid, and they have huge impacts on the outcomes of the ventures. This essay will analyze the challenges on two international project topics, namely;
Project success and failure
1) Stakeholder management
In order to successfully deliver on any project, it is necessary that the project managers understands the roles of stakeholders. A stakeholder is any individual or organization that the project is likely to affect directly or through perception (Grisham, 2009, p. 34). Equally, the stakeholders can affect or be perceived to affect project development. The effects of these individuals can be negative or positive depending on their perception and attitude towards the international project. Stakeholder management is, therefore, the process of managing stakeholders’ expectations. The prospects of the key players in any global project should be achieved or at least considered so that they support the development of the venture. Negative effects of stakeholders in international projects will lead to their complications and in return failure of the business plans. In any business, stakeholders include the following; investors, customers, employees, competitors, community and government (Bartsch, Ebers, & Maurer, 2013, p. 250). Therefore, stakeholder management requires an in-depth research to understand every stakeholder’s need and harmonize these needs to ensure successful project development.
Stakeholders’ Management Process
The key processes in stakeholders management include; identification, analysis, planning and lastly management. Project managers need to undertake the following in order to achieve a successful project development.
Identify: This stage allows project managers to know who the stakeholders are, and it is done at the initiation stage of any project. The stakeholders must be informed about what the project is all about and the potential benefits to each of them. The managers must be convincing so that they get positive approvals from the stakeholders. An international project cannot be successfully established in an area where the stakeholders have not approved its inception (Kealey, Protheroe, & Ma, 2006, p. 44).
Analyze: This is the second stage, and it allows the stakeholders to interact with the project as the managers keep on analyzing to determine the level and nature of engagement. The participation of the key players in the project is anticipated at this phase to be able to plan for future expectations from all the stakeholders. The project manager will give an outlay of the venture to all the participants so that he or she gets to hear their view on the prospect (Kealey, Protheroe, & Ma, 2006, p. 42).
Plan: After every stakeholder’s expectations are determined, project managers will have to come up with a plan to manage all the expectations. This stage is critical and should be free from mistakes to ensure that the recommended plan is the most preferred one to the rest, and it has high chances of succeeding. The planning phase should have the input of all the relevant parties to the project so that no one is dissatisfied with the preparations.
Manage: This stage allows project managers to implement the plans developed as well as keep monitoring interactions between stakeholders and the projects. The management phase is the final stage that will determine the success and failure of the international project based on how it is received by the stakeholders.
Challenges Encountered in Stakeholder Management
Resistance from Community
Not all projects that are initiated within a community will definitely be accepted. The fact that the values or objective of the project may not necessarily be favorable to the external environment means that the venture might constantly face resistance. A good example is a project involving the construction of a highway passing through a given community. The motorists using the road are the positively-affected stakeholders while the residents living along the highway are the negatively-affected partakers in the project. Such a venture will constantly receive obstructions from the residents who are afraid of the noise and air pollution that the project will have on their livelihoods (Koster, 2009, p. 13).
An international project is carried out at different geographical locations, for instance, countries or continents. These cultural variations may lead to disparity in the stakeholder management of global ventures. A society that is characterized by the monochromic time culture tends to do one thing at a time following a particular formula. The time under this business culture is linear, and it flows from the past to present, as it unfolds into the future. These individuals insist on scheduling all their plans and adhere to the ethical code of behaviors in business, which is, fulfilling their obligations and showing up for meetings in time without failure (Nelson, 2005, p. 65). Polychronic cultures on the other hand value human relationships and interactions over schedules and appointments. The people under this culture do many things at the same time and, therefore, attending to interruptions instead of the issue at hand. The P-time culture people are not committed to the job, and they tend to favor family and friendship ties to business connections. Therefore, a project that is situated in an area that is accustomed to the polychronic culture may fail to prosper because of the negative attitudes that are associated with the local stakeholders.
International projects usually establish a common language to enable the free flow of information between the various stakeholders. Efficient communication can be hard to achieve because many at times the ventures are located in different areas that do not use the same language to converse (Papke-Shields, Beise, & Qua, 2010, p. 654). The project managers in the different geographical areas have to communicate with the stakeholders in the agreed language, for example, English or French. The problem sets in where the native language of the locals is different from the preferred language by the project. The effectiveness of the communication between the managers and the stakeholders will depend on their ability to understand each other correctly and express their expectations. If the consumers or shareholders are not able to address their preferences and grievances appropriately, the project management will not be successful. The different geographical locations of an international project may hinder the efficiency of exchanging ideas amongst the stakeholders. It can be difficult for the managers to address a joint meeting where all the interested parties to the project are present at the same instance. The difference in time between different locations (continents) places a barrier to the effective communication of project development and planning.
2) Project Success and Failure
The success of an international project can be defined and analyzed using different techniques based on what is termed as victorious by the managers. Traditionally, projects have been regarded to be successful once they meet the time, budget, and requirement goals. However, development of technology means that there has to be intensive, multidimensional framework to be used for assessing project success. This structure shows how different dimensions mean diverse things to various stakeholders at the many stages of project developments (Schindler & Eppler, 2003, p. 225).
The success dimensions of an international project should include the following;
Efficiency of the project
Impact of the project on customers
Direct business and organizational success
Preparing for the future
The dimensions mentioned above are all important, and their value varies according to the time and technological phases of the international project. These four measurements should be considered during the definition, planning, and execution stages of a project. It is only through the dimensions that a venture can be termed as either a success or a failure.
Efficiency of the Project
An international venture should thrive to meet the time, budget, and requirement goals that were stipulated during the planning phase. Project managers are tasked with the responsibility of working within the given frameworks to deliver the required results. Stakeholders expect the speculated outcomes to be achieved within the given frameworks. However, for projects involving high-level technologies, the time and budget allocation cannot be achieved a hundred percent but nonetheless the requirement goals are arrived at (Sensea & Antoni, 2003, p. 489).
Impact of the Project on Customers
An international project should be able to benefit the customers directly during its inception and on the conclusion of the venture. Stakeholders approve the development of a venture with hopes that they will receive gains from the project. The benefits that customers receive from various types of projects are likely to increase with the technological uncertainty of the ventures. Customers of projects that involve low technological involvement have little expectations of the benefits accruing from the scheme; this is because of the simple technology used in the projects. On the other hand, customers of projects that involve high technological know-how have huge expectations on the final outcomes. A successful international project manager will be able to make the stakeholders happy by giving them all the expected benefits from the venture during the conclusion stage (Shenhar, Dvir, Levy, & Alan, 2001, p. 710).
Direct Business and Organizational Success
The benefits that accrue to the organization carrying out an international project include profits, market shares, savings, and other business advantages. However, the scope of the expectation depends on the type of the project. Low-tech projects have no or little technological uncertainty because of their nature, that is, they can be carried out by several companies. Therefore, businesses expect little profits from such international projects because of their existence in a competitive environment. Super-high tech projects, on the other hand, have a lot of risks and many business-related advantages attached to them. A successful venture on this level gives a lot of profits to the performing organizations although the benefits come after a long period. The huge benefits accruing in these international projects are due to their high rate of risk occurrence and the reluctance of companies to take them up (Verzuh, 2011, p. 30).
Preparing for the Future
International projects have short and long-term benefits that accrue from their developments. Long term benefits are only enjoyed both directly and indirectly in the future, at times many years after the completion of the business venture. This dimension shows how a project assists an organization to prepare for future technological advancements and challenges. A successful international venture adequately prepares the participating organizations for future challenges and puts them ahead of their competitors (Williams, 2004, p. 275).
Causes of Failure in International Projects
International projects have consistently failed to achieve their expected outcomes because of a number of reasons that are directly linked to the managers of the ventures. The first cause is the failure to examine, clarify, and prioritize the motives and strategic goals of the projects by the managers. Selfish strategies such as taking advantage of cheap labor, using developing funds for personal gains, stealing technology from partners, and giving little incentives to stakeholders can lead to the failure of international projects. Unrealistic goals may make the project managers to spend a lot of resources, in terms of money and time, on ventures that will eventually fail.
International projects at times fail when the managers fail to set up clear, mutually agreed on, and valuable control structures. The governance of performing organizations should be well stipulated in the agreement and development plans of joint ventures to ensure that operations are carried out in specific orders. Projects that have no particular decision-making mechanisms fail to go beyond the stakeholders’ and managements’ expectations (Bartsch, Ebers, & Maurer, 2013, p. 243).
Lack of proper recognition of the pervasive influence of culture on all the activities of an international project leads to its failure. A manager has to pick and train his or her personnel according to the cultural diversity of the project location. International ventures exist under different cultures that have varying aspects of work, economy, time and management mechanisms. Failure by the organizations to train their personnel accordingly may lead to complete flops of the projects.
A successful international project manager should incorporate the retrospectives theory in the administration of business ventures. A retrospective is an official technique for assessing the performance of international projects, noting lessons learned and formulating recommendations that are applicable for use in the future. This theory of looking back at the failures of a project is important in preparing the managers and stakeholders to avoid future mistakes that might be similar to the past faults. Retrospectives assist in organizational learning by ensuring stakeholders get the first-hand experience of the past mistakes. The theory enables continuous improvement in the development of the subsequent projects by better estimation and scheduling of the ventures.
Retrospective approach assists the managers to develop team- building by acknowledging past failures and joining hands to formulate appropriate approaches for future projects. Finally, the approach gives room for reflection and recognition on past accomplishments and failures before embarking on new ventures. The challenges that are faced by project managers when working on international ventures are a hindrance to development and growth of businesses and organizations. However, the careful undertaking by the managers when taking up the projects can lead to their success if they apply the retrospective approach theory.