Managing a business has increasingly been a challenging task for most management teams. This is because of the overgrowing complexity in the field of management and the widening of the scope of business. The immergence of unplanned and unexpected complexities in project management reflects a heavy growth of the world of business (Harrin, 2011). However, for a successful implementation of a project, projects managers are required to demonstrate a high level of competence, utmost skill and knowledge. The task becomes even more challenging for managers dealing with international projects. Coping with various international settings characterized with differences in cultural arrays is a fantastic but demanding experience. For the purpose of this paper, it will explore the various challenges in managing international project. Focus will be on the environmental factors, roles, responsibilities and the challenges that international project managers are likely to face while working in a foreign country.
2. Environmental factors that can affect a project
Business environment has been critical towards determining the success of both local and international firms. It is mandatory for project managers to analyze and be knowledgeable enough on the trends and factors that drive the business environments in which their projects operates (Larson et al., 2011). In this concern, there are various environmental factors that could affect the project. They include a local economy, location, Laws and safety.
2.1 Local economy
Local economy refers to the immediate environment and economy in which a project runs. The structure of the local economy dictates the direction in which the project has to be managed. Here, there are issues such as market trends, behavior and sequence of ups and downs that influence the state of the economy. Project managers have to be well equipped with all the telling factors of the economy in running their projects. Statistics shows that the lack of proper knowhow of economic and market forces in the implementation of the project are among the explained reason of failures of international projects.
A proper analysis of the local economy where a project is run entails internalizing the forces of demand and supply. This enables the project manager plan adequately in all matters management of resources. As in any business, demand and supply project how resources are going to be utilized (Chalmers, 1999). Therefore, project managers will have a chance to allocate resources appropriately and in accordance to the currents local trends of market forces. Failing to analyze the local economy adequately enough exposes a project to a multiple challenges that may hamper the overall implementation of the project.
2.2 Laws and Safety
Laws are made and imposed to bring order and enhance efficiency. Laws and safety are instrumental for an international project management. There are two dimensions to approach and view the issues of law and safety. The first is the internal Laws guiding the daily routine activities of the project. When there are properly defined procedures stipulated for every concerned individual in the project implementation, the overall running becomes a less hectic task for the managers of the project. This is because the employed personnel will work in accordance to the guideline and the cords of conduct as indicated in their designation. Furthermore, project managers will have a chance to exercise authority as required by law.
On the other hand, the issue of laws and safety could be viewed as an external factor. Here, it is evident that international projects have to comply with the rules and regulations of the regions in which they operate. For instance, when a project is extended to a new country, there are requirements that such a country will expect from the overall running of the project. For example, some countries’ laws require that local citizens to be absorbed and work for the project’s organization if the project were to be given license to operate in their region. Observing such regulation always determines the safety and success of the project especially in the respective regions.
Apart from the issue of safety and laws, the location where the project is run is an essential factor that could affect a project. This is because different locations have different ways of life. Explained under the unequal pace of growth and development between different locations of the world, managing a project in certain areas requires ultimate unique skills and other considerations (Frame, 2003). For instance, managing a project in the United States is a different situation from managing the same project in other places, in Africa. There are several societal considerations making the difference. Some of these include the culture, people’s perceptions, norms and values.
In this matter, the takes on how people view the world in the United States will mean that a specific cord of work will shape the running of the project in that country. Project managers find difficult to differentiate the location consideration to influence an effective project management. The biggest mistakes made by project managers are when they try to impose a running tradition on a project in a location where that tradition is invalid. For example running a project in accordance to the traditions of the West but in an African country is a simple mistake. Project managers face the challenge of determining the distinction of ways of life in a different location to get the best out of their management expectations.
3. Working in a foreign country
When projects managers are entitled to work in a foreign country, they face ample challenges that arise from those environments. First, a project manager will fight to adapt the conditions of the new environment. This may bring about both personal and workplace challenges. Then, understanding political and social setting of the new country is itself a big challenge (Jung et al., 2009). This will have a direct impact of the running of the project not only during the early days, but also for quite some time before the manager completely adapts. Some of the issues likely to challenge a project manager in running a project in a foreign country include:
Religion is a power full tool that influences the lives people in various regions. It gives an identification of a particular society from another. Religion instills norms and values that shape a society to behave in a certain way. It becomes very difficult for a project management to carry out routine duties in a country that have negative religious views on that project. The local citizens will take time to come into terms and understand the objective of the project especially when they had an initially ill-thought on the project.
When managers encounter the problem of religion, coping with it in the initial stages is a bit testing. This is because issues with religious beliefs have been debatable concerns for years. In most cases, objections or non-believer foreigners have been received in a hostile manner. For example, managing a project in the Asian sub-continent especially the Arab world where Muslim laws are strictly followed could be a big challenge for a Christian project manager. This is because of the world view historical differences between the two religions. Therefore, the diversity of the rich religious world poses a nightmare to the general implementation of international projects.
3.2 Language barrier
In running a project in a foreign country, language barrier is one of the major challenges. First, interpretations of the terms to the locals become a big task. Language barriers have negative impacts brought about by lack of effective communication. To ensure that the challenge of language barriers is addressed effectively, it is a necessity that international project managers learn the local languages. This has always been a challenge since people have different capabilities to grasp new terminologies. It will take at least a long period before one understands the language. By then, it will have already, in one way or another affected the running of the project. Other area affected by language barriers include:
3.2.1 Employee motivation
An effective working force requires a higher level of motivation. In a situation where project managers do not communicate effectively with employees due to language barriers, motivation becomes a matter of concern. This is especially when most of the employees are locals and the top management of the project is run by a foreign personnel (Villanova University, 2014). There will be a lack of effective understanding. Misunderstandings will act against general will to work. Furthermore, when people are not well appraised, their productivity is minimal. Low motivation also slows down activities hence the performance pace will be less per normal expectations. Ultimately, language barrier has always been a cause for low employee motivation that has a negative impact to the general performance of an international project management.
3.2.2 Insufficient skilled workers
In a foreign country, people have their own ways of doing things in accordance to their educational system requirements. In most cases, countries tend to train their citizens more in a particular area of designation. This leaves some gaps in other areas that are normally filled with fewer personnel. Managing an international project that requires some specific knowledge and skill which is absent in such a country is a big challenge. The management of the project will hire inadequate number of workers especially due to the scarcity of skilled individuals in the country. This will hamper the level of productivity resulting in undesired outcomes and expectations.
4. Roles and Responsibilities
Roles and responsibilities entail delegation of duties to employees so that the project is run efficiently. It also entails the division of labor and specialization. A particular employee who is a specialist to a certain task is delegated to carry out that particular task under their expertise (Ten Six, 2011). However, it has been a challenge for international project managers to identify and delegate responsibilities under the standard agreed level. This is because there is a general notion that people could perform well even in areas with less experience. As a result, workers are assigned tasks that they cannot handle because they have no expertise. Poor projects performance has been due to this mistake made by managers.
A properly defined line of work is also very important in delegating project tasks and responsibilities to workers. This enables them understand well the task they are entitled to perform. Most international project managers have failed to draw a clear distinction to have employees delegated to particular tasks. Projects that are run without proper distinctions in duties drag the pace of performance. This leads to poor productivity and the failure to realize the goals and objectives of any international project.
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Ten Six (2011, November 14). Five Challenges For International Projects | Ten Six Consulting. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from http://www.tensixconsulting.com/2011/11/five-challenges-for-international-projects/
Villanova University (n.d.).Top 10 Project Management Challenges. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.villanovau.com/top-10-challenges/
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