Last Updated 13 May 2021

Challenges to Manager

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Globalization is a hot topic in the business world today, garnering enormous attention as imports and exports continue to rise as companies expand across the global marketplace. Understanding the basic overview of the global economy underlines highly relevant managerial and business level applications that provide useful insights to modern-day managers. In general terms, globalization is the international integration of intercultural ideas, perspectives, products/services, culture, and technology. This has resulted in large scale interdependence between countries, as specialization (arguably the root cause of globalization) allows for specific regions to leverage their natural resources and abilities to efficiently produce specific products/services with which to trade for another country's specialization. This allows for a higher standard of living across the globe through higher efficiency, lower costs, better quality, and a more innovative and dynamic workforce.

Growth of Globalization

The ease of modern globalization is often attributed to rapid technological developments in transportation and communication. These form the central system of international exchange, allowing businesses to create meaningful business relationships worldwide with minimal time investment and costs. Management is tasked with ensuring these resources are available to employees and properly leveraged to optimize the geographic reach of a business's operations. This has led to the existence of many multinational enterprises (MNEs), who argue that survival in the newly globalized economy requires sourcing of raw materials, services, production, and labor. From a managerial perspective, the global workplace implies an enormous amount of diversity management. Estimates of the world labor pool in 2005 noted that multinational companies employed a stunning 3 billion workers cumulatively, which is nearly half of the entire world population. As a manager, this means developing a globally aware perspective that lends itself well to the specific geographic needs, values, and customs in which the business operates. Developing this global skill set is a powerful managerial skill.

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Challenges of Globalization

Managers should also be aware of the best way to approach global demographics from a business to consumer perspective, taking an international product or service and localizing it successfully. This is a significant challenge, necessitating consideration for different tastes and branding strategies during the implementation process. This chart (Figure 1) illustrates the process of moving from an international product to a localized product step by step, making note of the element of production that can be universally applied compared to those that need a localized touch. Managers must also be particularly aware of the current criticisms of a highly global society, particularly as it pertains to ethical and environmental considerations. A global economy is, in many ways, enforcing a global culture. This global culture is often criticized for taking the place of previously established domestic cultures and motivating consumerism. As a result, managers should refer to how to best localize products to retain cultural identity in regions in which they operate.

Environmental concerns are of large importance as well, as the constant energy utilization required for this interchange pollutes the environment and uses high quantities of valuable energy-creating resources. Minimizing the damage done to the environment, and offsetting it as best as possible through philanthropic giving, is not only a wise marketing move but a critical ethical consideration which managers must not overlook. Combining these points, the globalized society presents enormous opportunity for businesses. Intercultural marketplaces allow for differing demographics, larger market potential, a more diverse customer base (and therefore more diverse product offering), and a highly valuable human resource potential. On the other end of the bargain, managers are tasked with localizing products and services effectively in a way that minimizes the adverse cultural and environmental effects caused by this rapid global expansion to maintain an ethical operation.

Globalization is an influential modern topic that highlights the growing interdependence between different countries worldwide, necessitating managers to appropriately incorporate this trend within their strategies. The speed of modern globalization is often attributed to technological developments in communication and transportation, tasking managers with appropriately leveraging these technologies internally. Multinational companies cumulatively employ nearly half of the world's population, creating a need for managers with a strong international awareness. Managers must understand that some processes can be performed universally and internationally, while others must be done in a localized fashion to adhere to each specific region's tastes and customs. Critics of globalization cite the way in which it motivates an international culture over established domestic ones, as well as the negative environmental effects that result from business expansion. Being mindful of the potential opportunities in a global economy, along with knowledge of how to localize and sidestep the negatives in an international marketplace, can capture large value for effective manage .

The 2008 financial collapse is a wonderful yet terrifying example of exactly what can go wrong and why corporate governance and ethics is of such importance to both a business and the society in which it operates. Leading up to the mortgage-backed security fallout of 2008, banks and investors began to move down the path of profitability over ethical concern. Banks eliminated certain rules and regulations (though the government did as well), allowing employees to sell mortgages that were unlikely to be repaid. Following this, upper management deemed it fit to package these risky securities into bundles and sell them as safe investments, in order to capture yet more value. Though only a simplified and small analysis of a complicated issue, this oversight in corporate management saw each echelon of leadership ignore the core responsibility of ensuring ethical standards in lieu of capital gains. Management is at fault for this oversight; it was a failure in corporate governance.

Whether you are a new project manager, or an experienced leader, project management will continue to reveal itself as part art, part science, and part major headache! The list below highlights some of the top project management challenges, along with suggested solution ideas to help overcome those challenges:

  1. Unrealistic deadlines - Some would argue that the majority of projects have "schedule slippage" as a standard feature rather than an anomaly. The challenge of many managers becomes to find alternate approaches to the tasks and schedules in order to complete a project "on time", or to get approval for slipping dates out. An "absolute" time-based deadline such as a government election, externally-scheduled event, or public holiday forces a on-time completion (though perhaps not with 100% of desired deliverables). But, most project timelines do eventually slip due to faulty initial deadlines (and the assumptions that created them). Solution: Manage the stress of "the immovable rock and the irresistible force" (i.e. the project deadline and the project issues) with creative planning, alternatives analysis, and communication of reality to the project participants. Also determine what deadlines are tied to higher level objectives, or have critical links into schedules of other projects in the organization's portfolio.
  2. Communication deficit - Many project managers and team members do not provide enough information to enough people, along with the lack of an infrastructure or culture for good communication. Solution: Determine proper communication flows for project members and develop a checklist of what information (reports, status, etc.) needs to be conveyed to project participants. The communications checklist should also have an associated schedule of when each information dissemination should occur.
  3. Scope changes - As most project managers know, an evil nemesis "The Scope Creep" is usually their number one enemy who continually tries to take control. Solution: There is no anti-scope-creep spray in our PM utility belts, but as with many project management challenges, document what is happening or anticipated to happen. Communicate what is being requested, the challenges related to these changes, and the alternate plans, if any, to the project participants (stakeholders, team, management, and others).
  4. Resource competition - Projects usually compete for resources (people, money, time) against other projects and initiatives, putting the project manager in the position of being in competition. Solution: Portfolio Management - ask upper level management to define and set project priority across all projects. Also realize that some projects seemingly are more important only due to the importance and political clout of the project manager, and these may not be aligned with the organization's goals and objectives.
  5. Uncertain dependencies - As the project manager and the team determine project dependencies, assessing the risk or reliability behind these linkages usually involves trusting someone else's assessment. "My planner didn't think that our area could have a hurricane the day of the wedding, and now we're out of celebration deposits for the hall and the band, and the cost of a honeymoon in Tahiti!" Solution: Have several people - use brainstorming sessions - pick at the plan elements and dependencies, doing "what if?" scenarios. Update the list of project risk items if necessary based on the results.
  6. Failure to manage risk - A project plan has included in it some risks, simply listed, but no further review happens unless instigated by an event later on. Solution: Once a project team has assessed risks, they can either  act to reduce the chance of the risk occurrence or act or plan towards responding to the risk occurrence after it happens.
  7. Insufficient team skills - The team members for many projects are assigned based on their availability, and some people assigned may be too proud or simply not knowledgeable enough to tell the manager that they are not trained for all of their assigned work. Solution: Starting with the project manager role, document the core set of skills needed to accomplish the expected workload, and honestly bounce each person's skills against the list or matrix. Using this assessment of the team, guide the team towards competency with training, cross-training, additional resources, external advisors, and other methods to close the skills gap.
  8. Lack of accountability - The project participants and related players are not held accountable for their results - or lack of achieving all of them. Solution: Determine and use accountability as part of the project risk profile. These accountability risks will be then identified and managed in a more visible manner.
  9. Customers and end-users are not engaged during the project. Project teams can get wound up in their own world of internal deliverables, deadlines, and process, and the people on the outside do not get to give added input during the critical phases. Solution: Discuss and provide status updates to all project participants - keep them informed! Invite (and encourage) stakeholders, customers, end-users, and others to periodic status briefings, and provide an update to those that did not attend.
  10. Vision and goals not well-defined - The goals of the project (and the reasons for doing it), along with the sub-projects or major tasks involved, are not always clearly defined. Clearly communicating these vague goals to the project participants becomes an impossible task.

Some solutions and ideas to thrash vagueness: Determine which parts of a project are not understood by the team and other project participants - ask them or note feedback and questions that come up. Check the project documentation as prepared, and tighten up the stated objectives and goals - an editor has appropriate skills to find vague terms and phrasing. Each project is, hopefully, tied into to the direction, strategic goals, and vision for the whole organization, as part of the portfolio of projects for the organization. Project leadership is a skill that takes time to develop in a person or organization. Achieving success requires analyzing setbacks and failures in order to improve. Focusing on each project's challenges and learning from them will help to build a more capable and successful project management capability.

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