Dealing with Project Management Challenges through effective Project Leadership

The Case of Zimbabwe´s Construction Industry

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2013

32 Pages, Grade: A



1. Introductory Chapter
1.1. Introduction
1.2. Description of the Topic
1.3. Definition of Terms
1.3.1. Project
1.3.2. Project Management
1.3.3. Construction Project Management
1.3.4. Project Leadership
1.4. Research Methodology

2. Literature Review
2.1. Project Leadership
2.2. Leadership and Organizational Performance
2.3. Leadership Theories
2.3.1. Trait Theory
2.3.2. Behavioral Theories
2.3.3. Contingency School
2.4. Project Management Challenges

3. Presentation of Results and Analysis
3.1. Experience in working with construction projects
3.2. Highest Levels of Education
3.3. Sex
3.4. Importance of Leadership in Successful Project Management
3.5. Challenges at Project Initiation
3.6. Challenges Faced at the Stage of Feasibility Studies
3.7. Challenges Faced at Schematic Design Stage
3.8. Challenges Faced at the Stage of Producing Information
3.9. Tendering Stage
3.10. Challenges Faced at Project Planning and Construction Stages
3.11. Project Completion

4. Conclusions and Recommendations

5. Conclusions

6. Recommendations

7. References

8. Appendix 1: Questionnaire


1. Experience dealing with Construction Projects

2. Highest Level of Education

3. Importance of Leadership in Successful Completion of Projects

4. Challenges Faced at Project Initiation

5. Challenges Faced at Feasibility Studies

6. Challenges Faced at Schematic Design

7. Challenges Faced at the Stage of Producing Information

8. Challenges Faced at Tendering Stage

9. Challenges Faced at Project Planning and Construction


MORE than 400 Government construction projects have not been completed due to lack of expertise in project management in the country, Public Works Minister Joel Gabbuza has said. Speaking at the official opening of the Project Management Institute of Zimbabwe (PMIZ) Bulawayo branch on Friday, he said: “We have a significant number of construction projects in the Matabeleland region which have not been completed, not because of lack of funding but mainly due to lack of sound project management skills ” . (Zimbabwe Chronicle Monday, 29 April 2013)


Leadership is a crucial component of project management in any development sector. However, the construction sector in developing countries has features and processes that make leadership even more vital. Construction projects by governments demand huge financial and technical resources and the project teams are usually large and diverse. The process of project construction management is long and involves a large number of separate and connected tasks. Good leadership is also crucial in government construction projects since poor performance can have negative repercussions for the nation and the general population. Thus, effective leadership is essential and can provide answers to the many challenges that the construction sector faces which has long term socioeconomic implications for developing countries. This paper investigates the challenges that are faced by government initiated construction projects in developing countries and suggests possible ways of addressing them through effective leadership. Several studies have been undertaken to investigate factors leading to low productivity, cost overruns and hazards among other challenges in specific construction projects but less has been done to discuss the general challenges facing construction projects. In doing this, attention should be paid to contexts because they differ. This prompted me to study the Zimbabwean case.

In this paper I sought to address the following questions: What are the challenges faced by government initiated construction projects in developing countries with specific reference to the Zimbabwean case? How relevant is leadership in addressing these challenges? What is the current scenario with regards to leadership in the construction sector? How can the leadership needs of developing countries be met? The case of Zimbabwe was used to tackle these questions. Interviews were administered to senior government officials in the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of National Housing, the two Ministries responsible for construction work in government. Furthermore, desk research was utilized since I read extensively around the area, consulting various authors who have had interest in researches of a similar nature. The Zimbabwean case was attractive considering the fact that the country is located in Sub-Saharan Africa and its growth rate is similar to most developing nations and thus would reflect scenarios found in most developing countries.


The study was carried out in Zimbabwe mainly focusing on government initiated construction projects. The intention was to understand the challenges faced in construction project management, articulate them and suggest solutions based on effective project leadership.

Construction projects are very crucial in developing countries essentially because they are associated with infrastructure growth which is associated with employment creation and economic development. Ofori (2011) provides this point and concludes that economic growth and socio-economic development are particularly important for developing countries, and the construction industry plays a central role in driving both of these. Literature is packed with evidence of the relationship between economic growth and construction especially in terms of infrastructure development. Zawdie, G. and Langford, D.A. (2002) suggest the need for policy to address financing and investment options for construction in Sub-Saharan Africa, and strategies for capacity building in construction engineering and management based on technology transfer and the effective utilization of local resources.

Among the four development traps given by Paul Collier (2008) as the reasons for under development in the bottom billion countries is being “land locked with bad neighbors”. Collier explains that landlocked “bottom billion countries” have poor infrastructure connections with their neighbors therefore necessarily have a limited market for their goods. A nation’s infrastructure is composed of roads, rail, aviation, bridges, power grids, water systems, telecommunications, schools and hospitals among others. Thus, a nation lacking infrastructure lacks the very elements that make society function smoothly. Hence, it is important to study the construction sector and iron out the challenges likely to be faced in this sector.

Recognizing the importance of infrastructure in general and construction in particular, governments usually establish an agency responsible for administering their construction. Thus, the Zimbabwean government established the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of National Housing whose responsibilities, among others, are to ensure the successful completion of government construction projects and maintain these project. Thus much of the data utilized in this research was gathered through interviewing senior officials in these Ministries as well as analysing their documents and reports.

This research potentially contributes to both academics and management practices. It informs strategic groups not only in the Zimbabwean construction industry but in other developing nations and possibly developed countries as well. Research endeavors related to this topic in Sub-Saharan Africa are limited thus this study will help to reinforce Construction Project Management’s recognition in government spearheaded construction projects in developing nations.


1.3.1 Project

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) a project is a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result” (PMI, 2013). On the other hand Method123 (2003) defines a project as a “unique endeavor to produce a set of deliverables within clearly specified time, cost and quality constraints. BIS (2010:3) distinguishes between projects and other work, highlighting that projects are different from the general operation of organisations because they have specific objectives to deliver new benefits, may have the effect of introducing changes, create new outputs and have temporary governance arrangements set up for the duration of the project.

Project Management institute (2010:37) provides that the difference between a project and a program is that “a program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually”.

Thus, in general, the definitions of project management emphasize the characteristics of projects as unique in nature, having a defined timeframe, an approved budget, specified resources and a set of processes.

1.3.2 Project Management

According to Niladri (2011), “Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements”. Thus Niladri (2011) emphasizes processes, strategies and knowledge as essential elements in defining project management. PMI (2013) provides an almost similar definition indicating that Project Management is the “application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently”.

APM Knowledge (2012) defines Project Management as the process by which projects are defined, planned, monitored, controlled and delivered such that the agreed benefits are realized. The British Standard for Project Management (1996) defines Project Management as “The planning, monitoring and control of all aspects of a project and the motivation of all those involved in it to achieve the project objectives on time and to the specified cost, quality and performance”. Thus an emphasis on defining projects, monitoring, controlling and meeting project objectives is emphasized by both APM Knowledge and the British Standard for Project Management. Niladri (2011) emphasizes the systematic nature of projects and further states that Project Management is accomplished through the use of five processes which are initiation, planning, execution, controlling and closure. However, Touwen (2001) highlights that project management involves, among other things, managing competing demands for scope, time, cost, risk, quality, managing expectations of stakeholders and identifying requirements.

1.3.3 Construction Project Management

Walker (1984) defines Construction Project Management as:

“.. the planning, control and coordination of a project from conception to completion. It is concerned with the identification of the client objectives in terms of utility, function, quality, time and cost, and the establishment of relationships between resources. The integration, monitoring and control of the contributions to the project and their output and the evaluation and selection of alternatives in pursuit of the client’s satisfaction with the project outcome are fundamental aspects of Project Management”.

As implied in Walker’s definition, a construction project progresses through various stages from initiation to completion. As specified by the (RIBA) Royal Institute of British Architects, (2000), the construction project life cycle consists of various stages with different responsibilities. RIBA highlights the following stages; inception, feasibility studies, schematic design, detail design, production information, Bills of Quantities, Tendering, Project Planning, Construction and Project Completion. A detailed analysis of each of these stages in the context of the Zimbabwean Government initiated construction projects will be made later in this paper. Successful construction project management requires the coordinated roles of various stakeholders including technical experts such as architects, engineers, surveyors, planners, project managers, contractors and subcontractors among others. RIBA (2000) concludes that

“The overall role of project management, in this scenario is to harmonize the functions of planning, communicating, monitoring and control in order to meet the project’s overall objectives as defined by the scope, time, cost, quality and client satisfaction”

1.3.4 Project Leadership

In his book ‘the 360 Degree Leader”, Maxwell (2005) gave a profound distinction between management and leadership indicating that managers work with processes and leaders work with people. Kotter (1996) shares a similar view and further highlights that managing is about planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling and problem solving and leadership is about setting direction, aligning people, inspiring and motivating. Thus both Maxwell (2005) and Kotter (1996) understand leadership and management as two different but complimentary actions.

According to Kotter (1996) “leadership is about coping with change. Leaders establish direction by developing a vision of the future: then they align people by communicating this vision and inspiring them to overcome hurdles”. Batten (1991) defines leadership as the development of a clear and complete system of expectations in order to identify, evoke and use the strengths of all resources in the organisation; the most important of which is people. According to Drucker (1985) “leadership is the lifting of people’s vision to a higher sight, the raising of their performance to a higher standard, the building of their personality beyond its normal limitations”. The common factor among the two definitions is “people” signifying that leadership is people oriented. Additionally, there is an emphasis on vision or expectation and the issue of maximizing potential.


This study was undertaken under three major phases. The initial phase involved focusing on existing literature in order to understand the current themes on the subject matter and appreciate the contributions of other scholars. Secondly, questionnaires were administered to appreciate the challenges currently facing Zimbabwe’s construction industry and the essence of successful project leadership in the sector. This was followed by interviews to clarify some of the issues raised in the questionnaire responses. The last phase involved coming up with conclusions and recommendations.

1.4.1 Literature Review

A thorough desk research was done in order to appreciate important theories and practices both in construction management and in project leadership so as to be able to apply and understand them in the real world. Academic books, journals and web pages were the major sources of the literature.

1.4.2 Interviews, Questionnaires and Analysis of Results

Questionnaires and in-depth interviews were used to gather data crucial as first-hand information. A pilot study was done to assess whether the questions can be easily understood and editing was done in that regard. Some telephone interviews were also done with government expects in the construction industry. The respondents were asked questions where they provided their own ideas regarding project leadership in the construction sector. The response period was one week, after which data was collected. Challenges facing the construction sector as well as the importance of leadership skills are generalized from the statistics gathered.

1.4.3 Conclusions and Recommendations

The final phase involved drawing conclusions and recommendations for construction projects in general. However, given the fact that contexts differ and so do sectors; the conclusions and recommendations reached might only be more applicable to the government spearheaded construction projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe.


In this chapter relevant literature is reviewed. The literature is divided into three parts which are: Project Leadership, Leadership and Organizational Performance; and Leadership Theories and Project management challenges


Project Managers manage people and projects. This role requires management and leadership skills where the emphasis lies on managing the project data and leading the project team members. According to Interglobe Consulting (2013), Project Management is a team based approach thus, the project, the project scope and project plan cannot be defined and developed in isolation. Interglobe Consulting further states that participative, situational, transactional and transformational leadership styles seem to work most effective when managing projects and leading people. Participative leaders typically seek other people’s views and opinions in order to form their own opinions about a situation.

Hemmrich (2011) notes that project leaders are responsible for the overall operational leadership of a project. She explains that they are responsible for achieving the goals within the agreed schedule and economic parameters. Hemmrich indicates that Project Leadership involves carving out a realist project assignment by participating in the goal setting process, confirming the goals’ feasibility and considering the account objectives, timeframes, resources and other parameters. Additionally, the project leader is also responsible for leading the team in such a way that the goals are achieved within the agreed timeframe.

Nauman and Khan (n.d) examined leadership behavior in less global and more global projects and conclude by providing a list of basic principles of leadership which lead to effective project management. These principles include encouraging participative decision making, open communication, delegation, conflict resolution, task monitoring, and inculcating the skill of breaking a large complicated task into small manageable tasks in team members. Nauman and Khan also emphasize that the project leader should be a role model in managing time and meeting the goals and tasks as well as strengthening team work by determining roles and responsibilities.


“Leadership is all about results,” Peter Druker

In explaining the relationship between leadership and organizational performance, Sandbakken (n.d) articulates the differences between transactional and transformational leadership styles. He explains that a transactional leader would be engaged in an exchange or a transaction where pay, status or other rewards are exchanged for work effort. The transactional leader motivates subordinates to perform as per expectation. On the other hand, Sandbakken (n.d) explains that the transformational leader typically inspires the followers to do more than originally expected. Additionally, a transformational leader develops a closer relationship between himself/ herself and followers based more on trust and commitment and contractual agreements.

Obiwuru (2011) carried out a study to evaluate the effects of leadership styles on organizational performance in selected small scale enterprises. Their analysis showed that the traits of transformational leadership style exert positive but insignificant effects on followers and performance. On the other hand, each trait of transactional leadership style considered in this study such as constructive/ contingent reward and management by exception had significant positive effect on followers and performance, and both jointly explain very high proportion of variations in performance. Consequently, the study recommends that small scale enterprises should adopt transactional leadership style but strategize to transit to transformational leadership style as their enterprises develop, grow and mature. In a similar study in Malaysia Ahmand and Muenjohn (2012) conclude that the behaviors associated with transactional leadership seem to have more impact on organizational performance than transformational leadership in Malaysian SMEs. They indicate that within the context of Malaysian SMEs transactional leadership which focuses on providing direction and motivating employees in the way of instituting goals by clarifying task requirements significant in promoting organizational growth.

Burindusa (n.d) highlights that the success or failure of an organisation is directly connected to the leadership style and the relevance of the founder’s beliefs and values to the current opportunities and constraints confronting the organisation at a specific moment. Furthermore, she stresses that the style of leadership affects performance since performance cannot be achieved in the absence of a leadership that can adapt to the changes and challenges of the environment, that knows how to motivate the employees and that encourages them to take more ownership of their work.


2.3.1 Trait Theory

As explained by Bolden (2003) the trait approach originated from the “Great Man” theory as a way of ascertaining the key characteristics of a successful leader. Proponents of this approach believed that it was possible to isolate the characteristics that make a successful leader so that people of such traits can be recruited, selected and installed into leadership positions. Some of the traits emphasized under the trait theory include extroversion which concern ambition and energy, conscientiousness and openness to experience; agreeableness and emotional stability, extroversion, and openness according to Bolden (2003). Bolden (2003) make reference to Stogdill (1974) whose list of leadership traits include adaptability to situations, alertness to social environment, ambitious and achievement oriented, assertiveness, cooperative, decisive, dependable, dominant, energetic, persistent, self-confidence, tolerance and willingness to assume responsibility.

Some of the limitations of the trait theory include the fact that it does not pay attention to environmental factors that may differ from situation to situation. Additionally, it fails to explain leadership failures in spite of the required skills. Moreover, the traits required to achieve a leadership position cannot be the same as those required to sustain it. Some traits can be acquired through training and traits cannot be identical to the extent of having leaders with matching traits.

2.3.2 Behavioral Theories

As indicated by Xiong (2008) behavioral theories of leadership focus on what leaders should actually possess, and thus are different from trait theories which focus on inborn traits or capabilities. Kendra (2013) provides that behavioral theories of leadership believe that great leaders are not born. Rooted in behaviouralism, the theory focusses on the actions of leaders not on mental qualities or internal stress and believes that people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.

According to Ghee and Daft (2004:51), one study that served as a precursor to the behavior approach recognized autocratic and democratic leadership style. A democratic leader delegates authority to others, encourages participation, relies on subordinates’ knowledge for completion of tasks and depends on subordinates’ respect for influence. On the other hand Laissez faire leaders do not interfere; they allow the team to make many of the decisions especially when the team is highly capable and motivated and do not need close monitoring and supervision.

Ghee and Daft (2004:53) make reference to the findings of the University of Lowa studies where researchers conducted surveys to identify specific dimensions of leadership behavior. The results of this study indicate that leadership behavior had a definite effect on outcomes, such as follower performance and satisfaction. The Ohio State Studies as quoted by Antonakis (n.d) attempted to find what behaviours substantially accounted for most of the leadership behavior described by employees. The researcher narrowed down their list to initiation structure and consideration. Initiation structure according to Antonakis (n.d) refers to the extent to which a leader is likely to define and structure his or her role and those of employees in the search for goal attainment. It includes behavior that attempts to organize work, work relationships and goals. On the other hand Antanokis (n.d) explains that consideration is the extent to which a person is likely to have job relationships that are characterized by mutual trust, respect for employees’ ideas and regard for feelings. People with high consideration show concern for followers’ comfort, well-being and satisfaction.

The University of Michigan Studies quoted by Phelani (1998) also sought to achieve the same objectives as the Ohio State Studies. However, University of Michigan came up with two dimensions of leadership behavior that were considered critical; these are employee oriented and production oriented. Phelani (1998) specifies that employee oriented leaders emphasizes interpersonal relations and take a personal interest in the needs of their employees and accepted individual differences among members. On the other hand production oriented leaders emphasizes the technical or task aspects of the job with their major concern being accomplishing their groups tasks. The Michigan researchers strongly favored leaders who were employee oriented in their behavior since they were associated with high group productivity and higher job satisfaction.

2.3.3 Contingency School

Kouqing (2013) explains that contingency theorists believe that effective leadership practices are contingent on the situation. Fiedler’s contingency theory of leadership effectiveness propounds that the effectiveness of a leader depends on the interaction of the leader’s behavioral style with certain characteristics of the situation (Kouqing, 2013). Fiedler found that task oriented leaders were more effective in low and moderate control situations and relationship oriented managers were more effective in moderate control situations (Kouqing, 2013). In the contingency theory of leadership, it is assumed that the leader’s style is relatively stable and needs to be matched with the most appropriate situation for the leader’s style (Daft, 2005).

Vroom and Yetton are well known proponents of the contingency theory. According to them the effectiveness of a decision procedure depends upon a number of aspects of the situation: the importance of the decision quality and acceptance; the amount of relevant information possessed by the leader and subordinates; the likelihood that subordinates will accept an autocratic decision or cooperate in trying to make a good decision if allowed to participate; the amount of disagreement among subordinates with respect to their preferred alternatives (Daft, 2005).


Tichapondwa and Tichapondwa (2013) indicate that “there are two types of projects in any situation – those that are getting better, and those that are dying. A project that stands still is dying because it is ailing. The ailing state of a project is dependent on how it is managed”. Andersen (1995) highlight that the characteristics of projects that are candidates for failure are associated with instances where the project scope is not well defined, projects that fail to get buy in from the right stakeholders and lack of resources. Additonally, Andersen (1995) also points to the existence of workplace politics and lack of proper planning as reasons for project failure.

Cynthia K (2013) argues that the major challenges witnessed in project management are associated with “geographically dispersed project teams, using wrong tools for the job, wasting time looking for project documents or assets and spending too much time in status meetings”. Tichapondwa and Tichapondwa (2009) indicate that a project manager can identify a troubled project through rampant schedule delays and missed commitments, existence of low morale and lack of teamwork that destroy the project members.


Excerpt out of 32 pages


Dealing with Project Management Challenges through effective Project Leadership
The Case of Zimbabwe´s Construction Industry
( Atlantic International University )
Project Leadership
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dealing, project, management, challenges, leadership, case, zimbabwe´s, construction, industry
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Tsitsi Muvunzi (Author), 2013, Dealing with Project Management Challenges through effective Project Leadership, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • Tsitsi Muvunzi on 4/22/2015

    Excellent piece of work

  • guest on 4/11/2015

    Great work Tsitsi Muvhunzi the author and GRIN publishing for a job well done. This is a compact but comprehensive study guide for students especially those undertaking Project Management at an level. I have benefited much in its practical aspect on challenges in managing construction projects.

    Maxwell Mutematsaka
    ( Studying Bachelor of Economics in Project Management [AIU University, honolulu, USA]

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