Managing Projects in Decentralized Organizations: Tracking Humanitarian Fleets – Project Management Case Study


Fred Mendez was assigned to manage a project that involved the use of Vehicle Tracking Technology (VTT) to improve fleet management in IHO, a medium sized international humanitarian organisation. Fred proved through a pilot project that it is possible to manage projects in a decentralized organisation. However, a rollout of the project has shown that there are key challenges in managing projects in such an environment. The failure of VTT project rollout can be attributed more to the organisation of the project rather than logistics. The success of a project’s implementation depends on the management of the project rather than the idea and technology used to implement the project.

This report provides an analysis of the key challenges of project management in a decentralized environment using the VTT project as a case study. It will provide a critical analysis of the current situation in IHO. In this part, the report will explain why the project management team failed to obtain the desired results. The report will also mention specific areas where the project management team went wrong, and the steps that were taken and those that were not taken in the current situation. This report will further provide strategic recommendations based on the problems and challenges identified. A great deal of evidence from research is provided to support these recommendations. The impact of the recommended courses of action will also be provided in this report.

Critical Analysis

Current challenges of the case study project

The case study indicates that the current situation of the VTT project is different from what the team expected. The pilot project that was initiated by Fred Mendez was highly successful because its objectives were all achieved. The objectives of the project were to reduce fuel consumption and decrease the speed of vehicles. Fred Mendel’s pilot project reduced the level of fuel consumption by 12% and the number of accidents caused by over speeding decreased drastically.

However, when the region adopted the project through its first rollout, things did not work as expected. Fuel costs had started to rise and vehicles from neighbouring countries were also stolen. This showed the ineffectiveness of the fleet management team in implementing the rolled out project. The VTT server was slow in downloading information.

These problems had started when Fred Mendel handed over the use of the VTT to the programmes. Staff had left the organisation without replacements. Some of its national directors also left the organisation. Training had also stopped even though some of the staff members who were trained to use the VTT left while others were replaced. Things started to get so difficult that programme directors lost interest in the project and did not follow up on the information sent to servers. The logisticians and fleet managers also felt that there was too much work to do due to the VTT project. As a result, they found it difficult to follow up on daily activities such as vehicle maintenance. Programme staff also lost patience and did not want close supervision from the logisticians and fleet managers.

Why does the project fail to achieve its expected results?

It is clear that the current situation regarding the implementation of vehicle tracking technology is quite challenging for IHO. The intended results are not forthcoming, and people in the organisation are starting to lose optimism for the new project. Several reasons explain the failure of the project to achieve its expected results.

First, the entire project management process lacks a proper organisation. The project scope is not clear because it is not clear what is included in the project. The initial plan of Fred Mendez in the pilot project was to offer training on how to download information from the VTT server to one staff member in each programme. This scope lost meaning in the rollout project because it was no longer clear what was included in the project. This is clear from the fact that people left the organisation and project directors lost interest in the project. Downloading information from the VTT server became slow and there was nothing done to improve it. This shows that the team lost focus and waivered from the scope of the project which required them to offer training on downloading information from the VTT server.

The organization also broke down and there was no communication and no coordination of people and resources. Hodgson (2002) suggests that project implementation requires the project directors to coordinate people and resources so that the right people and resources are allocated to the right places at the right time. In the rollout of the VTT project, it is clear that the organisation failed to coordinate its people and resources adequately because there was lack of communication between the logisticians and fleet managers and the programme staff. The project directors also lost interest and failed to follow up on the information disseminated to servers. This indicates a clear breakdown of coordinative capabilities in the organisation.

Project implementation also becomes successful with adequate training (Abdel-Hamid, 1999). This is essential in the VTT project because it involves a kind of technology that is not easy to implement without specific IT training. Actually, Fred Mendez suggested that the main requirement for the project is to train people on how to download information from the server. Projects such as the VTT project require a change in the organisation or the company. In this case, it is necessary to train people from time to time in order to enable them to adapt to the changing technologies and working environment of the organisation. Such training is lacking in the rollout of the VTT project due to poor coordination of people and resources.

Furthermore, there is no proper interaction between relevant people in the organisation. Since the logisticians and fleet managers are directly involved with programme staff in the VTT project, there should have been proper interactive tools to bring the two parties together and strengthen their work relationships. However, this does not happen because the programme staff members do not want to be watched and the logisticians and fleet managers feel that they have a lot of work to do.

The project also fails to achieve its results due to poor communication. Communication is commonly practiced in the status reporting stage of project implementation. In order to enhance success in the implementation of any project, it is important to keep everybody informed (Packendorff, 1995). The project directors for the IHO project do not keep people informed about the progress of the project. This is clearly indicated by the fact that the directors did not follow up on the information sent to servers. The project team does not adequately provide reports on the changes taking place in the organisation. This keeps stakeholders of the project out of the system.

Another challenge that caused failure in implementing the project is lack of commitment to change management. After the initial people who were engaged in implementing the project left, the project implementation faced resistance to change. The logisticians and fleet managers complained that they are doing a lot of work for the project. This shows that they are not ready to take up additional work caused by changes in the project. Furthermore, programme staff is not happy to be watched and yet the project needs close supervision in order to ensure that information about fleet management is used appropriately. In order for the vehicle tracking technology, the fleet managers and logisticians need to follow up on information from the server. This will require a lot of cooperation from the entire project team. However, if the programme staff resists supervision, then the course of managing change will be hindered and the project fails.

Lack of commitment from the top has also led to the failure of the project. The project directors have lost interest in the project and they are not carrying out their roles as expected. This causes lack of commitment down the hierarchy because the leader sets an example for others. The top management does not support the lower level managers in the project implementation. This lack of commitment by the team members across all organisational levels is a key contributor of failure in the project.

In project management, change is inevitable and it requires more time and energy of people (Ramroth, 2006). Therefore, the additional work experienced by the logisticians and fleet managers is part of change that requires more time and energy for them. It seems that these members of the organisation lack the required energy and do not take up more time to deal with the extra work that has come with the project. In project implementation people may also not believe that change is the right thing. This is the case for VTT project because programme staff believed that the system was more troublesome than it is worth. To them, change seems to have been a wrong choice. No one seems to be willing to adapt to change in the organisation.

Another factor that may have caused slippage in the project is unclear objectives to the team. The project implementation can be successful only if the objectives are clear (Ramroth, 2006). The team should work towards a specific objective. Initially, the objectives of pilot project under Fred Mendez were: decrease in speeding and reduction in fuel consumption. If these objectives were pursued earnestly in the project, the project team would have been following up on information from the server to make sure that the tracking devices are working in all vehicles, and that all drivers are following the rules of the project. However, the team is not focused on these objectives anymore. Instead of seeing focusing on the objectives, the teams worry about a lot of work and system failure.

Members of the VTT project team are also not clear about their duties and responsibilities. Project directors have lost interest and they no longer want to follow up on information from the server, and yet this is their responsibility. Without a clear definition and understanding of duties and responsibilities for members, there is always an overlap of duties and resistance may occur like the complaints of programme staff who did not want to be watched.

Other areas that have contributed to the failure of the project

The organisation

The entire organisation lacks coherence, coordination and commitment. From the top management to the bottom management cooperation is lacking and people are not playing their roles appropriately. The project directors are not coordinating people and resources appropriately while the logisticians and fleet managers are overwhelmed with work. The programme staff is also complaining about close watch by the middle management. Therefore, the top management does not support the middle management and the lower level of the organisation does not support the middle level. This creates a disorganized team without clear commitment and coordination. Therefore, the organisation does not provide a supportive environment for change. This causes the failure of the project implementation.

Work environment

While the project team attempts to implement the project, other things that need the attention of members distract them from focusing on the project. According to Gray & Larson (2008), doing other things during the progress of a project causes distraction. Activities are not well policed in the work environment of the organisation to ensure that each member of the project team is not overwhelmed with duties. The logisticians and fleet managers suggest that the VTT project has created additional work for them which cause trouble at the workplace. The decentralization of the organisation makes things even more difficult for the organisation’s work environment because it is difficult to coordinate people and resources in a decentralized system.

Risk Management

Risk management is important for every project implementation process (Roberts, 2011). At the beginning of the project, the team should be able to identify risky areas that may cause failure in to the project. There are no specific steps taken by IHO in its project to identify, manage and minimize risks. Although the nature of the organisation and the type of project are prone to changes and uncertainties, the organisation lacks specific mechanisms to overcome risks resulting from the changes and uncertainties.

Technology is one of the most important and highly changing and uncertain factors in the business world. Since VTT is technological in nature, the project is expected to be uncertain and changing. Therefore, the team should have developed contingency plans to enhance success when the conventional project activities fail. Initially, Fred had identified other possibilities that could act as contingency plans. For instance, he had identified a possibility of fitting the VTT equipment with a driver identity tag and developing security messages for drivers in order to communicate with their bases. This was not implemented in the rollout project.

Strategic Recommendations

Following the failure of the project to achieve its objectives, appropriate mechanisms should be developed in order to initiate changes and bring the project back on course. The recommended courses of action are aimed at solving key challenges facing the organisation in implementation of the project. The impact of these corrective actions will depend on the commitment of the project team and the organisation in general. Various foreseeable difficulties will likely be identified; hence contingency planning and risk management should be part of the corrective actions.

Corrective actions

  1. Monitoring and evaluation team

A successful project requires effective control (Roberts, 2011). In order to achieve this, the organisation needs to develop a monitoring and evaluation team. Since the logisticians and fleet managers have a lot of activities to carry out, it is necessary for the organisation to form a project control team to monitor and evaluate various activities of the project. The team should be drawn from the project team and should not be tasked with other things that may cause disruption of the project activities. The team should carry out three control functions: monitoring project activities, evaluating the status of the activities, and acting accordingly.

Monitoring involves the determination of the current position of the project in each stage in terms of performance. In this case, the performance of the project is measured against preset standards and objectives. Evaluation involves linking the current position with the planned position. This involves asking the question, “Where did we plan to be?” The measurement of the current performance is compared with the planned outcome. If the current performance is different from the planned results, the control team will move to the correction function whereby the team should identify alternative options on how to get back on track. The monitoring and evaluation team will suggest corrective actions following the failure of the project to achieve its objectives.

  1. Training

One of the causes of the project failure is the exit of trained members of the project team from the organisation. As technology changes and employees move in and out of the organisation, the need for regular training increases (Burke, 2010). Fred Mendez suggested that members of the project team should be trained on how to download information from the server. Training should be a continuous process that occurs from time to time so that the employees can meet the changing needs of the project.

Apart from downloading information, the programme staff should also be trained on change management and risk management. Members of the project team should be trained about appreciating other people’s views and how to use time and energy to enhance effectiveness of the project implementation. The train should also focus on communication skills so that the project directors, logisticians and fleet managers can be able to communicate the activities, operations and management requirements of the project.

Training should be provided by IT experts, project directors and team leaders. This should be done formally and/or informally in the organisation’s premises. The programme staff, fleet managers, logisticians, and project directors should engage in training during workshops, meetings, and discussions. This requires effective coordination of people and resources.

  1. Communication and feedback channels

In order to enhance effective coordination of people and resources, it is necessary to develop effective communication channels including feedback loops that will allow various members of the project team to communicate. Effective communication enhances interaction, commitment, and appreciation of change among members of the project team.

The project team should establish good communication channels to enhance status reporting as part of the project implementation. In order to keep everybody informed and develop coherence in all organisational levels and across all departments of the organisation, the organisation should establish effective communication through group meetings, emails, memos, workshops, seminars, and one-on-one meetings.

The project directors and other senior managers spearheading the project should communicate the vision, mission and objectives of the project through the above channels. Change should also be communicated in order to prepare team members for the change and allow them to adapt to turbulent and changing environments (Burke, 2010). Team leaders should also learn effective communication skills through training so that they can persuade and convince team members to support each other and cooperate towards the achievement of the project objectives.

A feedback loop should also be established so that complaints and suggestions can be collected from the lower levels of management, and then used to initiate changes that will enhance achievement of project objectives. Ideas can also be shared between the top and bottom levels of management through effective feedback loops. Project directors should extract information from servers and pass it to the programme staff, drivers, and other users. These users can then provide feedback. For instance, if the VTT equipment fails to function in the vehicle, the driver can communicate with the server base through the feedback loop. This way, information flows from one stakeholder to another in the manner shown below.

Vision, strategies, objectives                           information from server


Enquiries, complaints, ideas                          Complains, ideas, suggestions

  1. Work Breakdown Structure

This refers to the process of breaking down the project into various sections that can be allocated to various departmental managers. In relation to the VTT project, the work can be broken down into departments such as Training, Communication, Human resources, and production departments. The specific work breakdown can be illustrated in the diagram below. From the figure, this report recommends that the project should have a project manager who should act as the head of the project. Project directors from different departments should report to him. Various departments should be developed so that each department handles its own duties. For instance, the project director of Human resources department will communicate with the logisticians and fleet managers who will then pass information to the programme staff.

Foreseeable difficulties of the project

Although the project is expected to be successful after the corrective actions above are implemented, there are some difficulties and challenges that may affect it. First, it will be difficult to get enough trained staff for the programmes especially after the exit of many trained staff from the company. The company needs to offer training to new staff, which will require a lot of resources. Secondly, changing technologies may cause difficulties for the project team to adapt to the changing environment; hence posing a threat to the entire project.

Gantt chart

Identifying ideas
Collecting information
Obtaining resources
Setting up VTT project
Training users

From the Gantt chart above, the bars represent activities and their widths indicate the duration of those activities. The solid lines inside the bars represent the extent to which the projects have been completed.


References list

Abdel-Hamid, T.K., Sengupta, K. and Swett, C. (1999). The Impact of Goals on Software Project Management: An Experimental Investigation. MIS Quarterly, 23(4), 531-555.

Burke, R. (2010). Fundamentals of Project Management: Tools and Techniques. Burke                                   Publishing: London.

Gray, C. F., & Larson, E. W. (2008). Project management: The managerial process. Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Haynes, M. E. (2002). Project management practical tools for success. Menlo Park, Calif, Crisp                      Learning.

Hodgson, D. (2002). Disciplining the professional: The case of project management. Journal of Management Studies, 39 (6), pp. 803-821.

Lindkvist, L., Soderlund, J. and Tell, F. (1998). Managing product development projects: On the significance of fountains and deadlines. Organization Studies, 19 (6), 931-951.

Packendorff, J. (1995). Inquiring into the temporary organization: New direction for project management research. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 11 (4), 319-333.

Ramroth, W. G. (2006). Project management for design professionals. Chicago: Kaplan Pub.

Roberts, P. (2011). Effective project management. London, UK, Kogan Page.

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