Communication Management Tools


Communication Management Tools for Managing Projects in an Intercultural Environment

by Olga Mikhieieva,
Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture

Matthias Waidmann,
Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts,

Dortmund, Germany



Insufficient communication and the lack of stakeholder integration are among the most common drivers for unattended change causes and uncontrolled change impacts in a project (Zhao et al., 2010) (Ochieng and Price, 2010). Especially in case of international projects, where different cultures are present and teams are often only virtually connected, projects teams face even more communication problems that can affect the outcome of a project. Intercultural differences influence the way each team member gets engaged into interaction with other stakeholders of the project.

In the main project management standards, there are tools and methods for managing communication and stakeholders, but their application has to be analyzed from an intercultural perspective. Besides a project communication plan, we address such tools as the mission breakdown structure (MBS) in order to give this perspective (Andersen, 2014). It is suggested that the MBS can be used as one of the tools enhancing the engagement of stakeholders (SH) (Andersen et al., 2009) and increasing communication effectiveness through a shared vision (Lee et al., 2015). In this article, we categorize and describe the main communication issues and tools for managing international projects within an intercultural environment.

Key words: Intercultural differences, international projects, communication management, stakeholders

JEL code: Z00


“Communication has been identified as one of the single biggest reasons for project success or failure” (PMBOK 5, 2013, p. 515). Good communication, which is needed for project success, is structured in a way that helps to minimize or even avoid unexpected delays and misunderstandings, prevent duplication of efforts, discover issues, implement preventive measures and deal with all mentioned above in an effective way. In addition, stakeholder management is a crucial point in managing international projects as stakeholders are “individuals, groups or organizations who affect or can be affected by, or interested in the execution or the result of the project” (ICB 4, 2015, p. 145). That is why, in this article, various approaches (in standards of project management, such as ICB 4, PMBOK 5, Prince2, etc.) on communication and stakeholder management are analyzed from the intercultural point of view.

In order to analyze existing issues and tools, the literature review was conducted using key words such as communication, international, intercultural, skills, competencies, and stakeholders. The following databases were used: Science Direct, Google Scholar, and Web of Science. The goal was to explore and analyze issues and tools applied for managing communication in international and intercultural projects. The authors assumed that issues are also discussed in the literature as challenges, threats, barriers, and sometimes as risks. Although it may seem to be quite a big area of research, this approach allowed the discovery of different facets of issues in managing communication. High attention was specifically paid to studies devoted to intercultural skills and stakeholder management in international projects as these aspects help to shed light on the so-called ‘human’ side of communication issues.

As international communication (= people speaking in a language other than their native) occurs in an intercultural environment, it is more challenging to communicate effectively and it causes a higher rate of misunderstandings. Hence, more efforts are required to ensure common goals and values among project stakeholders. One of the main tools in managing the project stakeholders is the stakeholder analysis (PMBOK 5, 2013, p. 292). In the initiation phase in any international project, the stakeholder analysis is of outstanding importance and high complexity as stakeholders often are not well-known and sometimes difficult to be identified and analyzed. When it comes to stakeholders in an intercultural project, Lückmann and Färber advise that due to complexity reasons, it is reasonable to initially focus on those stakeholders that define the requirements of the project (Lückmann and Färber, 2016, p. 86).

However, the literature review has not revealed very much information and studies particularly on stakeholder communication issues in international projects. That is why, additionally, the authors explored how a mission breakdown structure can be applied for stakeholder engagement and communication using an example of the case study done by Andersen (Andersen, 2014).


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 6th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers

About the Authors

Olga Mikhieieva

Kiev, Ukraine



Olga Mikhieieva, M.Sc., IPMA Level D, conducts a PhD at university KNUCA Kiev and has come for a doctoral exchange to The University of Applied Sciences and Art, Dortmund, Germany. Since she has come to Dortmund, she works as scientific support staff in the DAAD EuroPIM project, the largest internationalization project of the university and the only DAAD strategic partnership at universities of applied sciences in North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition, she studies in the international program on project management “European Master in Project Management” (EuroMPM) and is a part time lecturer for intercultural competences in EuroMPM.

As a scientific support staff, she works closely with team members from many countries, including Belgium, Spain, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. During the last two years, Olga has been involved in the organization of the annual Dortmund International Research Conference and Summer School, an event with approximately 60 scientists and 130 students from several partner universities and countries. She is a co-organizer of several international block teaching events in Dortmund. Olga coordinates the student and lecturer exchange with Ukrainian universities.

Furthermore, Olga conducts own research on competence development in project management in the international environment. Olga has published and presented several papers and articles within scientific conferences and publications.

Before coming to Germany, Olga got 8 years of experience in international projects as project coordinator and interpreter (English to Russian, Russia to English) of trainings and seminars conducted in Asia and Russian-speaking countries. Olga speaks several languages.

Olga can be contacted at mailto:[email protected]


Matthias Waidmann

Dortmund, Germany



Matthias Waidmann, B.Sc.
, studies in the international program on project management “European Master in Project Management” (EuroMPM) in Dortmund, Germany. He comes from Southern Germany, where he graduated his bachelor studies in Industrial Engineering in 2016.

Matthias shows excellent results in studying and promising leadership and analytical skills. He is active in the scientific area, having published three papers at the international conferences in the universities of Dortmund, Riga, and Kiev since he started his master degree in Dortmund. As one of the best students, he has been nominated with a scholarship to do a semester abroad in the postgraduate program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Engineering at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, one of the most renowned European universities.

During his bachelor studies, Matthias studied a semester abroad at California State University Long Beach in the United States. While conducting his studies, he has been employed in various international companies as a part-time working student. These academic and international activities are the milestones in his striving for a career as a project manager in an international company.

Matthias can be contacted at [email protected]