The Thika Road Construction Project in Kenya Review

Subject: Case Studies
Pages: 12
Words: 3406
Reading time:
13 min
Study level: PhD


Business management gurus have continued to proclaim that project management is the wave of the future; it entails planning, implementation, and management of various processes to meet particular preset goals and objectives. In course of management, the structured are made in a way that they can reduce negative effects from unseen challenges likely to limit the attainment of corporate goals and objectives. Other than following some set of tools or taking a particular decision, project management entails a results-oriented management style that places a premium on building collaborative relationships among a diverse cast of characters; it involves managing human capital, finances, time, and physical resources to attain project objectives. In the past days, project management was mostly in U.S. Department of Defense contracts, construction industry, and Hollywood as well as at big consulting firms; it was seen as a complex exercise that needed many funds, experiences, human power, and time. However, now project management is spreading to all avenues of work, it is considered as the way to follow when an organization aims to do something or implement a change in their organization. With the change of focus in project management, the scope, dimension, and management style have taken different shapes, however, the principles have remained rather constant (Newbold 12-45).

The following illustration demonstrates a general structure of a project management approach:

General structure of a project management approach
Figure 1. General structure of a project management approach

From the above illustration, it is evident that project management involves a systematic management approach where the process starts from inception to closure of the project.

This paper discusses principles of project management and how the entire process moves to accomplish the set goals and standards. To attain the above objective, the paper will use Thika Road Construction Project in Kenya.

A brief introduction to Thika Road Construction Project in Kenya

Thika road project is an upgrading project of Nairobi-Thika Road sponsored by the Government of Kenya (GOK), donors, and international monetary fund. The project is the largest road construction project in East and Central African and the largest Chinese contracted project in Africa. The 45-kilometer road is classified as international trunk road A2 which originates in downtown Nairobi and extends to Moyale at the Ethiopian border; its completion is aimed at opening the country to regional trade as well as improving transport in the busy Thika-Nairobi highway. To undertake the project and ensure that it meets international standards, the Kenyan Government has to seek experts in the area and involved professionals; this was to ensure that all areas will be addressed effectively.

The main objective

The main goal that the road aims at attaining is developing a dual-carriageway highway from Thika to Nairobi to improve transport services, reduce traffic congesting and enhance mobility in the metropolitan area.

The completion of the road is expected to reduce travel delays, high fuel consumption, high vehicle emissions as well as social inconveniences; it aims at substantially alleviating traffic congestion within Nairobi City, and between the city and the satellite town of Thika.

The background and principles of project management

Although project management cannot be exactly defined by the period that it was developed, the art is believed to have taken center stage among developers with the rapid expansion of the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the late 1980s, a professional organization for project management specialists. The institute aimed at training business leaders and managers of a Special Interest Group (SIG’s) on how they can go about managing their multimillions, Special Interest Group (SIG’s) were developed from pharmaceuticals, automotive, projects aerospace, construction, information technology, engineering, financial services, and telecommunications. With the training that involved much deliberation on how to handle situations gotten from the experiences of either industry, the management gurus made headway to an area that creates much hope for the future of business. the success that the Special Interest Group (SIGs) got from projects they developed after the training created a massive focus on the new training models and between 1993 and 1997, membership quadrupled to more than 24,000.; current member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) is estimated to be over 139,000 with members in 125 countries. Project Management Institute (PMI)created the wave and platform that other countries, colleges, and Universities could lay their course foundation; initially, the need to project management knowledge was recognized in courses like engineering; it was seen as a noble course as the need was seen more in the area. However as time went by change has been seen in the way the course is trained, it has seen relevance in other disciplines like marketing, management information systems (MIS), and finance, oceanography, health sciences, computer sciences, and liberal arts; in some countries, the course stands alone and one can major in it (Shane, pp. 56-89).

Governments, private sectors, and individuals have embraced the need for projects management when undertaking different projects. The same has taken a higher notch where relationships between the financier and the project developer/ initiating team have been managed at arm’s length. For instance, in the construction of Thika Road, the Government of Kenya engaged in a contract with China Wu Yi to develop the project within a framework of two years. The Government of Kenya (GOK) in conjunction with donor funds, borrowed capital, and assistance from good wishers aimed at completing the 45-kilometer dual carriage road by December 2011 however the target duration was not attained. The road is currently expected to be completed in April 2012 at a total cost of Ksh. 27 Billion or approximately 0.4 billion shillings. The engagement of professionals in different areas as well as casual labors or semiskilled laborers was left at the hand of the Chinese contractor but the government had a stake in the wages and salaries paid. The Chinese company engaged other local and international contractors to facilitate the effective completion of the project, for instance, according to the company under the consultancy component, the consultant will conduct alternative financial and institutional analyses for the proper management, operation, and maintenance of the Nairobi-Thika Highway (Erling, p. 56). The approach that the Kenyan Government has undertaken shows the maturity level that project management has taken, it has in one hand the financiers who are the overall (in this case the government) and also the people on the ground (contractors).

In contemporary political, economical, and social scenes, projects are the order of the day in private and public institutions. Regardless of their size, some underlying principles have to be adhered to for an effective project; all projects need to be managed effectively and be well planned. The principles of project management revolve around the need to attain particular project goals and objectives using available resources and within a particular period. Three main things form the framework through which project management; the chart below sums the main frameworks that project management prevails within:

The main frameworks
Figure 2. The main frameworks

When developing and making plans on how the end project will be, the management should ensure that the three pillars as portrayed above will be attained according to the project documentation. In the case of Thika Road construction, quality is the measure of excellence, conformity, and the degree to which the output meets the standards of the contractor. When a different focus of the three constraints is taken then it should only be done to have overall strategic management of avoiding any risk that can lead to compromised quality, generally. The above “three constraints” of project management are not separate, when one is changed, and then there will be a change on the other. For example, when the time of the project is increased, there are chances that the cost of the project will increase; the increase is likely to be caused by the need for more human capital to accomplish the task (Wheelen 56).

The success of a project among others depends on the management style adopted by the project team developers; it is to some extent dependent on personality traits of the development team like honesty, openness, and tolerance for ambiguity. The above personal traits cannot yield results if the project lacks people with skills, has effective communication, and well documentation. Project management communication entails having effective methods of sharing information and experiences among the team developers and team leaders; it goes further to create clear boundaries and expectation gaps between project sponsors and team members. Documentation of a project entails having a blueprint that details tasks, responsibilities, relationships, and the effect that project development will have on customers and business needs.

There are varying relationships that projects develop at one particular point; the relationships are aimed at ensuring the project has been completed within the set structure and outline. The following chart defines the relationship among different relationships:

The relationship among different relationships
Figure 3. The relationship among different relationships

Appraise the viability of projects and develop success/failure criteria

Before embarking on a project, the project management team has the mandate of ensuring that the results of the project are noble that to undertake the exercise. The viability of a project depends on the parties involved and what they are willing to attain in life. The objectives of the project must be clear and of benefit to the target group. In a business environment, projects are initiated to benefit to either give some financial benefit to the company or increase the efficiency of doing business. In whichever approach is undertaken, the prime role is to make a beneficial contribution to the well-being of the business entity. In government and other nonprofit making organizations, the main role that projects are expected to play in the community is to ensure that the lives of people have been changed positively; with the notion/perception, it follows that the viability of a project depends on whether the net expected effect will be attained for a political, economical or social gain of the target population.

When deciding to embark on the Thika Road manufacturing project, the Kenyan Government noted that Nairobi-Thika road had heavy traffic that is increasing with time as a result of the rising urban population along the route. The traffic number was offering economic and social constrains to the users of the road; the poor physical condition of the road and its limited capacity are associated with high vehicle emissions, high fuel consumption, as well as social inconveniences. The above was the drive that pushed the government to look for a solution to the challenge; the proposed expansion and rehabilitation of Nairobi – Thika road aimed at substantially alleviating traffic congestion within Nairobi City. At face value, the project can be seen to have direct social benefits to the people but looking at it more keenly; the government was considering the economic parameters, environmental, and well as political paradigms. There have been increasing numbers of commuters who work in Nairobi residing along this section of the project road and other towns along the road which include Kasarani, Githurai, Ruiru, and Juja. The viability of the project was then on the benefit of the undertaking and the availability of funds to construct the road. The viability of a project can thus be summed to involve the following:

  1. Attainment of the set objectives; when considering this, project developers are interested to know whether undertaking the project will solve the problem that has triggered the project
  2. The availability of financial, human, decisional, and physical resources necessary to accomplish the project: there is no point at all to start a project then the project fails to see its completion because of constrains

When considering the element of benefit and costs of a project, it’s important to consider negative and positive externalities to the project. To see the Thika Road project succeed, there was a need to involve both the government and the private sector, to combine their efforts and see the entire project succeed. Jointly they sat and interpolated the situation and say whether the project was viable. The role played by the feasibility study comes into play to determine the net effect of either having a project or not. From the initiation stages, the managers need to be involved in making initiation documents and procedures; they made the policies, mission, vision, and other documentation required.

Understand the principles behind project management systems and procedures

Project management systems represent the process through which a particular project needs to undertake to facilitate the attainment of its project goals and objectives. For an effective project, the management should ensure they understand where they are coming from as well as where they are going. For instance, before the initiation of a project, there should always be the problem that the project aims at addressing; if the problem is not well understood, then the attainment of the project objectives is doomed. The processes might vary with differences in the project and their nature but the underlying principles remain.

The following is the basic project management system and procedure:

  • Definition of scope

When embarking on a project, the first important stage that project developers should consider is the scope of the project. The scope is the broader word that entails undertaking a feasibility study, defining the objectives, budgeting, timing, and establishment of any risk that might hinder the attainment of the project objectives and goals. The main inputs that the project managers should be considering include project objectives, budgets & timing, audience, and competitors; the outcome of the stage are confirmed brief, cost estimation, and project schedules (Harold, p. 45).

  • Project analysis and design

With the scope of the project at hand, the next stage is project analysis, at this stage, the expected outcome of the project is analyzed and documented. With the documentation, the processes, and the pathway that the project is expected to follow. For instance, with the government of Kenya establishing the project it will undertake to ease traffic congestion on Thika road, the government had to create a blueprint of the expected outcome so that when seeking for contraction, it can explain to the contractors what they expect as the outcome.

After a contraction in the case of contracts that involve contracting or composition of the project development team, the next important move that project managers engage in is giving the go-head to the commencement of the project (Albert, pp. 23-67).

  • Project launching and building

This is the stage where the project is flagged and launched; the stage involves the management seeing the actual project take place in the right manner. This stage is also referred to as the action stage. Here development and actual work is done. For instance, at Thika Road, the initial stages involved much paperwork and documentation, it has not seen the contractors get on the ground and start the actual construction work.

At project launching and building, all document-ally and otherwise logistics have been completed and the project is up and running. At Thika Road other than the contractors making the road as well as clearing the areas that the road was to pass by, the process involved some compensation of people who were affected by the road.

Management, control, and monitoring

With the project running, the management of the project should ensure that it is closely monitored and any indication that success or objectives will be attained noted and addressed as soonest possible. The stage involves many professionals and continued analysis of the prevailing conditions in the move to ensure that the success of the project will be quality and up to the expected standard. In the case of the Thika Road project, management, control, and monitoring are done in collaboration with the government engineers, professionals, contractors, and some international quality review bodies (Marcus, p. 78).

An effective project management system is likely to address the following areas

  • Project evaluation process or methodology: give a framework of the pathway that the project will follow.
  • Cost and benefits measurement: evaluate the benefits and gains that every stage in the project is leading to a dif there is a stage that is not fully operational; the system should be strong enough to alert the managers.
  • Progress reporting: the system should be able to check and report the progress of the system periodically and offer reports that can be used to improve the project, to be in a position to do this, the system should incorporate some checks and balances and have optimal performances levels.
  • Communication of key project data: in the management of a project, data and information are of the essence, there is a need to have timely and relevant data at all times. This will offer the much-needed resource to manage the project effectively: an effective system should have the ability to offer the required data when needed and acceptably portray the data.
  • Resource and capacity planning: resources are limited, they need to be effectively managed and put in optimal use, an effective system should have the capability of offering a resource allocation tracking system
  • Cost and benefits tracking: as the project unfolds, there is an urgent need to have all the areas on track, the system should ensure that it looks into the development of a project and make improvements changes where needed (Livingston, p. 43).

Key elements involved in terminating projects and conducting post-project appraisals

A project can be terminated before its maturity for various reasons; the main reason for the same is when the direction the project takes contradicts the expected result. For instance, if in the case of Thika Road, a wrong operating system was implemented, the management could have no option other than to stop the project immaturely. There are varying reasons why the management of a project might decide to terminate a particular project immaturely, however, the most common reasons revolve around the occurrence of some risks that had not been predicted and there is nothing much that can be done other than forfeiting the project altogether (Gary, p. 90).

Management gurus think that project immature termination should be the last resort after trying all other means possible to avoid the exercise.

Other than immature termination of projects, after completion, projects should be terminated and a review of the success gained weighed against the blueprint that details the objectives of the project. At completion, the management should ensure that all parties involved have given their report and expressed their satisfaction. In April 2012, the government of Kenya expects that Thika Road will have been completed thus it will have a termination ceremony where reports from engineers from the government side and those of the contractor will be used to determine whether the project has been completed successfully. When determining whether a project should be completed, project management teams should evaluate the following:

  • Has the objectives of the project is attained; the process ensures confirmation that all project goals have been achieved
  • Are the requirements of all professionals (include architects, quality surveyors, project supervisors among others)
  • Before the closure of the project, the company should ensure that best practice experience is documented and transferred to standards for future projects; the following are the areas that need to be documented project methods, management practices, strengths & weaknesses
  • Fourthly, before closure the team must ensure that benefit realization plans are in place to meet expected benefits, responsibilities for achieving, timetable & measurement plan, and Recognize achievement

Project management spans more than the termination of a project, it involves post-project appraisals. Post-project appraisals involve those activities that follow the completion of a project to monitor how the project overall is doing. It involves measuring the anticipated results and the actual results that the project is giving. In the case of Thika Road, the government will expect to see the social-economic benefits anticipated come to pass. The main reason for a post-project appraisal is to determine if there is something more than the developers can do to improve the project or if the project can be relied upon in the future (Cleland, pp. 45-90). Project review has been named differently as post-project reviews, postmortem, or post audits.

The following is the project review checklist

  • An analysis and review of the events that occurred
  • An evaluation of what happened and also why it happened
  • Determination of the correct actions to take to improve the results of the next project

Project reviews aim at attaining the following objectives:

  • Document set of materials, well-documented procedures, and guidelines that will be available to other participants
  • Ensuring that all participants are positive and blame-free
  • Provide an environment where in the future there can be an effective fostering of openness and condor
  • Project review ensures that lessons are shared widely and have a positive effect on a future project

Works Cited

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  3. Erling, Andersen. Goal Directed Project Management. New York: Kogan, 2010. Print.
  4. Gary, Lay. Project management theory and practice .Baca Raton: Auerbach publishers, 2010. Print.
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  6. Livingston, Joseph. Founders at work: stories of startups’ early days. Berkeley: Apress, 2008. Print.
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  8. Newbold, Charles. Project Management in the Fast Lane; Applying the Theory of Constraints. New York: St. Lucie Publishers, 2007. Print.
  9. Shane, Shaw. A General Theory of Entrepreneurship: the Individual-Opportunity. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2003. Print
  10. Wheelen, Hunger. Strategic Management and Business Policy: Entering 21st Century Global Society. Massachusetts: Addison Wesley, 2008. Print.