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How to write a memo to a project manager's boss making suggestions on what top management could do to help him manage a challenging project


I have an assignment on project communication management:

Robin: Department of Correction
Robin, a senior consultant for a large consulting firm, was just assigned to be the project manager for a $100 million project to upgrade the information systems for the State Department of Corrections. Robin’s boss and mentor, Jill, knew that Robin had a lot of potential and wanted to give her a challenging assignment. Robin had a lot of experience with technology involved in the project, but she never worked with the state government and she knew little about the state legal system. Her firm assigned its top legal person, Fred, to the project to assist Robin. Fred had worked on several projects with the state and understood the corrections process, but his expertise was in law, not technology. Fred also had never worked for a woman before and he was surprised that Robin was ten years younger than he was.
At the kickoff meeting for the project, Robin could see that understanding and meeting the stakeholders’ needs and expectations for the project would be a huge challenge. The new governor attended the first few minutes of the meeting, an indicator of the high profile of the project. The governor, who was known for not trusting consultants, questioned the value of spending more money on information systems for the Department of corrections, but the decision to fund this project has been made before he was elected. The federal government would be funding half of the project, since the new system would have to interact with the federal system. The head of the state Department of Corrections, Donna, had worked in the state legal system for twenty-five years. Donna knew the corrections process and the problems they faced, but she knew very little about information systems and preferred doing work the old fashioned way. She had heard horror stories about inmates released because computer errors. Donna’s new assistant, Jim, was very computer savvy and seemed most supportive of the project. No federal representatives were invited to the meeting. The meeting did not go well, as it seemed disorganized and highly political.

It is assigned to write a memo to Robin’s boss, Jill, making suggestions on what top management could do to help Robin manage this challenging project.

I searched on top management, and started to think about what I should write, but I still do not seem to get it. I know that a project manager should try to meet the project objectives: scope, time and cost, manage different areas of the project, lead and motivate project members in the right direction, conduct weekly or monthly meeting with stakeholders to discuss the status of the project, etc... but I do not know the exact role of the top management. How should it help the project manager do what hes supposed to do in-order for the project to be successful  or what's supposed for top management to do in the current situation described above.

The memo should be just a paragraph (as memos should be short and to the point). Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks to you in advance for your support!
asked 7 years ago by anonymous

1 Answer

First of all, one of the main reasons why projects fail is the lack of support from the top management.

Apparently, not a lot of key people are on board, including the mayor. From what I've read, I feel that the project will certainly fail, not only because the politics at the top level are completely messy, but because I feel that this a program, and not a project, and it is being treated as a project, and, on top of that, it seems that the person who's assigned as a project manager lacks the necessary experience.

If it comes to me, the memo should ask for the cancellation of the project :)

Anyway, I think the memo should be:

"Dear Fred, (it should be sent to Fred because he's the project sponsor)

I think the project has many challenges, most of them I can handle (although I think that she can't), but there is one key challenge that may threaten the project, which is the fierce politics at the the top level. It seems that there are lots of conflicts, some people want to go ahead with the project, others don't. Some people want to help, other won't. I hope you can address all the issues with the stakeholders and ensure that they are all on the same board. I believe that if the issues are not resolved, then we will get conflicting instructions from the different stakeholders, and the project will ultimately fail."
answered 7 years ago by anonymous

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