Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gamestorm Activity: Project Premortem

Those of you who attended Techpalooza, or any summer staff development course this summer, may have heard me mention the book Gamestorming by Dave Gray, James Manifuco, and Sunni Brown. This book contains a variety of activities to add creativity to our meetings. They not only make meetings fun but they serve to spark creative collaboration in the collaborative spaces where we work. I highly recommend it!

A blogger for Harvard Business Review named Gary Klein wrote about an activity he performed as a type of Gamestorm called the Project Premortem.

The concept is to increase the probability of the project's success by assuming that the project has failed and then listing the reasons why it failed. You then spend the time eliminating as many of those reasons as possible for the rest of the gamestorm.

So here is the activity for our group and anyone who reads is welcome to add their thoughts and comments below.


We rolled out Google Apps for Education to all staff across the district. We migrated mail services to Google Mail and uploaded Z:drives to Google Docs. All staff were given access to the system but it failed. Miserably. Explosively.

People aren't using the system and they are harboring resentment toward all technology, especially the technology staff. They are distrustful of our department and there is even resentment within the department among our team.

Now, you now tell me why this failed. List reasons or narrate why it failed. Don't tell how to fix. Just list the reasons why this project imploded.


  1. The biggest area that failed was in switching to Google Docs for Home Drive storage for the students. It was crucial that we be able to map the Google Docs drive to a physical drive map for ease of saving coursework. While this worked for people who always used the same computer, it did not work well for when students went to the computer labs for other coursework. While we had a program that would map your Google Doc drive to Z, it had a onetime setup that had to be done for each computer that you logged on to and could not be automated. While the process took less than 5 minutes to do, students would frequently forget to do it first thing. Thus when they went to save at class end, they found that their drive wasn’t mapped and had to frequently rush to get it setup. This caused problems that teachers didn’t like and were reluctant to work through. They started having students save to the local computer, or using USB thumb drives.

  2. Two main reasons contributed to roll-out failure of Google Apps for Education.

    1) Communication Breakdown. Many ISD staff failed to read tech-related emails regarding timelines and procedural steps. Some claimed they were too busy to figure it out in advance and some claimed they can't read geek-speak so they ignored the messages (a form of denial). To make matters worst, the 24-hour reminder email to the whole district didn't go out as planned due to an untimely server crash; therefore the email remained in the draft folder unsent. Then the switch happened as scheduled later that evening -- which surprised most staff the next morning. For teachers, panic set in since they couldn't find their files and they needed them to teach class. By lunch the main topic on campuses throughout the district is why technology keeps changing things -- AGAIN!!

    2) Lack of Training. While some staff members found success after reading the emails, many others had trouble. Without proper training, some kept trying to use old shortcuts which no longer worked (and they couldn't remove them since they don't have admin rights). When technology asked to refer to the email with all the information, some claimed they had to delete the email since they feared running out of space and receiving the dreaded "Mailbox is full" message (not realizing that they now have more space with Google Mail). If that wasn't enough, many staff had trouble remembering their logins and passwords (claiming this was not necessary before and were not happy with one more login and password to remember). Once it became apparent that many staff were storing new files to the local hard drive rather than using Google Docs, Technology staff realized that the district had just stepped backwards in overall data management solutions. -- Eddie

  3. I agree with Eddie. Communication is the #1 problem with anything on campus. You can NEVER make a change by email and expect it to work. You would ALWAYS have to have live training with hands on experience and MAYBE something will work. -Lou Anne