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Project Management Failure on a Billion Dollar Scale

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A basic business process question relates to project management. One enormous organization seems to have bungled their management of a billion dollar project in a way that seems painfully obvious.

The story comes Fox News, reporting on mistakes made in a Los Angeles Unified School District fiasco where 650,000 students received iPads:

Instead of solving math problems or doing English homework, as administrators envisioned, more than 300 Los Angeles Unified School District students promptly cracked the security settings and started tweeting, posting to Facebook and playing video games.

It’s crucial, [an education expert] said, to spend extensive time drawing students into a discussion on using iPads responsibly before handing them out. And, of course, installing a firewall that can’t be easily breached.

At [LA’s] Roosevelt High, it was the unanimous opinion of more than a dozen students that the school district’s security setup was so weak that even the most tech-challenged parent could have gotten past it.

“It was so easy!” said freshman Carlos Espinoza.

Project Management: School iPad Rollout

© Flickr user flickingerbrad

Avid readers of The Methodology Blog may remember the last time we covered a project management failure in the LA schools. It might be easy to dismiss this as government incompetence, or to blame cronyism for sweetheart deals that make vendors rich.

Broadly speaking, however, we should focus instead on including all stakeholders when pursuing any project. You shouldn’t design something for “someone else” to use without getting that “someone else” involved in design.

In our last post on a school district debacle, we had this to say about project management and consulting:

Firms may want to consider an alternate model for building partnerships—one based on shared risk.

Our advice holds true today. Hopefully, district officials will be able to pull this project back on course by creating a partnership where everyone affected has a seat at the table.

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