The launch of Healthcare.gov has gone less than ideal to say the least.
There was an outstanding article in the Washington Post over the weekend (click here for article) that covered from May 2010, two months after ACA’s passage, when warnings about leadership were raised, to September 2013, one month prior to the website’s launch, where some CMS staffers were hoping that a simplified demonstration application of the site would fail in front of the President to reveal that it wasn’t ready.
The demonstration succeeded. The real thing did not.
Much was riding on a successful launch on October 1st. It’s failure, like all failures, provides the best lessons for the future for all of us.
Here are a few:
1. When “everyone” owns it, “no one” owns it
Healthcare.gov is a massive undertaking that requires the coordination of a lot of data from many different sources to succeed. The infographic below shows that the website involved coordination of 6 complex systems, with 55 contractors, 5 agencies, 300+ insurance providers, and 4500+ health plans. Although CMS was leading, no one was leading.
2. Before you think of a “person” for a role, think of the “key requirements” of the role
WaPo’s article stated that President Obama wanted Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, to lead its implementation due to her success in passing ACA policy. The challenge was that the skill sets needed to pass policy were drastically different to successfully implement such a complex website project.
There is always an urge to promote someone as a way to reward their success in a previous role. WARNING!!! Before you do this, write down the 3-5 key requirements of the role and then rate that person based off of those key requirements. For an unbiased viewpoint, give the role’s key requirements and your recommendation to a peer to review.
3. Beware of the “Big Bang”
We all want the great launch and the fast results. We want our actions and results to be seen as bold and heroic versus slow and steady. These emotions are natural. But they must be tempered with the reality that complex projects and initiatives need a lot of rigorous testing to ensure actual success.
My worst launch of a vendor partnership occurred when I let my desire for a Big Bang launch at a National Meeting overrule my desire for continued pilot testing. My mind was telling me "wait", my heart was telling me "full steam ahead". Heart wins again!
Although the launch was great, the demands of my sales force quickly outpaced the capabilities of the vendor and the partnership failed soon after.
Although it was a tough experience, it was a valuable experience.
Much like I hope Healthcare.gov will be for so many people.