The Widdershins

Archive for October 25th, 2013

Good afternoon and a great Friday Widdershin friends.  Here’s hoping there’s only a few more hours until you start enjoying a “Widderful” weekend.

Tuesday I wrote about some of the eye-popping instances of irony amusing us this week.  I purposefully omitted one.Laptop  It’s a big one and one meriting a full post.  Here it is:

How can the most technologically sophisticated candidate for President in the history of the country so badly botch, so incompetently execute, and so perfectly blow the technical execution of the website of his signature domestic achievement?

Simply put — short of producing a picture of a Kenyan mud hut manger scene or droning the Lincoln Memorial, how could this President do more to bolster the thirty year right-wing meme about government?  You know the meme — government isn’t the answer, government is the problem, yada yada yada.  Honestly, if any one of us were told, “You have three years to write your epitaph,” wouldn’t it be more than a “box-checking” exercise?

What went wrong?  Was it waiting until only 8 months ago to start building such an intricately complex site?  Was it the need to interface the website among various legacy mainframes?  Was it a pandemic of incompetent contractors and subcontractors and sub-subcontractors?  Was it failing to beta-test and appropriately stress test the site?  Was it making a decision to front load information on the application shortly before going live?  Was it like I, Robot, there were just too many ghosts in the system?

Who knows?  And what’s more, I don’t particularly care.

This is why:  No matter what the problems are, there should have been a strategic imperative in place beginning three years ago.  That strategic imperative:  Defeating the thirty-year right wing meme of government can never be part of the solution — government is always the problem.

Since those holy words were laid down from the mountaintop by Saint Reagan, they have served as a convenient cubbyhole of last resort for every conservative’s weak refrain for continuing some form of human need.  This botched website experience has done nothing but embolden this excuse for inaction.

Spokes-apologists have been quick to point out that Obama, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had no idea of the problems prior to the launch on October 1st.  While I’m sure the spokes-apologists believe that is an appropriate absolution, I think it is an indictment.  To foster an environment where bad news is buried by low-level staff is the most cancerous form of management and more over, it leads to abysmal policy and even worse execution.

I won’t venture a guess as to the ability of the President, McDonough, or Sebelius to engage in strategic thinking.  I do know strategic thinking is relatively rare with only about 12% of the population exhibiting a natural talent for it.  I do know if you want to see a CEO fall to the floor in a fetal position and openly weep, tell him/her they lack strategic thinking talent.  I do know nothing so completely inhibits strategic thinking more than an unbridled ego.  I do know, “If anything crashes, including a website, first look to the pilot.”

The ThinkerI also know this reads like the musings of Captain Hindsight, but in my defense, I will point you to previous posts about Obama’s horrendous inability to “make sense of experience.” Making sense of experience is essential to leadership and strategic thinking is a primary component of that ability.  When you render strategic thinking down to its essence, it is about seeing patterns — connecting the disparate, errant dots and making sense of them.  Leaders must do that for those being led.  Without it we feel rudderless.

The website will get fixed eventually so why is this important?  This is why:  One-half the states have opted not to expand Medicaid — think the old Confederacy plus those states wishing, “If only they’d had the chance.”  The refusal to expand Medicaid is just plain mean-spirited politics since the federal government pays 100% the first three years and 90% thereafter.  In these states many of the working poor are going to be out of luck, falling in the purgatory of being in between qualifications.  There are six to seven million people falling in this category — nearly half are from just four states, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.

This botched deployment of the Marketplace website just gives these states’  governors another excuse to turn their backs on Medicaid expansion.  Eventually expansion will occur, but according to experts don’t count on it before 2020.

There are few of us on this site who were Obama supporters in 2008, but when it came to a choice between agendas, we have persevered.  Over and above expeditiously and efficiently providing healthcare to millions, Obama missed an opportunity to disprove the governmental incompetence meme and reinvigorate a belief in government.  In many ways, cultivating renewed faith in government would have been a much greater legacy.  He blew it.

This is an open thread.


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