The Widdershins

Yer mamma…

Posted on: November 5, 2013

A very widderful Tuesday to all the Widdershin friends out there in the intertubz land.

This is a follow-up on my post last week, Your Wait Will BeIts subject was  the rollout debacle of the Obamacare Marketplace website.

Management Consulting 101...

Management Consulting 101…

As more information becomes available, it seems apparent the telltale signs of a “major go-to-pieces” was in the offing for the rollout.  We can learn from this.  Anyone who has ever been in charge of something new can learn from this.

A leaked memo details most of the larger problems facing the rollout of the law.  The memo was authored by David Cutler, a Harvard health economist and a former advisor to the Obama campaign.  You can see the memo here as an embed to a larger article.

The memo was dated May 11, 2010.  You read that right — 2010 — forty months before the October 31, 2013, “go live” date.  It was written to Larry Summers, he of the “women can’t do no figurin,” fame.  Unfortunately, none of Cutler’s recommendations were taken up by the White House.

You need only read to the third paragraph to uncover the major landmine  where Cutler said:

You should also note that while this memo is my own, the views are widely shared, including by many members of your administration (whose names I will omit but who are sufficiently nervous to urge me to write) as well as knowledgeable outsiders.  Indeed, I have been at a conference on health reform the past two days, and have found not a single person who disagrees with the urgent need for action.

As many of you know, I have put food on my table and Glenfiddich in my glass by being a management and leadership consultant.  Cutler’s two sentences are what I call, “listen fors.”  You listen for words like that to signify a much larger problem.  The larger problems signified here — ineffective management, non-existent communication, and fear of failure.

Management Consulting 201...

Management Consulting 201…

In essence, “many members of the Administration,” didn’t want to talk about the problems and were afraid to speak up.  I don’t know about your mammas, but if I ever said to Mother Prolix, “I don’t want to talk about it,” it guaranteed one thing — Mother Prolix didn’t want to talk about anything else.  With the insistence of a Gitmo interrogator, talk about it we did until Mother Prolix uncovered the real problem.  Our home was littered with dead horses unmercifully beaten in such attempts.

This is not the only example of ignoring “listen fors.“  Another part of the memo talks about assigning major parts of the ACA’s implementation to chronically weakened and demoralized agencies like the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Despite an exponentially greater workload, the CMS had fewer employees than it had in 1981.  The IT services section was antiquated, but was charged with overseeing the IT contractors.  Simply put, the politicians were hiding the ACA implementation in CMS knowing congressional Republicans wouldn’t cut appropriations to CMS.  This hide and seek game has come back to haunt the implementation.

Again, if your mammas were anything like Mother Prolix she would have ended the hide and seek game pretty quickly.  Mother Prolix knew, “Putting off a problem today just guarantees you will face the problem tomorrow.”

If the White House had faced the Republican opposition in 2010, the continual drip, drip, drip would have ended and the most vehement Tea Party opposition would have waned.  By tiptoeing around congressional Republicans, it did nothing but empower them.  So much so, Republicans refused to confirm a CMS director until 2012.

Black eyes frequently happen in management consulting...

Black eyes frequently happen in management consulting…

I know all this sounds like the ramblings of Captain Hindsight, but when you put this in perspective, it is instructive.  It is during this 2010 period where the President was still trying to appease the congressional scorpion riding across the river on his back.  Just like in the parable, it has stung him three years later because that is the nature of scorpions — it’s what they do.

With that said, you can’t blame the scorpion for being what it is without blaming Obama for the misplaced belief his magical appeal would somehow hypnotize the scorpion.  You can’t blame a faulty website, ineffective beta testing, and poorly managed IT contractors on John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  Most importantly, the White House can‘t blame anyone else for underlings purposefully withholding information.  Magical thinking can’t cure such things.

Everyone is hopeful these problems will be fixed by November 30th — which happens to be the third night of Hanukkah.  Perhaps this year there will be an extra Hanukkah miracle to celebrate.

This is an open thread.

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21 Responses to "Yer mamma…"

Sadly I have to agree with you Prolix: Obama owns this.

I tried going onto the site during my normal “witching hour” hours only to find they take it down from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. 😦 However, I did download the application form and instructions. That might be the better way to go…who knows!

@1, What’s really sad Fredster, is that supposedly he knew nothing else mattered if the website functioned poorly. I read a quote to that effect somewhere, I’ll have to look for it.

In my book, that is the real travesty here — they knew the website was integral to the rollout, they asked about the progress constantly, but they didn’t get the truth. It seems no one had an inquisitive enough mind to go beyond the glowing platitudes. That type of snafu is unforgivable. It is an unforced error. There are many management trainees who are now wearing paper hats because of the same thing.

@2, here’s the full quote:

They needed to get started on carrying out the law the very next morning. It was not ready even though, for months beginning last spring, the president emphasized the exchange’s central importance during regular staff meetings to monitor progress. No matter which aspects of the sprawling law had been that day’s focus, the official said, Obama invariably ended the meeting the same way: “All of that is well and good, but if the Web site doesn’t work, nothing else matters.”

I’ll have to go check out your link.

I guess you are saying that he is Obama and he knew nothing else mattered… Now, is the “they” as in they knew, who – Sebelius and the entire DHS group? Makes you wonder what’s the worse punishment: force them to resign or force them to stay there and be responsible for getting it fixed.

@3: Ah, that clears it up. They’re gonna need some big signs to look at daily: FIX THE FUBAR!

My personal belief is that none of the whizzes who designed this website ever had to go looking for their own insurance.

chat@6: Oh hell no..they probably have a good employer-sponsored plan. 😆

@6, the real irony is that CGI, the main tech consultancy, is Canadian and thereby covered by Canada’s universal healthcare system.

Prolix@8: Oh hell, that’s right! 😯

@8: Best example of true irony that I’ve heard lately.

June and Ward! At last I understand management consulting.

@4 Emotionally, I vote with Fredster. Make them stay. You break it, you own it.

Rationally, I’m not sure they can fix it, if the same crew couldn’t get it right on the first try. The time for tinkering has passed. Somebody needs to bring in the expensive grown-up computer geeks, Efficiency is lest costly in the long run. Fix it fast and right.

@11, June was much better than Ward when it came to consulting. Ward had too much command in his personality. June was an active and discerning listener.

One of the things we Progressives really need to learn: Passing the legislation is just the first step, the more challenging piece is implementation. We Progressives are good at being all exorcised about the “wrongs and injustices” and once the legislation is passed we sorta forget about it. The real hand-to-hand combat then begins with the implementation.

Conservatives know this. Conservatives thrive in this environment. It is why Dubya was appointed President by the Supremes. Conservatives use every niche, nook, and cranny as a battlefield. It is how they “jacked up” the House with gerrymandered districts. It is how they are systematically disenfranchising voters of color. It is how they expect to win in 2016.

And the other thing we Progressives need to learn — stop being so danged nice. We need to pull up our big boy and big girl pants and stop always being the nice ones. If Al Gore had challenged all the counties in FL instead of being “all nice and genteel” he would have been President. Another lesson from the conservodroids.

Mary Luke said: Fix it fast and right.

Sadly those two probably don’t go together in this situation. Here’s how much faith I have: I downloaded the application. 🙄

Oh and here’s another thing they could have done: Make the downloaded form an adobe fillable form that you can complete on your computer and then print it out. As it is, you have to print it out and then complete it by hand. Oy!

Yay for Illinois!

I’m out, everyone have a great evening.

Same to you Prolix!

@16 It’s not in Adobe? Oh good goddess, you mean they are more luddite than I? We are really in trouble.

@ Mary Luke: It’s in an adobe format but you must print it out and then complete it by hand. There’s another format called adobe fillable that let’s you fill the form in on the screen, then print with the completed info in there. The downside is that you cannot save a copy but you can just print another copy for your own records or if you have a scanner, then you can scan the completed form.

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