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What We Can Learn from the Affordable Care Act Website

November 11, 2013
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The federal government is not the only place were politics is a key driver in project management.

Everyone that has worked on projects in large organizations knows the pressure of politics. The federal government is not the only place where politics is a key driver in project management.

Working in large healthcare organizations comes with its own style of politics and culture. The key to successful projects in this type of environment is to empower the project team to raise red flags without fear of repercussions. 

In order to function effectively in large matrixed environments, the program lead needs to be part cheerleader, part General Patton. However, the project culture has to be designed from the very beginning to incorporate the tools and communication strategy to be able to raise a red flag when needed. The students of Dr. Deming (which most of you know I am) can remember the simple premise of a kill switch.  Automobile manufacturers in Japan used a simple kill switch which anyone (down to the lowest level employee) could push to stop the production line. This was done in order for workers to correct deficiencies in quality (for example, if something was not bolted on correctly) or for safety concerns.

Your project team needs to know that delivering quality is more important than hitting a deadline. All too often organizational leadership ties key project metrics to end of year bonuses. This sets up an environment in which no one wants to raise an issue for fear of jeopardizing their own pocket books.

Project Executive Steering Committees are not designed as a board to hear briefs about how great things are going. They have key functions to help ensure the success of projects. These functions include:

  1. The Statement of Work or Scope Document must include “Success Metrics” which includes Quality expectations. “Delivering” a product is like being a mailman; it gets there on time…but what does the package look like inside?
  2. Receive briefs throughout the project on Critical Path issues. These are items like “Smoke Testing” systems, “End to End testing”, and “Stress Testing” web sites. If any issue on the critical path is not resolved, then by definition the Go-live date may be affected.
  3. Making Go/No-go decisions tied to the Go-Live countdown. You empower everyone in the process to make that decision. Look at the concept of Group Think and the Challenger disaster and ask yourself if you are marching down that same outcome.

Finally, always remember that no matter how small your project, your patients deserve better than pushing out a project for political expediency.

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