Plenty of finger-pointing remains about how the situation developed so badly. Aides said the president did not believe that anyone had purposely deceived him or his top advisers, but they have concluded that some of the people working in the trenches on the website were not forthcoming about the problems.
At the same time, the White House trusted its own policy and political teams rather than bringing in outsiders with more experience putting in place something as technically challenging as HealthCare.gov and the infrastructure to support it.
Officials at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, but they said that neither they nor their contractors had recommended a delay in opening the exchange. Political and policy teams at the White House insisted on pushing ahead without delay, they said.As someone who "works in the trenches" (and foresees a lifetime of trench-work), I found that comment singularly enraging when I read that last Saturday. I had to take a minute to walk around the house and cool myself off. It wasn't a political thing; it reminded me of many project management foul-ups that I've been involved with: unrealistic deadlines, vague goals, hoped-for science with paper chemistry that violates most literature precedent, finally concluded with the classic "You didn't tell me!"
"You didn't tell me" is classic boss-speak (or in this case, boss' aides-speak) for "It's not really my fault this project didn't go well."* My (mental, usually unsaid) response to "you didn't tell me" is usually "you weren't listening" or "you weren't listening closely enough."
Here's the question that I have -- how do you avoid getting to those points in projects? How do you let the boss (or the boss' aides) know that things aren't going well? How do you adjust expectations early? (My typical means of solving the problem is to get someone that the boss trusts aside and having a frank sotto voce conversation about the likelihood of us meeting the goals that have been laid out.)
Readers, what has been your experience with project management? Any advice that you can give us all?
[I discourage explicitly political talk on PPACA in the comments -- there are plenty of other places on the Internet to talk about this issue.]
*To his credit, in my opinion, President Obama took quite a bit of responsibility in his press conference yesterday.