The Health Care Reform Bill currently before Congress is a complex piece of legislature, but in many ways is similar to web development projects we encounter in the business world. Here are some lessons we can take away from our government leaders:
- You do NOT know what’s best for the client – You might think you know, but even if you’re 100% right the client isn’t going to appreciate being forced into anything. That doesn’t really matter, though, because you won’t be 100% right. Ever. Remember, the client brings a different perspective and different motivations to the table, and you need to take those into account. As I mentioned previously, you need to acknowledge their issues and remember that the customer is always right. Don’t wait for a meeting full of screaming constituents before you stop making unilateral decisions and start being more inclusive.
Without buy-in at the top you’re doomed to failure – Without the support of folks like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the bill will have great difficulty passing, and without White House support it won’t get signed. Similarly, without the support of the big stakeholders your project won’t get the organizational and financial support that could turn failure into success. Of course, figuring out who those stakeholders are can be a challenge. Just ask yourself who would benefit most if the project succeeded, and start your search there.
- Without buy-in from the folks using the final product you’re doomed to failure – Many folks overlook this one, and if the current town-hall climate is any indication our Congressmen are no different. If the folks in the trenches who will bear the direct benefits and consequences of your project aren’t on board, you’re in trouble. The project may stall midstream because their hearts aren’t in it, or if implemented the project can stagnate because they aren’t using it regularly or in the manner it was intended. In a drastic case, the masses will force out the original decision makers and replace them with others who will kill the project. Either way, not a good outcome for anybody.
- Not reading the contract can get everyone in trouble – Everything in a signed contract is binding, and you can and will be held to it. You can’t plead ignorance, and you shouldn’t count on your client not noticing. Take the time and make sure everything you intend is present in the contract. Make sure, also, that there aren’t any “surprises” in there either. Surprises are not the friend of the project manager, any more than they are friends of the US taxpayer. (Somebody pointed out to me that illegal stuff in a contract isn’t binding. Well, that’s only true if you decide to fight it….)
Be careful tying your kite to any one project – Getting too closely associated with a project can have negative implications for you in a couple of ways. Remember when Bill Clinton was president and he appointed Hillary to put together a health care reform proposal? She got tied too closely with that project, and ended up suffering politically when it failed. Also, many opponents ended up attacking her or the idea of her doing the proposal, rather than attacking the proposal itself, so the debate got way off track and (at times) quite personal. For you, treat your projects not as your babies but as sheep that you’re shepherding through the process. It’s a fine line, but spend just enough personal capital and influence to get the job done but not so much that (if the project fails) it drags you down.
- Money is ALWAYS a constraining factor – When the idea of health care reform first surfaced, a majority of voters were in favor of it. Surely, in difficulty economic times when so many are losing their jobs and health coverage, the idea that you don’t lose your health insurance is very appealing. Trouble is, once the debate started flying and cost became a talking point, folks started balking at the potential high price tag for universal health care. Similarly, project clients can easily get excited about all the bells and whistles a new product can deliver. Once they get a taste of the price tag, however, then their appetite for features start shrinking.