Thursday, November 21, 2013
debacles and calamities
The healthcare.gov website does not mark a high point in the world history of IT or planning, but opponents of the Affordable Care Act are fighting a fairly hopeless rearguard action against a force they do not understand. The media is having good fun with it, but no one seems to be remembering an essential rule of large projects: it doesn't matter if it is a good idea, it doesn't matter if it is poorly executed, it doesn't matter if it is underfunded at conception--it only matters that it starts and that the public is aware of it. One term for this is "stake-driving" and Robert Moses understood it. Steve Jobs understood it. Jesus Christ and his apostles understood it.
Which brings up another point I want to make about principles of management. The phrase "you can't manage what you can't measure" is bandied about as if it were some great Truth. However, measurement doesn't imply numbers. Numbers are helpful when it comes to assessing accuracy, but accuracy may not be achieved after a considerable period of time, at which point an opportunity will be lost. A good manager should make a rough calculation of risks, determine if a course of action can disrupt current trends, and act. Or not act. Not having all available data is a condition of living in this universe. It might rain on Saturday, but Sunday looks clear, so therefore, we will plan our trip for Sunday.