Obama, Silicon Valley, and Learning by Testing
There were PhDs working as low paid data managers during Obama’s ’08 campaign and top product managers developing interactive during ’12 campaign. There are many talented developers/product managers/data modelers who would take a pay cut to work on something they believe in. Especially for those with enough life experience to know how important the Affordable Care Act is, even if it’s not an ideal solution.
The preferred method for implementing large technology projects in Washington is to write the plans up front, break them into increasingly detailed specifications, then build what the specifications call for. It’s often called the waterfall method, because on a timeline the project cascades from planning, at the top left of the chart, down to implementation, on the bottom right.
Like all organizational models, waterfall is mainly a theory of collaboration. By putting the most serious planning at the beginning, with subsequent work derived from the plan, the waterfall method amounts to a pledge by all parties not to learn anything while doing the actual work.
If, as many sources seem to suggest, Obama did not realize that healthcare.gov was not going to work, and if the reason he did not realize it was that he had created a culture around him in which people did not feel free to pass on bad news to their boss, then he is not, and was not, competent to be President. If, as Obama himself implied in contrasting the failure of healthcare.gov to the success of the IT efforts of his reelection campaign, government is very bad at doing this sort of thing, that is at least some evidence that the ACA was a mistake, likely to make health care worse rather than better.