“I’m pulling him out of this,” my wife said tearfully.
“No, he’s going to be fine. He’ll get the hang of it,” I implored.
And with a look I’ve seen only once or twice in her eyes, she repeated, “I’m pulling him out of this!”
It was about two years ago, and she’d signed Tyler up for a soccer program in which we assumed he’d simply be kicking the ball around with a bunch of other kids his age, and little else. It was supposed to be fun, light and easy. But apparently the overeager “coach” had other things on his mind. We can only assume he read a book on soccer activities for 10-year-olds instead of 3-year-olds, as he rolled out quite complex exercises that boggled even my mind. Tyler would get confused, upset and go sit down. My wife and I would take turns trying to get him engaged back into the activity, and subsequently got upset ourselves. It was all bad.
But me, with a father’s inborn desire to toughen the lad up (which is a good thing once in a while, let’s admit), refused to pull the plug. She, however, realized things were going badly and demanded we desist. And she was right.
I’ve often thought over the years how courage and bravery are better exemplified by the willingness to stop, to desist, to “quit” than to push forward. I may have cited a small example above, but we’ve come across many in our interviews with you. For example, we’ve often quoted Miami Children’s Hospital SVP/CIO Ed Martinez’s statement that it’s a leader’s job to put the brakes on things when an organization cannot handle any more change, for example.
I got to thinking about the courage of standing down as I’ve been reading about the ObamaCare Web site rollout fiasco over the last few weeks, and specifically an article in the NY Times. In this piece, we learn so much about how NOT to manage a major technology project (or anything else for that matter).
First off, the government seems to have taken the all-important role of general contractor onto itself for a project so complex it truly warranted a specialized organization. In fact, we see that no matter how expertly the pieces of such a puzzle are crafted (if that was the case), it is only in their delicate assembling that the magic comes to life.
Then we see that vendors were held to deadlines while not receiving the deliverables they needed to meet those deadlines. This makes one think of all the pressure put on healthcare IT vendors when Meaningful Use criteria roll off the presses, and gives us some appreciation for requests that those who have to implement such software get a little more time.
Despite an interesting “tech surge” call for help by the government to the IT intelligentsia of America, to date there has been little communication from HHS about just what went wrong (which perhaps might aid in finding the fixes). And this is one of the larger mistakes in the whole debacle. CIO after CIO has told us that transparency and communication — especially during times of outage or other crises — is absolutely key to keeping everyone calm and on track. And despite an appearance on the Jon Stewart Show and plans to attend a gala, the Secretary of HHS has only recently and after much silence agreed to make an appearance before a congressional committee looking into the matter. This is probably like ignoring a summons from your board to talk about why your EHR go-live utterly failed.
And that brings us to the important concept of failure, one my wife taught me about. While my perception of pulling Tyler from that soccer program might have been failure, hers was not. And while missing the go-live date on the ObamaCare web site might have been touted by its opponents as a failure, it would not have been. You see, saying “failure is not an option” may be a great motivating tool for the troops in a run up to go-live, but any general contractor worth his or her salt knows that stubbornly going forward when you should pull back is one of the best ways to not only make failure an option, but guarantee it.