First, My Anger with Obama
The political pundits are having a field day, debating who should be fired for this debacle. The lower-level government employees developing the website? HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius?
I think the responsibility rests with President Obama. This law was the major achievement of his first term and -- the way things are going in our "do-nothing" Congress -- it may well be THE signature enactment of his presidency. His name became part of the law's shorthand title; how it's implemented will surely affect his legacy.
The White House press office tells us that the president knew nothing about HHS's difficulties in prepping the website launch. That's not an excuse; it's an indictment. On something this important, the President should have demanded regular progress reports, and held briefings, from the very beginning of the process.
I voted for Obama twice, albeit with much less enthusiasm the second time. Aside from Obamacare, he's scored few legislative achievements. Yes, our hyper-partisan Congress is largely to blame. Still, I think he'd have been better served talking much more often to members of Congress in the Oval Office, not flying around the country making speeches.
The effective implementation of Obamacare was within his control. But once again, we saw his disdain for getting down in the trenches and doing the detailed, often boring work necessary to translate big ideas into reality.
Then, an Old AA Maxim Came to Mind
I haven't been to an AA meeting in years. But I'm frequently surprised how often AA slogans or concepts still come to mind. Here's the one that just popped up as my blood pressure continued to rise about Obama's bungling of the site launch: "What drives me up the wall about someone else's behavior is often a reflection of some character defect of my own."
In my last position -- HR VP -- at the Bureau of National Affairs in Washington DC, I'd regularly call meetings to propose some big new initiative, and urge my staff to plan implementation. What I didn't do was the important follow-up work: checking-up, asking questions, setting timetables and deadlines . . . all the things leaders need to do to keep projects moving forward.
I'm sure I drove my teammates crazy. Fortunately, I had a staff of super HR professionals who considered it part of the job to make their crazy VP look good by providing the follow-through I lacked.
If only that AA maxim worked in reverse, and that my admiration for Obama's brilliance and ability to inspire others were a reflection of my own attributes.