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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Heft Project Strategy

Have you read the much-discussed proposed health care reform plan, all 2,700 pages of it?

Neither have I. I’m not sure when it will work its way up the priority list, particularly since it may change, maybe change a lot, and maybe get killed off entirely.

But it doesn’t seem necessary to have read it at all to have a very strong opinion, pro or con, and voluminous reasons for or against. House Majority Leader John Boehner, for one, seems so awed by the simple heft of the document that he shows up on TV several times a day to gesture at an impressive stack of paper purporting to be the very reform plan, obviously unabridged. Never touches it or refers to its contents. I guess anything that long must be bad.

Did Anyone Actually Read the Plan?

That does raise a question, though: What do we send these people to Washington for if they can’t – or won’t – read? If John doesn’t have time to get through it all himself, how about those smart and expensive staffs of his (he has several)? Couldn’t each of those . . . dozens? hundreds? . . . of people knock off a few hundred pages and give John a book report on it?

To be bipartisan about this, where do the Democrats get off investing what must have been a lot of time and money in something that obviously is going nowhere? The paper it’s printed on, alone, must have added substantially to the national debt.

There has been much argument about provisions that are said to be in the bill, but, so far, no one has confessed to actually looking at it. Maybe Olympia Snowe has.

Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast, suggested on NPR the other day that we deal with the heft challenge by sending all those newly unemployed newspaper editors to Washington to edit the damn thing down.

My purpose in raising this matter is neither to pick sides nor to tag along with the professional Congress bashers. I’ve never done the Congress put-down, because I respect the institution and empathize as much as I can with the difficult work done there, not just on this important and frustrating subject. I do admit I’m a little shaken by the events of the past year, though.

As for the newspaper editors, they’re a hardy lot and I believe they can take care of themselves without lining up at the public trough.

The MAD Point of View

For me, this is a Project Management matter. I press unstintingly for minimum adequate documentation (MAD) in Projects.

The term codifies the truth that sound Projects must have permanent written records of all important issues, decisions and intentions. That’s the adequate documentation part. But effective Project Teams can’t spend all their time developing, distributing and preserving paperwork (or cyberwork, if that’s what you call it when it’s in the guts of computers). So the documentation must be minimal in its consumption of time and space.

From the MAD point of view, the 2,700 pages may be a monumental example of bureaucratic obfuscation. Or possibly the creation of a clever bipartisan plot, a weighty but meaningless straw man for the protagonists to whack around without anyone getting hurt, because no one will ever know what – if anything – is in it.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a real Project would have been conducted under cover of something entirely different. Ever wonder what the REAL Project Plan was for the Big Dig?

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