Failure is always an option!

Healthcare.gov and the Gulf Between Planning and Reality

An excellent blog post discussing the recent healthcare.gov debacle and how it highlights the difficulties with planning vs reality and how the traditional waterfall approach to planning can be improved with a more iterative, agile approach.

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...the waterfall method amounts to a pledge by all parties not to learn anything while doing the actual work. Instead, waterfall insists that the participants will understand best how things should work before accumulating any real-world experience, and that planners will always know more than workers.

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...a dreadful way to make new technology. If there is no room for learning by doing, early mistakes will resist correction. If the people with real technical knowledge can’t deliver bad news up the chain, potential failures get embedded rather than uprooted as the work goes on.

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If you want certain features at a certain level of quality, you’d better be able to move the deadline. If you want overall quality by a certain deadline, you’d better be able to simplify, delay, or drop features. And if you have a fixed feature list and deadline, quality will suffer. 

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If no one with authority over the project understands that, the tradeoff is likely to mean sacrificing quality by default.

I strongly recommend reading the entire article.