This is the third in a series of posts about the ongoing Healthcare.Gov saga.  In my first post, I suggested that the project had simply too many cooks in the kitchen to be successful. In my second post, I looked at the absence of a “thin slice.”  In this post, let’s take a look at something glaringly obvious: no-one in charge.

Most government projects still follow the waterfall software development method.  Waterfall projects are typically managed using a common-and-control style of management. As Joel Sposky points out, the command-and-control method, while it works well with 18-year old soldiers, is not the right choice for knowledge workers like highly-skilled software developers.

In a command-and-control system, unlike lean or agile systems that maintain a “responsibility based” organizational structure, some has to be in charge for the system to work.

Despite having having a very large team with over 50 contractors, no one was in charge until President Obama appointed Jeff Zients to take over the failed effort and set things right.  So, the government  blames the contractors. The contractors in turn blame the government. The contractors also blame each other.

Mr. Zients’ first public move? He elevates contractor QSSI to the lead, and puts them in charge of overseeing the effort.