No politics, just fingers and toes and whatever else you need for counting change.
ObamaCare publicly announced a target number of 7 million new Other Guys by March 31, 2014. With six weeks to go here are the best numbers we’ve got from HHS.
They count 3.3 million Other Guys enrolled since October 2013.
They need to get 3.7 million more Other Guys in six weeks to hit the publicly announced target.
And, as tough as that counts, HHS has only announced Other Guys as enrollees, in other words Other Guys who managed to navigate through that website and get registered. Enrollment does not mean that any of these 3.3 million Other Guys have paid a premium. And, until they pay a premium the term, “enrolled,” is just smoke and mirrors. Try getting medical services as enrolled, but not paid.
And, don’t forget that the legislation included tens of millions of dollars to advertise ObamaCare plus the millions that Big Insurance is also paying toward the same goal. Thus, you’ve got the resources of Big Fed and Big Insurance all aimed in their different ways to the same goal and the count is 3.3 million enrolled (paid?) with 3.7 million more to go in six weeks.
Since politics is involved here, there will be great persuasion fun on April 1, 2014 over what’s changed and how to count it. That will go how it goes and is not our object lesson.
Think about this persuasion campaign. You’d think with the resources involved here that the campaign would be shooting fish in a barrel or robbing Bolivian Banks or even taking candy from a baby, but this campaign is failing badly to date.
The startup was well publicized (great!), but the website failed. For several weeks. Congressional hearings. Late night jokes. Public embarrassment. Frustrated Other Guys. Bad word of mouth. Not a good start for either the brand or the TACT.
Then there have been a series of exceptions, extensions, and fuggitaboutits for various segments of Other Guys and employers. Lots of confusion on the message. Ambiguity. Favoritism. Not a good continuation for either the brand or the TACT.
Now, the campaign seems to be running properly and since the failed launch on October 1, 2013 (18 weeks ago), the campaign has enrolled (paid?) 3.3 million. It would be an existential miracle to hit the publicly announced target of 7 million enrolled and paying premiums in six weeks. I’ll boldly crawl out on a short limb and hypothesize that the campaign will miss 7 million paid enrollees by at least 2 million, maybe 3 million. In other words, if you did this for a living, you’d be looking for a new living unless you were the idiot niece or nephew.
From a practical persuasion perspective I think the campaign has failed for several obvious reasons, many of them directly observable from the Rules. Let’s start with the largest failure on the operational side: Lack of unity in leadership.
No single person or specific team has ever been solely in charge of the planning, execution, and evaluation of the campaign. It’s a great example of terrible corporate communication. If you’ve worked in large organizations, not even as large as the Fed, but large enough to have different divisions doing very different tasks and a complex administrative layer, then chances are good you’ve seen the dilution of leadership and control.
Even working on relatively small national persuasion campaigns while in the Fed, I hit this wall. You simply have no idea how many different units have impact on a campaign even if the boss is publicly on the line. Legislative or regulatory laws or rules suddenly pop up that authorize NASA or the US Park Service to sign on and off. Key operatives take vacations. Personnel at key chokepoints get fired, reassigned, or quit and no one immediately replaces them. That’s the Fed and that’s corporate. Only unified leadership with top level power can handle this.
Now, turn this diamond of disaster for a different facet.
If you do large scale corporate campaigning like this, realize an important lesson. You must successfully plan, execute, and evaluate two campaigns. The Second Campaign aims at the primary TACT you want to hit; in our object lesson today it is an enrolled and paid Other Guy in ObamaCare. The First Campaign, by contrast, is aimed at persuading all the knuckleheads who will affect the Second Campaign. Two campaigns!!
I often make light of NIH and its prawns ‘n plaques Cool Table play, but you see it as a great tool for many purposes, including the First Campaign. Alternatively, if you don’t care about hurting anyone’s feelings or offending anyone’s sensibilities you can use the Dictator First Campaign which is to gather all those who would interfere with the Second Campaign and kill them or put them in prison as with Hitler or Stalin or more lately Saddam Hussein. You see the range of First Campaign here from persuasion (with NIH) to power (with dictators). Since persuasion operates beyond good and evil, I leave the choice to you.
If you don’t do the First Campaign correctly and persistently, chances are good the Second Campaign will fail.
Turn the diamond again.
The hardest part of the First Campaign is finding all the Other Guys who can affect the Second Campaign. For paranoid dictators, the task is easier, but those who work with a bit more tolerance, you often cannot find these Guys until the Second Campaign gets going. Please recall my Rule:
Drive with Science, Putt with Poetry.
A significant part of the First Campaign is Poetry. You can assemble a list of Likely Suspects that will contain most of the potential problems for the Second Campaign, but you will never list them all. Thus, you can do some Science in your Drive for the First Campaign, but when the Second Campaign starts, then you will discover surprises and those require Poetry.
The Poetry metaphor also informs your motivation: You’ve got to be a bit crazy. You have to have a relentless desire to locate all those Other Guys who affect the Second Campaign and never lose that desire. You have to create iambic pentameter on your feet when they arise on the scene. The science of persuasion is simply not good enough to devise in advance every Box ‘n Play for all Second Campaign surprises. It requires a team of dedicated persuasion poets who can arrive in that Local immediately.
Nothing I’ve read about the ObamaCare campaign even hints at a suggestion that there was a First Campaign or that there’s a Persuasion Poets Team behind the curtain. Everything appears to be rolling along as a Second Campaign with the only consideration of the First Campaign focusing upon those damn Republicans, who really aren’t the problem of the First Campaign, at least in a democracy!
A final turn of the diamond.
Part of the problem stems from President Obama’s personal inexperience and relative incompetence with all forms of persuasion. He’s always been fortunate in his election opponents, a persuasion advantage of colossal proportions. He has always only had to avoid being more incompetent than his challengers. Consider the Rule:
Great Persuaders Don’t Need Kindness from Strangers.
While kindness in the form of more incompetent opponents wins elections, it teaches bad lessons about doing persuasion for a living on a day in and day out basis.
As odd as this sounds, with the ObamaCare campaign, Obama is largely competing against himself. Nominally, he is the boss of everybody involved on the government side of the Second Campaign and he can write checks and executive orders practically anytime for any amount and any contingency. He could personally walk into any Fed office, point at some knucklehead messing up the Second Campaign, and fire her or reassign him, right now. Beyond the planning stages of the Second Campaign, it appears that Obama or his anointed right hand Poets have done next to nothing effective for the execution or evaluation of the First Campaign.
See the Rule: Power Corrupts Persuasion.
In large corporate structures, power, of course, is foundational to the function. I’d argue in this case, the two players with the most power, Obama and Sebelius, got things rolling with power and expected that to be sufficient since that’s what they’ve been doing since January 2009. But, the campaign for ObamaCare is not like spending the money authorized by Congress on an existing program or even making a new program. This is a persuasion campaign aimed at ornery Other Guys loaded with free choice and volition with no incompetent opponents on the ballot list. It’s all and only Obama.
Now, Mr. Obama enjoys an advantage that most other persuaders in this situation do not: Guarenteed Time. He’s been failing at this campaign since October 1, 2013 and when he fails on March 31, 2014, he will still have time to continue. At least until the November mid-term elections of 2014, he will have enough resource to continue the campaign and even if Republicans gain veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, Obama will still have a lot of loose resource lying around to devote to the campaign. At worst, he will then have an External Attribution – the damn Republicans! Mr. Obama cannot fail at this campaign because he has Guarenteed Time through January 2017.
By contrast, if you were running a campaign like this, but not as President of the United States, you would be running a new campaign . . . for your next job. That means you need to learn the lessons this case study teaches you. Consider a project where the TACT is clearly stated, you’ve got tons of resources and allies and even allies who aren’t normally your allies (Big Insurance) and enough power to blow up planet Earth. This should be a textbook demonstration of robbing Bolivian Banks and it isn’t. Only one or two or three readers of this post could ever be in this position; the rest of you have to suffer the consequences of your persuasion.
Let’s get out of here with a brief summary.
Unity of leadership. The two Campaigns. The Persuasion Poet Team. The Rules. Always, the Rules.