Archive for July 2017

First, my bona fides: I, of course, am neither a legal scholar nor a project manager. I am but a humble librarian, albeit one who took over a job 2 years ago and has managed to enact a number of sweeping changes in that short time. While the stakes are certainly lower in a small college library than they are on a national stage, I think the guiding principles behind my successes should be scalable. Plus, after the week you just had, I’d think you guys would be willing to try anything.

I. Set a positive goal

Let’s start with some Real Talk:  “repeal” is not a positive a goal, I’m afraid. Not even after you tack “replace” on to the end of it. I know it’s all you’ve been thinking about for the past 17 years, and you really want to do it, but the fact of the matter is that this is not a goal at all – they are actions that you would like to take, but you haven’t defined why you’d like to take them. Repeal and replace, but in service of what?

Instead of framing your entire project in terms of ObamaCare, I would suggest you take some time to figure out what the purpose of health insurance is, and what you want it to be. To make it easier for you, I have come up with the following suggestions:

  1. Health insurance should ensure care for all of a person’s medical needs;
  2. Health insurance should be affordable for everyone

From these two points, we can then build our positive goal: “Inexpensive, comprehensive medical care for everyone.”

Now that our positive goal has been established (and that example you should feel free to use), we can move on to step 2:

II. Document the steps necessary to achieve your goal

Personally, I like to use Visio for all my process-plotting needs. Partly because I’m used to it but mostly because the variety of little people icons serve as a very helpful reminder that the needs of actual human beings are being impacted by whatever plans I make.

However, I understand that there are some budget issues facing the government at the moment (when are there not, am I right?), so you may not be able to afford a premium Microsoft product. Fortunately, there are plenty of open access alternatives available; I’ve heard good things about LucidChart, and probably Google Drive has something, even if I’ve never heard of it. Ask around, try a couple out before settling on one you like. But make sure it includes the people icons; you know, just as a reminder.

Once you have determined the path to your positive goal, move on to step 3:

III. Set a reasonable timeline

I know it feels like you’ve been working on health care for the past 70 years and now you just need that final push to get the ball over the finish line, which is a thing I understand happens in sports. But: have you? I only ask because, having nothing at all to show for all the work you’ve claimed to be doing all these years makes it seem like you’ve just been dicking around the entire time.

Now, I am sure that knowing President Obama would veto any repeal plan you sent him – and with good reason, you have to admit – kept you from really sitting down and doing your best work; it is very difficult to succeed in the face of certain failure. That’s why we, as a culture, have so few stories of people overcoming adversity to persevere. Especially in sports – that never happens. It’s like the underdog always fails, and the town remains dispirited, and the estranged father and son don’t get to share a look of understanding across the field, much less hug. It’s very sad.

But now, you’re it, guys – you’re the overdog. The ball is in your court. Success is practically guaranteed, except for how it keeps failing, but you need to be realistic about how long that is going to take. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we won’t get to universal health care (see step 1) over lunch, or even in two weeks. Give yourself the time to make sure things are done right.

Once the plan and timeline have been established, we move on to step 4:

IV: Consultations & Feedback

Even with the best of intentions (see step 1), people can be prone to tunnel vision. I myself spent about 3 weeks this summer devising a new workflow for our interlibrary loan services, only to discover, after reviewing my notes to make sure I hadn’t left anything out, that I had already come up with the exact same plan 5 weeks prior. Embarrassing.

But, with something as important as ILL, I needed to be sure that the plan I kept coming up with was actually the best possible plan and not just reflective of my own personal point of view. But how to be certain? By consulting with and getting feedback several groups of stakeholders:

  1. Peers – in my case, this means librarians, but for you, I understand that there are people besides the male Republicans you’ve had working on this so far? Democrats, Independents, Women and their Lady Parts, may have some crackerjack insight on how to get a health care bill to become law, what with having done it and all. I’m sure they’d be willing to pitch in, if only you ‘d ask.
  2. Experts – Now, I was able to talk to the Director of my library, who is a thoughtful and wonderful human being who really knows what she’s doing in her role. So you’re kind of S.O.L. there vis-a-vis consulting with the president. But may I recommend Justin Trudeau? He’s very approachable, and Canadians are famous for not being rude. I’m sure he’d take your concerns seriously.Additionally, since, as a congressperson you are unlikely to also be a medical professional, you should consider speaking with some medical professionals when making plans that will impact medical care. Doctors, nurses, patient-advocacy groups, even the insurers themselves have had a lot of opinions about this process so far. We can’t say for sure that ignoring them is the only reason your efforts have failed again and again, but we can’t rule it out either; maybe try listening to them and see if you get better results?
  3. Those impacted by the plans- I mean, this seems like a real no-brainer, right? In the library, we even solicited feedback from Faculty before changing the circulation period for books to unlimited, and who is going to object to keeping a book as long as they need? Of course, there is always going to be some jerk who says “But what if people take advantage of this?” But, as part of our positive goal setting (see step 1), we had already determined that we’d rather offer better support to those who operate in good faith than worry about guarding against anyone who might try to game the system.

That’s a good operating principle, by the way. You might want to consider adopting that. It would be especially helpful as you move on to step 5:

V. Consider your mortality

Professionally speaking, you’re not going to be in that job forever. People retire, start new careers, follow a passion, or, sometimes, when they are astoundingly terrible at their jobs and spend all their time dicking around (see step 3), they get fired. Give some thought to the person who will step into your current role in 2018, 2020, or, you know, after a special recall election. Instead of being the bitter jerk who changes all the passwords and takes a giant dump on his desk on the way out the door, make it easier for whoever comes next by keeping things simple – for example, like a single payer system –  and not leaving a big mess they’ll have to clean up before they can start working on their own positive goals.

Personally speaking, remember too that your time here on Earth is short. While you may devote that time to amassing great wealth and great success, and believing that this sets you apart from others, and that in your elevated position you will always be safe, you will still inevitably one day arrive at the end of your life, just like everyone else. Instead of devoting the only time you’ll ever get to attempting to hoard the wealth of the world like a dragon in some dumb story nerds read*, be generous with your compassion and find security in knowing that we’re all facing the unknown together.

Remember, too, that you can help lessen fear of the unknown in step 6:

VI. Keep stakeholders informed of your progress

Remember that transparency is not just for border walls to prevent people from being hit by flying sacks of drugs. Particularly when the work you’re doing will mean that someone has to change their established routine, it is a best practice to give them as much lead time as possible.

Additionally, be sure that you are share the information through as many channels as possible. In-person is very hot right now, and can be a great way to reach out and get in touch with the people who may not be available by the more traditional electronic means. It may be hard to believe, but some people do not regularly check their email in 2017, and I can tell you from personal experience that you’ll get the most negative feedback from the people who are caught off-guard by a change, and the second-most negative feedback from the ones who were perfectly aware of the impending changes but for some inexplicable reason decided to ignore the part where they were affected by them too.

But this step also provides you with an opportunity to pat yourself on the back, as you continue to make steady progress toward your goal, as milestones are reached, and items are checked off your to-do list. This is a level of satisfaction that comes from actually accomplishing something, and once you’ve experienced that (and, if you follow these steps, some day you will), you’ll develop a liking for it. However, as you pat yourself on the back for your small victories, remember the final step, 7:

VII: Only celebrate once the job is done

Premature celebration can prove terribly embarrassing for a gent. Imagine throwing a party – with beer! – in the Rose Garden at the White House because a preliminary version of a bill written without vision or a positive goal managed to get through the House of Representatives, only to then watch as that bill failed over and over in the Senate, despite having an insurmountable majority? Worse, imagine if that beer party had been in part to celebrate the seeming success of Paul Ryan, a person literally nobody likes? And was hosted by a serial sexual predator who takes credit for everything even though his understanding of how government works is non-existent? God, what a nightmare that would be. A person might never live that sort of thing down.

* No shame – I have read a lot of dumb stories about dragons; that’s how I know they’re hoarders.


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