The article is 14 pages long, and conceals some key lessons in its many deep dives. So here's a distillation of how a flat management structure helped overcome problems brought about, in part, by a vertical one, and the benefits/concerns.
Focus on G.S.D.
G.S.D. means "Getting Stuff Done" or, if your office is a little more open, "Get S*** Done". In developing fixes for Healthcare.gov, the assembled team of specialists eschewed establish management structure and worked directly with the engineers of the firms responsible for the abomination that was the original Healthcare.gov site. Their reasoning? "If you can get the managers out of the way, the engineers will want to solve things."
The bosses and managers were turf conscious, more concerned with credit and accomplishments. When initial meetings were held after the site faltered at launch, management of the two firms bickered, shifted blame, ducked responsibility, and were more concerned with their professional reputations than the fact that their product was suffering and rapidly declining in the public eye. The engineers, on the other hand, were embarrassed and wanted to fix the problems.
By working directly with the engineers, the team of specialists avoided getting caught up in blame cycles and guarded turf. They could get stuff done.
Collaboration Is Key
- The war room and the meetings are for solving problems. There are plenty of other venues where people devote their creative energies to shifting blame.
- The ones who should be doing the talking are the people who know the most about an issue, not the ones with the highest rank. If anyone finds themselves sitting passively while managers and executives talk over them with less accurate information, we have gone off the rails, and I would like to know about it.
- We need to stay focused on the most urgent issues, like things that will hurt us in the next 24-48 hours.
- The focus is to solve problems and achieve goals, not determine responsibility and shift blame.
- Solutions should come from those with the information and skills, not rank.
- Set priorities by impact, and move forward on them.