Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Using Pilots: What Government Can Learn From Business

As I observe the cash for clunkers program, as well as the debate about health care reform, I continue to be perplexed by the failure of our government to employ small pilots as a mechanism for experimenting with new ideas. Would a well-run private sector firm have ever conducted a national rollout of something as complex as cash-for-clunkers without first conducting a pilot?

Why use a pilot? Let me count the ways. First, you could have tested out the technology and the process for reimbursing auto dealers. Second, you could have examined the unintended consequences. Third, you could have come to a better estimate of how much volume to expect from a national rollout of the program. Fourth, you could have gathered all sorts of improvement ideas from dealers and end customers. I'm sure there are other benefits as well from a pilot. In short, a well-run business would have captured a great deal of learning from a pilot, and then decided whether to roll out nationally. If they chose to roll out, they would have a much stronger process as a result of the learning from the pilot.

Amidst all the health care reform debate, one wonders why we aren't talking about piloting some of the reform ideas on the table rather than trying to change the whole elephant all at once. A pilot may not be the right political choice, but it seems like the sensible thing to do for the good of the country.

1 comment:

Tom Magness said...

Great, great point, Professor! In fact, there are a couple of states out there running health care pilot studies. We are not using their lessons to help drive the discussion on whether or if we should proceed on a national scale. That is unfortunate. Spot on, my friend. TM