2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

reform bill


Without a clear definition of the problem(s) you solve with your new product or service you will experience scope creep and your team will thrash around. When you thrash around you have a number of starts and stops without completely solving each individual initiative. Not only is this behavior ineffective but it is costly and often dangerous.

Fundamentally I agree, if what the news media tells us is true regarding; the number of uninsured Americans, the rising costs of care, the rising costs of caring for uninsured Americans,… that there is a problem that needs to be solved. However I do not understand the problem, or problems we are trying to solve with the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative, nor how the over 1,000 page proposal solves them.

I see this frequently with entrepreneurs. They discover what they perceive to be an unresolved market problem and the solution is crystal clear (to them) so they launch. They take out 2nd mortgages, they cash in their 401k, and they ask family and friends for support. (Money) They share their brilliant idea with their buddies on the golf course to validate their idea and everyone says… ”brilliant idea”. However very quickly they learn an expensive lesson when they expect (and have created the support) to sell 60,000 units and only sell 2.

Without a clear definition of the Problem you solve your New Product Launch Plan will fail.

Instead of clearly defining the problem, quantifying the need, making sure people want and will pay money to solve that problem they broaden their scope. Now they have a number of messages floating in their market that are Luke warm at best and none clearly articulate how you solve any problems for buyers in your marketplace. None are connecting with anyone.

With the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative I thought the goal was to lower healthcare costs and broaden coverage to the uninsured. As an American first, Republican second, I thought this was a good vision, but it was not a specific goal, and lacked a plan. More importantly this vision did not resonate with me completely as I did not understand the problems it solves for me. So I was left on my own, like business leaders often do with their customers, to be my own interpreter, to brand by default.

The launch of this reform was poor at best as it listed features and benefits but failed to connect buyers to the problems it solved for them.

When this occurs, buyers often interpret and assume. Your internal leaders use their gut and intuition .When companies fail to clearly speak in terms of the problems they solve their salespeople also become interpreters of the message and they assume. Very quickly you have internal and market confusion that will lead to a dangerously high level of dissatisfaction.

I am not surprised to see the passion and anger being demonstrated at town hall meeting. When Sales people receive angry feedback they tune out and stop listening as I discussed in my post” How do Buyer’s Feel, when Salespeople fail to listen? Shelia Jackson Lee helps us all understand…” So we have a market that is confused and your sales team desires to do a good job so they are “winging it” and only fanning the flames of anger and distrust, and they are tuning out….a perfect “new product launch storm”. David Daniels with Pragmatic Marketing has strong advice on how to tell if your Product Launch is headed for disaster in his article: 10 Ways to Identify an Impending Product Launch Disaster. If you find yourself at this situation in your company what should you do? The first thing you must do is STOP. Once you have assessed the reality in relation to your vision take the following steps.

  1. Clearly define the problem you solve. If it is multiple problems you must segment them and clearly define each and do not try to blend them into a solution cocktail because no one will buy it.
  1. One you define it, intimately understand the buyers who have this problem, and make sure they are willing to part with their hard earned money to solve that problem.
  1. Don’t assume just because your solution is so clear to you others will “intuitively “understand. You must speak to them specifically in their voice explaining the problem you solve and not with a laundry list of features and benefits.
  1. Constantly asses how well you solution is resonating with the segmented buyers and create learning’s of what is connecting and what is not working and share that information across the team.
  1. Have a clear goal that is written down, and measure everything you do against the achievement of that goal. This written goal will be the glue that holds your team together and keeps them aligned.
  1. If you find, as is often the case your problem definition is too broad, or your market will not or can not pay for your solution, if your solution does not resonate with your buyers, drop your ego and cut bait!

How about your company…



Has your team launched new products without a clear understanding of the problems they solved?


Do you agree it is worst to launch and sell 3 customers than to  never have launched at all? (Thought being now you must service those three)


What other steps would you recommend organizations take when they face angry town halls in their markets?


Launching new products and solutions is not for the faint of heart. However with a clear definition of the problem you solve, an intimate knowledge of the buyers, and a message that speaks in the buyer’s voice explaining the problems you solve for them you will be successful.


6 thoughts on “2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lesson #1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

  1. Mark, I was looking for why I was leaning away from supporting the health care initiative and you hit the nail on the head. First, it doesn’t solve a problem for me. I have health insurance and live in a community with excellent health care providers. Two, the goals of the plan are all over the map. I can get my head around fixing a specific problem, but completely changing the system that works for the vast majority of citizens doesn’t make sense to me. Third, everything Congress does always has unintended consequences.

    I downloaded the PDF version of the House bill and have been reading it. It’s huge, laden with double talk and open to many interpretations. This is probably why the town hall meetings have been so boisterous. Shouldn’t the town hall meetings have occurred BEFORE the bill was written? It’s as if Congress has the answer, knows best and will build the perfect solution. Hmmm, sounds like software development. Now that the bill is in “beta” and the feedback isn’t so good, the development team (Congress) is shocked. Instead of listening they are taking the position of “you don’t get it”.

    If Congress wants my support, I recommend they quantify the biggest problems that affect health care cost and access. Then build a business case to solve them one careful step at a time. Reduce the risk of unintended consequences while moving forward toward the vision.

  2. markallenroberts says:

    Thanks David for the comment, and thank you for your thought leadership in the area of product launch.

    Again, I believe the United States is the best country in the world. Can we improve…you bet. But what I am haring as a message, a marketing message has no connection to the patriotism among the vast majority of Americans. United we are a powerful bunch.

    Since the problem(s) and the buyer(s) they solve problems for are not currently defined we assume (and you know what happens when we assume) and some hunker down in their silo’s, and some fire missiles at other groups with opposing views. What is lacking is a clear understanding for specific problems the Obama administration is trying to solve and a “big, hairy, Audacious Goal” to rally all of us behind.

    So now they will “Re-Launch”; a term that makes my skin crawl in business as it shows you failed to do the strategy work upfront, and it often results in more expense.

    Thanks again,


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