New technology might make life easier for many, but it was “old-school” management from Stanley Stewart that helped the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) turn the corner on deploying its benefits eligibility system.

The Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS) had limped through an eight-year implementation period littered with failures, multiple integration companies and criticism. But in early 2010, Stewart was hired as a consultant by Tom Suehs, executive commissioner of the HHSC, to turn around the troubled project. Armed with total authority over the implementation, Stewart completed the TIERS rollout in December 2011.

This wasn’t unfamiliar turf for Stewart, who ran a similar project in Michigan. He says his management style in Texas was predicated on convincing employees they’d be successful despite earlier struggles.

He said staff members “were a little demoralized” from previous failures — and communications between technology staff and system users needed to improve immediately.

Stewart intentionally started weekly progress meetings five minutes early to increase employee accountability. “You weren’t allowed to take a shot at anybody, and we didn’t play the blame game,” he said.

Using a phased approach, Stewart’s team first rolled out TIERS in Lubbock, followed by a larger deployment in El Paso. With each success, employees further bought into Stewart’s approach, ultimately finishing the job three months ahead of schedule.

Brian Heaton  | 

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.