11/22/2013 02:37 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Tips for how fed leaders can avoid messes like

Government works quite well most of the time, but, as federal executives know, efforts to implement federal policies can sometimes encounter obstacles and get off track. Witness the recent rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

While every program has its own unique challenges and requirements, there are some basic tenets government leaders can follow to help increase the chances of success when managing a federal program.

Declare your purpose and define responsibilities. Start by taking the time to develop a charter outlining your team's purpose, goals and time frame. Be clear about who's ultimately accountable for calling the shots, who will be responsible for performing the work, who needs to be consulted along the way and who just needs to be kept informed. A team will be more productive and responsive when the leader takes great pains to set the right tone and spell out everyone's roles and responsibility.

Get the right people. Pay close attention to gathering the right mix of competencies among your team members that will get the job done. Simply having people with good intentions who are willing to work hard is not enough. They have to be capable of doing the work. Start with a good analysis of what skills are needed and how many people will be required.