Why Washington Needs to Embrace Agile

The White House Agile is a framework for software development defined as:

“…  a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change.” Wikipedia

Which of the words used above would you not associate with what happens in Washington today? Collaboration? Self-organizing? Cross-functional? Or perhaps the phrase “encourages rapid and flexible response to change”? Whichever end of the political spectrum you occupy, you have to admit that neither party has been able to “cross the chasm” as it were. Why? Because Washington has not embraced the principles of Agile development. Don’t laugh. Imagine a Washington where the governing body embodied the twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto [the words in bold italics have been changed for effect]:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the electorate through early and continuous delivery of valuable governance.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in legislation. Agile processes harness change for the country’s competitive advantage.

Deliver working legislation frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Business people and government must work together daily throughout the process.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within Washington team is face-to-face conversation.

Mutually beneficial legislation is the primary measure of progress.

Agile governance promotes sustainable long-term growth for the country. The government, business and the people should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Continuous attention to governing excellence and collaborative design enhances agility.

Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

At regular intervals, the government reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

At the end of the day, it is easy to critique how and why our system doesn’t work and it can be argued that it is also easier to deflect the focus onto what didn’t work rather than what did. In the end, none of that really matters because no matter who wins, the sun will rise on November 7 and America will be on the other side of yet another election. The question is whether or not “We the People” will have elected a body of governing representatives that are able to work as efficiently, proficiently and prolifically as a truly agile team.