Daniel Thornton, program director at the UK’s Institute for Government, calls on the civil service to ‘be more willing to learn from failure’ in a recent article in Civil Service News. While acknowledging the challenges Agile management holds for some agency projects (a half-built railway doesn’t make a useful prototype), Thornton insists that as technology becomes increasingly agile, entire projects must be managed that way in order to ensure success.
Thornton applauds the Government Digital Service and the Department for Work and Pensions for their pioneering of Agile and their customer satisfaction rates of around 90%. He encourages the civil service to thoughtfully implement as many Agile principles as possible to experience the same success.
From the article:
Ministers should make a positive but realistic commitment to an agile approach. This will mean taking a fresh look at Whitehall’s project guidance, being transparent about progress on implementation so failure is learnt from rather than buried, and providing the resources and space for experimentation. It will also mean being selective about imposing central controls, instead encouraging departments to build management information systems that allow even large projects and processes to be adapted.
Agility is not a panacea. Any project needs resources and people with experience, authority, and commitment to see it through. Agility does not guarantee these things, but it does help managers to focus on producing things of value to their customers – and when money is short, that’s more important than ever.