What will it take for government to truly become agile?


The new Prime Minister wants Australia to become more innovative and agile. But what will that practically mean for large organisations like government departments and agencies?

With enthusiasm from a new Prime Minister for digital technology as a means of government service delivery, government departments have been given a mandate to become more agile.

But while Malcolm Turnbull seems to be talking about “agile” with a small “a”, there is an Agile with a capital A — a rigorous methodology which start-ups and larger digital companies have been successfully using for years to accelerate innovation.

“… it’s worth paying attention to how the Agile approach … can be used in government because it goes very well with digital.”

Seeing the well-intentioned enthusiasm for government for adopting these capital-A methods in The Mandarin, I thought it might be worth highlighting the lessons that other large organisations have already learned. In my experience in the digital start-up arms of major enterprises such as Bigpond, Fairfax and Westfield, successful Agile product development is easier for small start-ups than large existing organisations. Moreover, the reasons for success or failure of Agile projects in larger organisations typically revolve around the problem chosen, the mandate provided and set-up of the Agile team itself.

I would also argue it’s worth paying attention to how the Agile approach, with its adaptation to the environment and experimental approach, can be used in government because it goes very well with digital. With so many technologies that now work together more easily than ever and the imperative to deliver government services more efficiently and quickly, this switch to Agile methodologies using digital technologies is driven by interest from the top and necessity from the bottom.

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