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Agile Works in the Public Sector, Too

Agile Works in the Public Sector, Too

In the public sector, you’ll have to accept less predictability in order to make room for experimentation.

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Agile Works in the Public Sector, Too

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Q: How do we align Agile successfully with the more traditional process management expectations within the public sector?

Author Darrell Rigby responds: Bureaucrats do love predictability, don’t they? We call their approach the “predict, command and control” model. But predictions of innovation are seriously wrong two-thirds of the time. If people stick to bad plans based on poor predictions, their outcomes will be disappointing, which is the main reason why 70% to 90% of innovations fail. Teams do what they planned to do, but they planned and did the wrong things.

It’s key to stop measuring success in terms of conformance to plans or budgets and to start measuring it in terms of customer, employee, financial and community results. Describe an expected path, estimate the uncertainty and a reasonable range of outcomes, clarify the hypotheses behind the predictions, track the validity of those hypotheses, change those that are wrong, and then adapt the plans in light of the most accurate information. The trick is to convince bureaucrats to let you experiment, then make your experiments very transparent and broadcast the impressive results relative to market benchmarks. That’s how they will come to understand the benefits.

For more, please read two recent articles in Harvard Business Review: “An Agile Approach to Budgeting for Uncertain Times” and “Start Stopping Faster.”


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