A joint team from the U.S. National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and the Project Management Institute (PMI) released a white paper (‘Building an Agile Federal Government – A Call to Action’, Dec, 2020) highlighting the need for government to adopt a new management paradigm. The paper provides insights into how government can become more agile through adopting practices used in the digital world to broader government operations to help them become more responsive and delivery better outcomes for citizens.

“Problems that public agencies are being asked to address often are interconnected and do not have clear, direct solutions, thus requiring a process of trial and error to determine what works. Success in addressing a problem may depend heavily on using approaches that are exploratory, iterative, and allow for adjustment. Many complex problems require holistic remedies that are best arrived at when using agility and flexibility for determining actions or solutions.

The agile management paradigm—borrowing from agile software development (specifically, originating with the 2001 Manifesto for Software Development)— is increasingly being adapted for use in public management to “enable organizations to thrive in a world of rapid and unpredictable change.” This way of working began with information technology (IT). Its successful application in non-IT environments is increasing.”

Building an Agile Federal Government – A Call to Action, Dec 2020, Page 11.

Key Points

  • The paper outlines 5 key recommendations (with supporting content) for government, including:
    1. To the maximum extent feasible, agile should become the preferred operating model across the federal government.
    2. Agile methods of management and operations should be championed inside federal departments and agencies and incorporated into as many of their activities as possible.
    3. Key barriers to agile functioning within the federal government should be identified and appropriately addressed within the nation’s checks-and-balances political system and legal framework.
    4. Agile approaches, successes, and challenges should be highlighted across the federal government.
    5. Department and agency leaders should ensure that readily-accessible training opportunities about agile principles and approaches, especially including management skills, are available.
  • The paper outlines the need and the opportunity for agile in Federal Government, including reflecting on the ‘grand challenges’ over the next decade identified by NAPA.
  • The current state of agile in Government and the adoption of agile in Government, including case studies
  • Assessing the readiness to adopt agile, including:
    • Organizational Structure
    • Organizational Culture
    • Operational Context
    • Operational Capability
  • Detailing 5 key recommendations (as highlighted above)
  • Appendix A provides the PMI’s self-assessment tools (including the Agile Readiness Assessment)





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