A few weeks ago, the UK Government released its ICT strategy in which it set out the case for this Wild New Thing, Agility:
Cynics - that is to say, those of us with experience of the public sector - have had rather a laugh at this. It has long been decried that Agility + Government doesn't add up to an equation for anything, it's just an oxymoron. "Surely this can't be anything but monkeyshine and mummery", we guffaw. "Since when did the Cabinet Office become this ashram of alternative project management thinking? It isn't for real. It's just another attempt at boundary-pushing, like those weird debates they occasionally have on the legalisation of pot!"
Ah, but this time, can it be that they are serious? I certainly know it's possible for the public sector to be Agile. Several of us in the industry have proven it. That's why I'm working with the DSDM Consortium on reconciling Agile Methods with established Government project management frameworks like PRINCE2. And so, sometimes I can't help but allow myself the conceit of wondering: "have the mandarins come round?"
Of course, I don't know, all I can do is to keep pushing the
agenda. But I think I can make out one thing through the Whitehall fog. By
bigging-up Agile Methods they have declared in favour of something they
like the sound of. However, the Cabinet Office is not entirely clear on what
Agility means, and my concern is that they may care even less. It seems that in
typical Whitehall fashion they first want an initiative to define what
it means. Again, I admit to being a cynic, but it smells like that classic
political gambit: try leveraging some spin whilst eliminating the risk of
action. Eventually the issue might go away, or be inherited by another
government. I'm not sure if these chaps know their Lewis Carroll, but in his
day Lewis Carroll certainly knew them. If you stare at the Cheshire Cat
long enough eventually it just disappears.
'Their [the UK Government's] action plan says not that it will be implementing agile techniques within a year, but it “will establish an approach and capabilities for agile development”, in other words what they will have defined the term “agile” to mean. How long to define it?: “Within 6-12 months.”'
So, back to the ashram. Are we in for a creative visionary haze of Government projects, where managers let it all hang out in a glorious round-trip of iterative gestalt thinking? Will the corridors of power echo to the explosive riffs of Whitehall Scrum Sessions? Or is it all smoke?
Well, no matter how tempted you are, don't hold your breath...
5 May 2011: Let's give it a chance