Getting Agile to Scale in the Public Sector

By Dick Stark

A coworker just forwarded me an article, “Getting to Agile at Scale in the Public Sector.” Written by six Directors/Partners from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the article focused on the drivers and progress Agile has made in the government and its perceived value. RightStar is both an ITSM and Lean Agile consultancy, and our new tagline for our Lean Agile group is “Serious Enterprise Agility.”  That combined with our focus in the public sector means that an increase in interest in this space, especially around Agile coaching and training, SAFe, and Jira Align should be good for business. Here is a short summary of that article.

Based upon my experience, many government agencies are focused on Agile ways of working but are making slow progress. Stand-up meetings may now be the norm, but current impediments to Agile include: resistance to change, lack of training/coaching, poor toolset (Jira/Confluence) implementation and little management support.

I agree that typical agency objectives include increasing customer satisfaction, faster project delivery times, improve efficiency/do more with less, and align mission objectives with work being performed. Thus, an investment in Agile coaching and tooling should make an incredible difference over time to better meeting those objectives. But Agility doesn’t happen overnight, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. In fact, a major finding of the study performed by BCG, is to no one’s surprise: “The longer that an organization nurtures Agile, the bigger the benefits.”

The BCG report goes on to say that “for agile to take root, and to scale up in the public sector, organizations need both agile practices and agile enablers.” Agile practices include clear objectives to create alignment, collaboration across teams, and frequent feedback.

While many agencies may have spent some time and effort on Agile practices such as stand-up meetings, and Sprints, it’s likely that little progress has been made with enablers.

Agile enablers allow teams to break free from existing process and mindsets to realize the full value that Agile offers. This suggest that many organizations really do require Agile coaching/training to help reiterate the importance of an Agile culture/mindset, continual improvement, and an iterative approach.

The good news is that agencies that fully accept Agile are starting to reap the rewards. The BCG survey reported that the top three identified improvements identified by Agencies included: staff engagement, delivery speed, collaboration, ability to manage changing priorities and citizen satisfaction.

About dick1stark

I am the President, CEO, and founder of RightStar Systems, a leading ITSM and DevOps consultancy and BMC Software Gold Solution Provider and Atlassian Platinum Partner. My passion is customer success—whether it’s reducing the cost of service management, improving overall efficiency, or increasing end-user or employee satisfaction. Since founding RightStar in 2003, RightStar has made the INC 5000 list four times. In 2011, RightStar was awarded the prestigious National Capital Business Ethics Award (NCBEA) by the Society of Financial Service Professionals based upon RightStar’s foundation of honesty, ethics, and integrity. And in 2014, RightStar was selected by Forrester Research as one of 13 North American companies profiled in its ITSM Consultancy Wave Report. Finally, in 2019, BMC selected RightStar as its DSM North American Partner of the Year for its sales and partnership excellence. Dick is a graduate of Stanford University and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
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