Is politics agile? Hardly. Can politics benefit from an agile mindset? I don’t know, but I’m running an experiment. Besides working as a developer and doing some open source coding (which is what I usually blog about) I’m also a part time politician (for the greens in the municipality assembly of Huddinge, in Stockholm county, Sweden). If anyone’s up for a political discussion, I’m into it, but this post is not about it. This post is about an effort I’m doing to bring some of the Agile mindset into politics.
In a municipality in Sweden, there is the municipality assembly, the municipality executive committee and a number of committees for various purposes such as school, preschool, social care etc. For all of these, there are MASSIVE amounts of decisions to be made, with even MORE MASSIVE amounts of background material. For a single meeting with the municipality assembly, the pile of paper to read is often about 10cm thick. In this massive pile of paper, there is often some interesting details that we in the green party would like to somehow act on. When we get the pile of paper, there are two questions that we need to answer:
What things do we want to act on?
How do we best act on those?
When we have got all the material, we have an internal preparatory meeting where we discuss those two questions. When I first joined those meetings, I found them quite inefficient. So I suggested that we tried another way of working – and brought Trello to help.
A friend of mine told me about an organisation in trouble: They were too firmly attached to their processes to improve when needed. The strict process that was followed? Agile (Scrum to be specific).
I’m sorry if I just caused some of you to swallow your coffee down the wrong pipe, but it’s true: Using an agile process the wrong way can give exactly the same problems as the agile movement try to extinguish.
The reason that this occurs is that most articles teaching agile practices (including my own) are very prescriptive. Do this! Don’t do that!
For beginners that’s great and that’s what they need, but for teams that have some experience it is time to bend the rules when needed. The best way to describe this that I’ve found is Shu Ha Ri. The term originates from Aikido, but is frequently used within the agile community to describe the different phases of agile adaption.