There is a difference between a paying customer and a loyal customer.
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Agile In A Modern Government

Agile transformation is often confused with implementing a tool or a process change. Those are symptoms, not the end result. The end result is inspiring partner loyalty. There is a stark difference between a loyal partner and a paying customer, just as there is between a paid employee and one that is loyal. These simple use cases can be termed internal and external customers. Customers are part of a market, whether it is your commercial market or internal company market (the employee pool).

Nowhere else can this be evident than in our modern government. The American democracy is a government by the people and for the people. We have a civilian population and then we have a loyal civilian population. This is not to say we have anarchists and then we have sheep. Rather we have those who are loyal to our cause, to our varying beliefs and needs. We have those that pay taxes and obey the law, and we have those that inspire the law and add the word modern to government. The loyal civilians are normally between 15-18% of the market. Marketing 101 calls this Maloney’s Rule.

Sometimes they are called agile, innovators, creators and visionaries. Many people in the government do not think we need an agile culture. Why is this? When I was teaching at a Federal office in Washington DC on agile culture, I was told, “We don’t need to concern ourselves with loyalty, we make laws here.” This was disheartening, to hear. However, just like in a commercial company, we have paid employees and we have loyal employees. This Federal office is designing the software exchanges for the Affordable Care Act (termed ObamaCare). We can say that everyone must pay for the end game product and build the product to meet the law. Individuals would not be wrong with that mindset, as it is reality. Nevertheless, we can be agile and still want to inspire loyalty and term it differently.

  • We can build the product to the law and call it done.
  • Or
  • We can build a product to the law and take into consideration that 50% of Americans do not agree with buying or potentially using it.

The majority of that 50% tend to fall into the Republican party. The goal is to not only get the Republican to buy the product but to see value in the product and the idea behind it. For example, if their child is sick, they now have health care whereas before they may not due to pre-existing conditions. Agile isn’t about the process change or the purchase of a product, it is about inspiring loyalty and identifying value as the end game result. How does agile accomplish this? Let us look at the Scrum process to see how psychologically we are inclined to become loyal to a product or idea.

Pre-planning meetings are designed to force the Product Owner (the voice of the customers) to convey the vision to the delivery team. The vision is in the form of user stories, small slices of value. The delivery team, also known as “development”, reviews them and voices concerns about the individual stories being too small or too large. If the story is too small, they are indicating that the Product Owner is telling them how to do their jobs. This is not the place for the business minded Product Owner. If the story is too large, the Product Owner is still in the clouds, being the visionary. The Product Owner needs to come down to a lower altitude and provide a tactical pathway for the teams to build and believe in. This also forces the Product Owner to go back to the customer base to get more information and engage their thinking. Inspiring a customer to participate, give input and more importantly identify their needs will bring about the “right product” faster.

Planning meetings stimulate the delivery team to commit to the forecast of deliverables. This encourages your internal customer to believe in the product and method of delivery. Do you think only left wing Democrats are building the software exchanges? Absolutely not, the delivery team is made up of people from all political spectrums. If the delivery team is committed, they will want to build the right quality thing and an inspiring belief to go with the tangible good.

The daily stand-up meeting brings visibility to the company, and to the Project and Product Manager roles. These individuals (titled Scrum Master and Product Owner) go back to the business with visibility of the current pulse of the product and belief. They remove impediments whether it be security, a distant customer, an over-commanding manager or any thing or belief that stands in the way of producing value. The daily stand-up also changes the employees to become loyal employees. They are loyal team members to each other, constantly challenging each other to commit and adjust the workload.

The demo meeting inspires both the internal and external customers. The delivery team does a show-and-tell. The customers provide feedback. Why? The customers are there, in tune, putting their blood, sweat and time into this product and belief. They may be of the 50%, but slowly come to believe that if this must be in place, it should be of the highest value, lean, and lowering cost to our health care system. In the commercial world, the customers “are your employees without being paid, because they constantly review your product and give you the data you need to build the right product faster.”

The retrospective meeting motivates change, adaptability and most importantly, loyalty. The delivery team is honest, open, and direct about what went wrong and what succeeded. Like a healthy family, they “mine the conflict” (5 Dysfunctions of a Team – The Table Group) and get in arguments. This helps because they can commit to being a team, a family, because all options are on the table. Offensive sometimes yes, but never is an idea about improvement hidden. The retrospective meetings have an action plan. This output encourages the customers to become partners because they see a team is maturing in how they work together. Everyone is engaged, even if indirectly, to make things better.

Agile is about people, people, people. Many think it is a tool or a process change. Instead, as you have just read, everything is about the interactions and the morphing aspect of belief systems. A tool may encourage natural human behaviors to occur or stifle them. A process change might make things easier or harder, but nothing is stronger than a culture shift, which occurs in people. The culture shift is far reaching to your internal customers and external customers. Tools are tangible but devoid of human loyalty. Processes are not tangible; they are a framework of the mind and can’t inspire loyalty without human commitment.

Regardless of the product or idea, you need 15-18% of the market to believe in it. This is why those odd rubber shoes (Crocs) dominated the market for a while. 15-18% of the shoe market they were trying to reach thought they were the right shoe. That all changed when kids started getting them stuck in escalators. There is a reason why individuals stood in line for 5 hours to get the first iPhone, but now the majority read their contracts to see if they want to break them before upgrading. As markets change and buying conditions adapt, we constantly have to evolve to target the 15-18%. This is the strength of the agile culture.

As more people believe, you have to fight to keep it going. Products and ideas change over time to be right. If you don’t change, they will become wrong. The government needs more loyalty, more compromise and more beliefs. America was founded by 15-18% of a civilian market. Our founders were agile.

They believed we needed to change to become a government of the people by the people and for the people.

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