The Value of Agile Development. Individuals, teams, organizations, and nations can all benefit tremendously from applying rapid feedback loops to their critical decision-making processes. This principle is exemplified in the impressive efficacy of “Agile Software Development,” which is a philosophically and technically distinct approach to managing software development projects. Agile Software Development dramatically improves upon older approaches by significantly accelerating the feedback loops between each new version of a program. This is accomplished by decomposing the development process into smaller milestones within a broader project scope, which increases the number of opportunities for the software developers to receive feedback from the end-users who will ultimately judge whether the software meets their needs or not.
The Agile Mindset is Silicon Valley’s Secret Weapon. Agile Development enables software developers to rapidly learn what works and what does not work and then integrate this rapid accumulation of knowledge back into each development cycle until the optimal outcome is achieved.1 However, these benefits are not limited to software development. In fact, the “Agile” process can be applied to virtually any decision-making process, which has resulted in an Agile Mindset that has become a culturally significant phenomenon in the technology world. Today, many tech entrepreneurs have distilled the concept of agile decision-making into virtually everything they do. It is an all-encompassing philosophy and mindset, which spawns a lifestyle of perpetual personal and professional evolution that gives them significant advantages over slower, less agile industries.
The Agile Mindset Yields Deeper, Faster, and More Accurate Awareness. In the technology world, rapid product obsolescence forces companies into a continuous race to innovate faster than their competitors. This pressures cannot be effectively managed without an Agile Mindset, which is most succinctly exemplified by the seemingly counter-intuitive tech industry mantra, “Fail fast and often.” This mantra can seem counter-intuitive because the prospect of “failing” is usually scary for most people and it might seem strange to people outside the tech industry to use the word “fail” in any kind of professional mission statement. For this reason, the mantra should really be “Learn fast and often,” but Internet memes often have an internal logic of their own. Nevertheless, the reason people in the tech world can embrace this “fail fast and often” concept is because they have a more realistic and accurate understanding than people in most other industries of how creative and complex decision-making processes actually succeed or fail in the real-world.
Rapid Feedback Loops Do Not Imply Sloppy Execution. I occasionally hear people mistakenly confuse the Agile Mindset with hasty, sloppy execution. Some people cannot easily visualize the technical sophistication of a modern industrial factory, let alone the highly complex and abstract development process of software source code. It is particularly obnoxious to hear bureaucrats and lobbyists who claim that there is no way to impose modern process-engineering techniques to Congressional legislation and the sprawling federal bureaucracy. Naturally, these people have incentives to perpetuate and grow the federal leviathan; so we should assume that they will never voluntarily choose to impose process-engineering discipline on themselves.
The Agile Mindset Would Dramatically Improve National Governance. When feedback loops are compressed into a shorter period of time, individual decision-making processes benefit from incrementally increased aggregate knowledge, which results in exponentially increased awareness, which improves each new cycle of decision-making, which ultimately results in significantly more accurate, effective, and sustainable outcomes. In the context of national governance, the primary reason the Presidential System of governance empirically and universally leads to more systemic corruption than the Parliamentary System is because citizens governed by a Presidential System are forced to wait much longer to hold national level politicians accountable for bad policy outcomes.
Is Agile Democracy Possible? What would happen if we had an Agile Government abiding by the principles of Agile Democracy? Let’s explore just a few of the most obvious ways that an Agile Mindset would positively impact the federal government.
(1) There would never be another constitutionally dubious omnibus bill crammed down the collective throat of the American people because the concept of an omnibus bill is anathema to Democracy, undermines rigorous policy analysis, is hostile to sound process management, squanders taxpayer resources, and provides endless opportunities for self-serving politicians to serve special interest groups and evade accountability for their backroom dealing.
(2) Given that accountability is at the core of the Agile Mindset, there would be term limits for Congress because every credible opinion poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want term limits and more ways to hold national politicians accountable. This would promote healthy competition for the privilege to serve the American people and a competitive marketplace of ideas in the Halls of Congress, which would weed out the career politicians whose performance does not justify their congressional salary nor their costly control of the U.S. Treasury.
(3) There would be a constitutional amendment to create a mechanism similar to the no-confidence vote in most Parliamentary Systems. This would give U.S. citizens the power to hold referendums on members of Congress and the President so that the corruption and/or incompetence and/or career-minded gamesmanship of federal politicians does not need to be endured by the American people a single second longer than necessary.
There are many more governance process improvements that would be implemented very quickly if the culture in Washington was guided by Silicon Valley’s Agile Mindset, but the changes above are three of the easiest and most impactful changes that we would see. Of course, there will never be enough members of Congress to support anything remotely close to an Agile Mindset in Washington, which means the American people will eventually need to impose more discipline or Congress from the outside. That’s ultimately what The Platform is all about.
1. I define the “optimal outcome” as follows: “a domestic or foreign policy that satisfies the largest population of U.S. Citizens, within the shortest amount of time, at the least cost to American taxpayers, and which is sustainable over the longest period of time.”