A little more about Agile in this great post by mistergough. In it he talks about how Agile ” … aims to build a workable (however crudely) product at every iteration. It assumes that the final specification cannot be fully understood.”
And this: “We can’t guess at what will make a person most useful in ten years time.”
This is the point I was trying to make with regards to using Agile in local government, too. We can’t predict what we will want or need in 10 years time, what technologies or products might exist to meet current needs. At best we can guess, but this will be wholly centred around current technology and current understanding of what we have decided people want – which in the public sector is hugely shaped by what we have decided is currently appropriate, sufficient and available.
The idea persists that a project must describe in detail the finished product, and any step that doesn’t build a block in the finished product is just wasting time. This is wrong, as Simon points out, because what we are supposed to be doing is helping people as they are right now. Meeting the needs they currently have. And yes, of course we need services that will meet the needs people have in the future – but when we say this we forget that actually the needs themselves will be very similar.
It is us that will need to be different, using our resources differently, arranging ourselves differently. Any small steps we take now to try out new ideas will build our future response as an organisation, but between now and the mythical ever-retreating ‘then’ there will be many changes and iterations of our response. In 10 years time my parents’ needs will still be the same: somewhere safe to live, physical activity appropriate to their abilities, social interaction appropriate to their preference, access to goods and services appropriate to their needs and wants. From age 70 to age 80 those needs, wants, preferences and abilities will be different obviously. But if I know how to arrange my resources so they can reach for what they require, I don’t have to buy a shed today to start stockpiling walking frames and back issues of People’s Friend. I don’t have to worry today about what precisely the response will look like, only about how I will provide a response that works.