Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who needs an agenda if you have a vision?

The Problem:
Journalists do not know how to change complex political systems and in their ignorance accuse the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters of not knowing what they want. Even sympathetic press states that “the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints—and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don't know what they stand for or want.

The Solution:
The change the 99% stand for can be achieved without listing a detailed political program. Change of complex systems is not focused. It is driven by a common goal and a plethora of trials and errors. I like to call it agile reform. The term agile comes from computer programming. When programs became too complicated to be written in a traditional project management cycle (Design, plan, implement, evaluate, design, …) agile programming was invented. 

The concept is not new. The most cited textbook example of agile change is the reform of the air traffic control system. The agile approach survived while the traditional project management approach has swallowed billions (current estimates 51 billion USD). Not surprisingly the military has adopted agile reform as their main method for innovation. What the 99% want can be achieved through the same method.

The Transition:
Agile Reform can be introduced by setting a common goal and unleashing a myriad of small improvements. I like to define agile reform through the following five principles:
1.      Reform is introduced through iterations of improvements. There is no coherent reform agenda, only a common goal.
2.      Solutions are NOT standardized and several solutions for the same problem are encouraged. Darwin will ensure the best solution survives.
3.      Reform is successful when any small change makes a difference. If you keep improving systems within your reach, over time improvements can be measured at the level of the aggregate system.
4.      Centralisation and coordination is only used when absolutely necessary. Improvements are managed at the smallest possible unit size. Central control is not effective.
5.      Prioritization of tasks is discouraged. The more change the better. Trying is as important as succeeding.