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Brexit from an Agile Perspective

Brexit from an Agile Perspective

Before I begin I should put my cards on the table clearly. I was (and still am) vehemently a Remain supporter. I also felt that the EU has many problems that need solving. I believed that we were better off steering those changes than walking away from them. I awoke on Friday 24th June to a world that felt just a little bit darker for me. Since then, I've been trying to make sense of the nation's Leave vote in the context of the agile principles and techniques. I think there's a lot here to help us understand why people voted the way that they did and to help guide us through the uncertainty ahead as best as we can, while keeping as positive as possible.

In this article I want to try and take a balanced approach to how Brexit would be viewed if the EU was the organisation and the UK electorate were the team. Please feel free to comment, I'd love to adapt this with other ideas and perspectives but please try and keep it friendly.

Early & Continuous Delivery / Deliver Frequently

Traditionally, getting anything 'done' in government takes time. There are a lot of detailed processes and procedures that government organisations must follow. Some of these are undoubtedly valid but many are quite probably not. Many people see a lot of this unnecessary process burden as being directly attributable to the EU.

What we see here for Leave voters is people voting to remove the impediments that they see to their daily lives. This tells me that the government is missing some sort of element (like Scrum Masters) who will look to keep process obstructions to a minimum to allow public services to run as efficiently as possible and to remove red tape, effectively ensuring that the voting taxpayers are getting the most value for their money.

This is a clear need from the electorate for political change to be delivered quickly and regularly.

Harness Change

This is a big lesson for the EU as a whole and it may well be its undoing. The EU is a very large and very political organisation and change can be both difficult and take a very long time to implement with all of the member states ratifying changes. As it has grown over the years, there is a fair argument which states that, upon reaching a certain scale, the inability of the organisational structure to respond to change quickly enough will cause it to break and delivery to fail. The result here, loss of a member state.

Regular Communication

This is an educational issue. A lot of the EU operations and structure is not well understood by the voting public, whereas the political structure of our own government is well understood. It is the responsibility of our government to ensure that voting citizens understand the structures of the governments that support them through education. This prevents campaigns of misinformation that the referendum suffered (from both sides). This is even more clear a few days on with 'Bregret' (you can't make this up!) taking hold in some areas.

Empowerment

The referendum gave the British people the greatest sense of empowerment that they have felt in many many years. This was, initially, extremely positive. The lack of commitment at this stage to move forward and action the result suggests that the empowerment may not be quite what the voters expected. It is the political leaders' responsibilities now to represent the voters on both sides and to listen to what the people need. Failure to do so will be catastrophic for the democratic process, just as a retrospective without affirmative shown action can erode team morale.

The second element at play here is that the electorate in the UK generally don't feel empowered. We have an electoral system that makes people powerless, where their votes do not count. We need to strongly question that stance so that people actually vote when it matters. This is what 'taking back control' really means - it means going out and voting with a system that values your input.

Simplicity

This ties to my comments above, in regard to Communication and education, but from the other perspective. The EU is, to many people, an impenetrably complex beast. I am reminded of times coaching new organisations into Agile about keeping teams small and lean with simple, clear processes and flat hierarchies. The EU is the antithesis of all of these things. In this I empathise with the Leave voters more than with anything else.

Self-Organisation

This principle also suggests the positive side to Brexit, with the country being able to organise itself properly without outside interference. The counter argument is that the team cannot always go off on it's own and still work - sometimes the change needs to happen higher up to enable this. This is no more highlighted than in the stipulations on immigration and free movement which are an issue, not just for UK voters, but across Europe.

Inspect & Adapt

Europe needs to hold a retrospective on itself in order to survive. Regardless of what happens to the UK, the future of the EU as a whole has been questioned - It needs to listen to it's people and change. It needs to be transparent, it needs to be accountable, it needs to be leaner. It is essential that EU member states can self organise with minimal interference, allowing for common trading interfaces between members. I would ask the question as to whether the EU has grown too big over too long a period without asking itself the hard questions. Now it has no choice and it may be too late.