Agile Government and Agile Governance - Definition and Difference

Recently I gave a talk on this topic and I thought I would capture the key points I discussed over a series of blogs - This is the first one.

Governments have no choice but to embrace the concept of agile government.

This is because the nature of the social contract is changing worldwide. While the UAE has done very well on the Edelman Trust Barometer (it is one of the most trusted countries), not all governments have fared the same, often ranking lower than business and nonprofits. We cannot be complacent as the nature of the social contract is fluid - it is a perception. This means agile governments need an ear to the ground to keep in touch with the common people and with global events. Currently some of those events are the refugee crisis in Europe due to the Russia-Ukraine war and the lockdown in Shanghai in China. Another reason why an agile government is necessary is because of the increasing number of crises we are facing. No country is isolated from global affairs, and hence we need a public sector that can respond quickly and think ahead to ensure they deliver public value.

Definitions and differences between Agile Government and Agile Governance.

I am taking this from our forthcoming book, Agile Government: Emerging Perspectives in Public Management (Available on Amazon). The principles and values which we as a country adopt, are fundamental in the delivery of public value. Agile Governance is the bigger concept as it is about governance. In Agile Government we have NOT yet got to a Whole-of-Government approach. This is because we do not have agile governance embedded across all government entities, institutions, and the public to deliver public value.

Government entities need one single purpose - they need to create inclusive public value. They need to realize that they do not represent the majority but every single person - that is the nature of the social contract. This is the first challenge that all departments representing the government do so with the same purpose. The second challenge has been that historically, governments have outsourced many of their services to the private sector (which has always been perceived as more efficient). The challenge is the values. The private sector is about profits and the government is about public value. The last reason is that governments need the public to be actively involved to deliver public value. For example, the pandemic required every one to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID.

So just to recap, Agile Governance is bigger than Agile Government. While Agile Government has always been an outcome of cultural turns or a response to crisis, we are not able to sustain the endeavours. It has worked in very small departments and initiatives but does not last long. Either because the small departments start focussing on metrics and KPIs instead of purpose or because the team of people changes and the new team does not have the same passion for the purpose.

The Next Blog will discuss the Challenges to Becoming an Agile Government