Disruptive By Design: Embracing an Agile Mindset To Drive Federal Innovation
Early in my GovCon career, I was introduced to Agile methodologies. Even as a marketing and communications professional supporting federal contracts, I found myself on cross-functional teams where I was immersed in Agile language and processes.
What seemed highly technical at first, given the software development focus, Agile fundamentals proved to be relatively simple. It was less about lines of code than the way we worked. It truly unified each facet of the team. With better communication, we fostered agility. And agility drove innovation. Our team was more effective with this collaborative, Agile mindset.
At its core, an Agile mindset is centered on maximizing efficiencies and delivering tangible value. It emphasizes how work is managed, prioritized and delivered—with a focus on practical task management, improved collaboration and overall team effectiveness. Cultivating an Agile mindset across teams is essential to meeting the government’s complex and ever-changing needs.
Today, Agile has become the norm. Several years after my first encounter, I joined a team that was implementing a variety of Agile implementations and flavors across large federal programs. They had a unique approach to Agile that was optimized for the federal government and building solutions at scale. This is where my understanding of Agile deepened.
Working in my company’s center of excellence, where these Agile-at-scale best practices were refined over time, I noticed how everything about the way they integrated people, processes, tools and culture was meticulously strategized. Just like an industrial factory, they measured everything about their work, developing a duplicatable, teachable system based on their results.
This level of detail is vital when it comes to supporting mission-critical applications for the government. Not only can federal programs become cumbersome, they can also vary significantly in their needs and challenges, especially when they begin to scale. To deliver large-scale solutions with a moving goal post, Agile delivery for government needs to be more nimble—ready to deploy a combination of industry best practices and methodologies to address the federal intricacies and avoid a single delivery approach.
Applied effectively, Agile principles can empower teams to meet government technology demands for faster, higher quality outcomes aligned with mission needs. High-performing Agile teams align with a set of core values; they adhere to predictability, efficiency, transparency and adaptability to optimize reliable continuous delivery powered by real-time performance data. A focus on iterative development and feedback loops ensures swift delivery of solutions when needs are rapidly shifting to deliver at the speed of mission.
These core values, inherent to an Agile mindset, enable teams to select the best approach possible for each federal program and its unique set of challenges. Agile for government is not a fixed template but a dynamic approach tailored to each program’s pace and requirements. The willingness to change is not just about adopting new technologies or methodologies; it's a cultural shift. It's about instilling a mindset that values adaptability as a strength. In the federal government space, where requirements can pivot rapidly and complexities are prevalent, this mindset becomes a strategic advantage.
A successful Agile journey for federal programs lies in a commitment to Agile principles, fostering a culture of innovation and embracing change. Doing Agile the right way begins with transforming your foundational mindset and opening the door to a multifaceted solution. This approach positions teams to meet emerging needs and drive continued enhancements as the program scales.
Matthew Klein is the growth and communications lead for the Agile Solution Factory at CACI International. He also serves as the communications chair of AFCEA NOVA’s Emerging Leaders Board.
Disruptive by Design explores innovation and ideas with the potential to expand capabilities and revolutionize products, services and behaviors. The opinions expressed in this article are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of AFCEA International. For more information, visit EmergingLeaders@afcea.org