Why agile is important in public sector communications

SimonCommunications, General1 Comment

One of the themes I keep banging on about in public sector communications is the need for an agile approach to delivery – in the absence of a better phrase or word; agility.

But what does agility actually mean? While you may by this point have a mental image of Crufts, dogs and numerous hoops, hopefully the rest of this post will explain more about what I’m on about.

For me there are a number of things that define an agile approach:

Speed of response – having a team that’s able to reorient its work rapidly in the face of changing priorities, leadership or external factors.

Committed and passionate people – delivering an agile response demands having a team that’s prepared to “go the extra mile” to deliver something they truly believe in.

Ready infrastructure – basically having some building blocks in place that are flexible enough for a wide range of possible uses – while this might be technology-based (eg web hosting) it could easily be something relevant for a broader marketing or public relations use – like a strong list of suppliers for a wide range of deliverables or having an effective network of community contacts to help communicate with community groups rapidly.

Experience with building blocks – trying to do everything for the first time when the pressure’s on is tough. Doing something again that you’ve done before it a good deal easier – that’s why it’s important to have good experience of the tools of your trade – whether those are online services, media contacts, advertising formats – whatever it takes to deliver what you do in your day job normally.

Management support – agility in public sector communications needs strong and decisive management from those in the reporting line above the communicators. Agility demands the confidence and knowledge to make decisions quickly – not falling back on deferring decisions to more senior management unless absolutely necessary.

A great example of this agility in practice is demonstrated by today’s launch of the new Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website – put together in the space of 72 hours this week by teams from the two previous government departments that were merged last week.

Check out the full story from the two of the team involved – Steph Gray and Neil Williams – and when reading their accounts remember that these guys did this against the background of (presumably) a fair degree of uncertainty about their personal positions within the merged organisation – a clear demonstration of the importance of personal commitment and passion in delivering public sector agility.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be thinking about how to make sure our team is ready to deliver agile communications – as I’m sure at some point we’ll need to be ready to respond to an unanticipated eventuality and I’d be delighted if we were able to deliver agility in the way the web guys at BIS have demonstrated is possible.

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