Untangling Agile Government

On the Dual Necessities of Structure and Agility

Agility has become a common term when it comes to today’s discourse on digitalization and government transformation. There is a widely held view that governmental bureaucracy with its laws, regulations, institutions, and ‘red tape’ is unable to keep up with a rapidly changing and digitizing society. 

It is now often claimed that the solution is for governments to become agile. Along these lines, the resulting discourse on ‘agile government’ posits that government is not agile now, but it could be, and if it were agile then government would be more effective, adaptive, and, thus, normatively better. 

We argue that while agility can represent a useful paradigm in some contexts, it is often applied inappropriately in the governmental context due to a lack of understanding about what ‘agile’ is, and what it is not.