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Is Trump following an Agile Methodology?

By Johannes Gudmundsson, February 9, 2017


In the past two weeks we have seen a slew of controversial executive orders coming from the White House.  It seems with each order there is a major backlash from communities within the US and around the world.  People are at the edge of their seats waiting to see how the current orders play out and what could possibly come next. 

Trump is performing according what he believes the group that elected him would want him to do.  He made promises which many of us think are outrageous and he still got elected president.  Now he is in the driver’s seat, the project has started and he needs to execute.  If we compare this to a standard implementation project, we can assume Trump is the project manager.  He’s been handed the designated goals by his voters and he believes each goal can be achieved through an executive order.

Defining the Stakeholders

So who are the stakeholders in this project?  It would be normal to say the American People.  You might even go so far to say all the people in the world which share the same western philosophy.  But in reality the goals of the project were crafted only by a small subset of that.  So the president is faced with a dilemma.  He has been voted to execute toward goals that are highly polarized but at the same time he has stated that he will be the president of all Americans.

Project Planning for Benefit of All

It would be similar to having a project charter handed to you which is created by the management of company A and then have company A merge with company B.  Company B turns out to have radically different views on the project and is also bigger than company A.  In the corporate world, the project would then be revised and a new plan created with the goal of meeting the needs and visions of company A and company B.  Unfortunately, politics do not work like the business world.

Waterfall vs. Agile

Now we have established that Trump will have to execute towards the original goals even though a majority of his stakeholders do not agree with them.  How will he be able to successfully complete the project?  If he chooses to follow a waterfall implementation, he will basically line up all the orders and start executing them one by one moving towards a goal that seemed to him like the correct goal in the beginning.  This looks like it would be a march off a cliff given today’s environment.  If he chose to use an agile methodology, he would execute each order and measure response before continuing to the next.  If the response was bad, he could backtrack and revise the order and possibly take a different path.

I am an avid proponent of agile methodologies.  I understand agile might not be appropriate for all circumstances but I think it could work well in politics.  It is undeniably hard for a leader to consolidate a country with polarized views.  The success of a project would have to be a compromise that allows everyone to be on the same team and collaborate in harmony.

Measuring Response

Now let’s assume Trump adopts agile.  He would need to find a tool that measures the response of his actions.  We know that Trump relies on the media to measure his response.  The media has been accused of reporting very biased views regarding the Presidency and the executive orders.  So what could be used?  This might be the current problem to be solved.  He obviously wants to win the confidence of as many Americans as possible.  If he trusts no measurements of popularity around him he will eventually end up in an echo chamber where his inner circle calls all the shots.

Developing Accurate Metrics

This is where technology should step in and help politics.  We need an unbiased measurement of sentiment and popularity.  Social media giants and media outlets should work diligently to eliminate fake news and misleading polls.  If you take for example Wikipedia, which is now a relatively trusted source of information.  They have managed to keep integrity over the years and stayed away from promoting anything other than information.  We would need the Wikipedia of statistics.  This should be a free website, operating only on public donations, where important poll numbers are recorded and how the polls are conducted detailed.  There should be vigorous peer reviews to maintain a level of integrity.  Unbiased statistical sites exist today and are accessible to the public, but they have not become a household tool like Wikipedia.

Misinformation & Herd Mentality

The dangers of misinformation can be catastrophic.  People are very susceptible to unknowingly falling into logical traps.  A good example is the famous psychological experiment which was conducted in 1951 by Solomon Asch.  Solomon sought to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. The results basically state that a person will go against their own logical conclusion if the people around think otherwise.  This is even true when the answer is blatantly wrong.

The question would then become, if Trump had reliable information regarding the popularity of his executive orders, would he revaluate and reassess?  If he were following an agile methodology, he would.  The political reality is, and will remain, beyond the scope of this blog.

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