As an agile professional, I look for ways to extend an agile mindset beyond the world of software development on a daily basis. Whether it’s a personal Kanban board, limiting my home project WIP and trying to accomplish small batch increments, to establishing a weekend velocity for expectation setting on what’s feasible to truly accomplish in the 48 hours I’m home. I’m not always successful applying my agile lens. I buy way too much for tailgating, and often wait to test my setup in a production environment (aka the parking lot). I often have to split holiday decorating over 2 days, or in some cases 2 weekends, even when I commit to do everything in a single day. I’m by no means perfect, nor espouse to be.
After watching Monday’s Presidential debate, I reflected on what I actually learned – or in this case, did not learn. This election is one of the most important in the history of our nation. It will set in motion events that will have impacts into the next generation, starting with the privilege of appointing two new supreme court justices. I sat in my hotel room, anxiously awaiting the point where we get to hear details about each candidate’s set of policy proposals, both foreign and domestic. Yet, what was discussed was Trump’s tax returns, a federal lawsuit from 43 years ago, the never ending saga of the Hillary email scandal, her stance on a trade agreement that most of the public doesn’t even know about, and that hackers are all chubby rotund 400 lb. guys that wreak havoc from their couch. There is truth in jest, but as a voter, I was not personally satisfied with the 90-minutes I invested to watch.
Is this really how we decide who will be this nation’s Commander-In-Chief?
Then we have the political campaign contributions, the commercials, the hotlines, the trips to key states to persuade a majority that their candidacy is the lesser of two evils. Almost $1.6B if you go by http://www.opensecrets.org/pres16/
With the issues at hand in this country, from immigration reform to police protection to racial profiling to oil fracking to soaring murder rates in major cities to health care reform – there is no shortage of issues for these candidates to tackle. Action speak louder than words. While I certainly do not speak for anyone but myself, I live by this motto: Don’t tell me all the things you’ve done in the past. Show me what you’re going to do to change the future.
So I started thinking about what would I promote as an agile thinker if I were given the opportunity to revamp the election process. What if, instead of campaigning, candidates spent a year (or some agreed upon time frame) to implement a policy on a smaller scale, to prove there is value in the policy? How could they codify their proposal, to be something of action, not something of theory. As an ex-manager of mine used to point out, “hope is not a strategy”.
What if the electorate at large, became the users of our experiment? What if we voted on social and domestic issues that we wanted to see reform in? What types of experiments could be conducted over a 12-month period to show the proposed policy changes each candidate has on domestic issues – could actually result in a positive, measured, outcome?
Imagine if we took the issue of police force, and used cities like Chicago and Baltimore, and gave each candidate the opportunity to help implement a program from their proposed platform that resulted in a tangible outcome, that could help us better understand the effectiveness of the program?
Isn’t that what we do when defining a Minimal Viable Product? We conduct experiments to learn more about our problem space? And then we look for ways to adapt our strategy to learn more, until we feel confident that we’ve satisfied our user constituency?
Wouldn’t it be better to learn more about the policies of these candidates, and see them in action, with real lives that could be positively impacted – before they got elected to a 4-year term? Instead of mud-slinging commercials that prove what we already know? That neither of these candidates are without many warts and battle scars from their pursuit to the top of their respective careers?
The networks could still televise the random draw of cities where reform is needed the most. There could be an energy that someone is coming to help. It would put a premium on showing this country a vision for change, instead of empty campaign promises that get deprioritized to promote the agenda of lobbyists and politicos.
It would potentially breed transparency in an otherwise non-transparent arena. Minimally, it would allow for investment of some of those campaign funds to further promote quality of life for the citizens these candidates are vying votes from.
That seems far more effective, than what happened on Monday night.
As one friend put Monday’s debate, “it was like watching my parents argue. It was uncomfortable. So I turned it off.”
I have never run a political campaign. I have never even participated in the process, other than to vote. I do not want to diminish the effort of the folks who pour their soul into a given candidate. From an outsider’s view, however, I find the show we call a “debate” to be sorely lacking in the relevance category, when you consider what’s at stake for this election cycle. I’d find it refreshing to know there was a way to test drive these policies, while possibly improving this country on the way to the election in November.
I absolutely do not have all the answers, if I even have a partial answer at best. But, I’d love to hear how else we could improve our election process, and what principles we would invoke from our professional lives to make a decision with such gravity and impact to the next generation of Americans. In true political fashion, for those that choose to engage…let the debate begin.