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5 min read

Making More Agile Portfolio Decisions

Josh Rice

July 18, 2023

Making More Agile Portfolio Decisions-featured-image
In this article


    The federal government and its agencies are facing increasingly complex challenges when it comes to portfolio management. To navigate this dynamic landscape successfully, federal agencies must adopt more agile approaches to decision-making. By embracing agile portfolio management principles, federal agencies can enhance their ability to prioritize initiatives, allocate resources effectively, and achieve their strategic objectives. This blog explores the concept of making more agile portfolio decisions within the federal government context, focusing on the need for adaptability, collaboration, data-driven decision-making, and overcoming challenges specific to federal agencies. 

    The Need for Agile Portfolio Decisions in Federal Agencies 

    Federal agencies operate in a constantly evolving environment where changing priorities, shifting policies, and limited resources necessitate nimble decision-making. Traditional, static portfolio management approaches are no longer sufficient to address the rapidly changing landscape. The federal government needs to respond to emerging needs promptly, deliver services efficiently, and adapt to evolving circumstances. Agile portfolio decision-making enables federal agencies to make proactive, flexible, and responsive choices that align with strategic objectives and optimize resource allocation. 

    Agility through Iterative and Incremental Decision-Making 

    In an agile portfolio management framework, federal agencies must focus on transparency, continuous testing, prioritization, and better alignment between strategy and execution. This iterative and incremental approach allows for greater flexibility and responsiveness, as agencies can make adjustments based on real-time feedback and changing priorities. By maintaining an up-to-date, accurate portfolio and regularly evaluating progress, agencies can mitigate risks and pivot quickly when necessary, enabling them to adapt to evolving needs and opportunities. This iterative, continuous process fosters agility by providing federal agencies with the ability to respond swiftly to changing circumstances and incorporate lessons learned along the way. 

    Collaboration and Cross-Agency Alignment 

    Collaboration is a critical element of agile portfolio decision-making in federal agencies. By involving stakeholders from various departments, agencies can achieve cross-agency alignment and ensure that decisions reflect a holistic understanding of organizational goals. Effective communication and collaboration foster a shared sense of purpose, breaking down silos and enabling agencies to leverage collective expertise. Collaborative decision-making enhances transparency, increases accountability, and encourages innovation. Federal agencies should establish mechanisms for ongoing collaboration, such as cross-functional teams, regular meetings, and knowledge-sharing platforms, to foster a culture of collaboration and ensure alignment across agencies. 

    Data-Driven Decision-Making 

    Data plays a pivotal role in agile portfolio decision-making, providing federal agencies with insights to make informed and objective choices. By leveraging data analytics and visualization tools, agencies can analyze trends, evaluate project performance, and identify potential risks or opportunities. This data-driven approach allows agencies to prioritize initiatives based on their strategic value, aligning resources with projects that have the highest potential for impact. Moreover, data enables evidence-based decision-making, reducing biases and promoting accountability. Federal agencies should invest in robust data management systems and establish clear data governance frameworks to ensure data quality, accessibility, and security. 

    Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation 

    Agile portfolio decision-making in federal agencies emphasizes continuous planning, evaluation, and adaptation. This iterative process allows agencies to regularly review and reassess their portfolio, ensuring that initiatives remain aligned with strategic goals and evolving priorities. Regular check-ins and feedback loops enable agencies to identify areas for improvement, address emerging challenges, and seize emerging opportunities. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, federal agencies can optimize resource allocation and drive innovation. Agencies should establish mechanisms for gathering feedback, conducting post-implementation reviews, and promoting a culture of learning from both successes and failures. 

    Building Agile Capability and Capacity 

    To successfully implement agile portfolio decision-making, federal agencies must invest in building the necessary capability and capacity. This includes developing agile leadership and project management skills, promoting a culture of collaboration and innovation, and leveraging technology and tools that support agile decision-making. Training programs, workshops, and knowledge-sharing platforms can facilitate the adoption of agile practices, empowering federal employees to embrace change and make more agile portfolio decisions. Agencies should also encourage experimentation, provide the necessary resources for skill development, and recognize and reward agile behavior to sustain a culture of agility. 

    Overcoming Challenges and Barriers 

    While agile portfolio decision-making offers numerous benefits, federal agencies may encounter challenges during its implementation. Some of these challenges include resistance to change, resource constraints, cultural barriers, and organizational complexity. To overcome these challenges, agencies should invest in change management strategies, clearly communicate the benefits of agility, and involve employees in the decision-making process. Collaborative approaches that involve key stakeholders from the outset can help address cultural barriers and foster buy-in. Federal agencies should also ensure that appropriate governance structures are in place to support agile decision-making and that resources are allocated efficiently to enable the adoption of agile practices. 


    In the dynamic landscape of the federal government, agile portfolio decision-making is imperative for agencies to navigate uncertainty, allocate resources effectively, and achieve strategic goals. By adopting iterative and incremental approaches, fostering collaboration, leveraging data-driven insights, and promoting continuous evaluation, federal agencies can enhance their ability to respond rapidly to changing priorities and drive innovation. Investing in the development of agile capability and capacity will further enable federal agencies to make more informed and adaptive portfolio decisions, ultimately improving their performance and outcomes. By overcoming challenges specific to federal agencies and embracing agility, the federal government can become more responsive, efficient, and effective in delivering services to the public. 

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