A View of Brexit Through an Agile Lens

A View of Brexit Through an Agile Lens

June 232016 was a bad day for me …

Watching the votes being announced for Brexit, my emotions were a rollercoaster.

No! Who is to blame for this? Surely we can have a second vote? This is going to be terrible

After some processing, I came to terms and thought: Fine, how do we make this work in an agile way?

As the majority of voters in the referendum decided to leave the European Union, we need to accept this result in the UK and move on with the implementation. The difficulty, whilst the political parties implode, is to decide where to start.

We can begin with Maslow and consider our nation’s hierarchy of needs, and then we’ll look at how to implement it in an agile way:

  1. Physiological – We must start by ensuring our food, water, energy, housing and basic goods are not adversely affected. This means negotiating a common market in order to ensure goods and services can still be freely exchanged. This is an initial major hurdle due to the ties between this issue and freedom of movement.
  2. Safety – Our army and security forces must continue to work closely within Europe to maintain our nation’s security. Financial institutions need to work across borders, as must our courts, in order to maintain financial and personal security.
  3. Love/belonging – With the basics covered, we can move on with our need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. This is difficult when starting with our rejection of Europe, but we will need to persevere, state our case and back it up by working closely with other countries to build bridges and personal relationships. Incremental change with consistency of purpose can change how we are perceived.
  4. Esteem – We have a need to feel respected, valued and accepted by others. We need to continue reaching out to others through charity, sport, science, trade and any other means we can find to make connections. Being out of Europe gives us the opportunity to make the United Kingdom’s distinctive voice heard, but this takes effort, time and money.
  5. Self-Actualisation – How do we become the best that we can be as a nation, to attain our full potential? We need to strive to collaborate, select the best paths, communicate well and continually improve.

Sounds great, but in practice, what can be done, and how can agile guidance help us get there?

  • Step 1 - Create a vision: After our politicians finish navel gazing, they must work together along with experts to create a vision for our future as a successful nation.
  • Step 2 - Draw up a roadmap: After invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the UK will need to collaborate closely with the European council to create a roadmap for the next two years. This will need to be done in a calm, politically astute way to work with others and smooth over some of the recent destructive rhetoric.
  • Step 3 – Put together a team: A strong, empowered, cross-party and highly skilled team should be formed to steer the UK through the negotiations and guide the huge amounts of work that must be performed.
  • Step 4 – Collaborate and communicate: Work within the UK to build consensus and within Europe to build bridges. Transparency over the process and progress is critical to avoid people feeling excluded and abandoned. We need to engage all UK residents and bring them into the change process whilst they hold the government accountable. Opportunities to create trade agreements outside of Europe will be important, but first we must seek to resolve the problems we have created.
  • Step 5 – Iterate and improve: As we have seen, nothing is forever. Seek to engage, hold regular reflection sessions both within the team and externally. Hold regular town hall meetings, briefings and anything else required to ensure vision alignment, people are listened to and the process is continually improved.

The next two years are going to be painful for the whole of Europe as the UK seeks to form a credible and independent identity whilst remaining close to our former partners.

The Agile Manifesto tells us to value individuals and interactions, sustainable development, collaboration and responding to change. Using these key values, agile provides us with a lens with which we can manage change in a positive and collaborative value-focused way.


Peter Hyde (CSP, CSM, CSPO, SA) is an enterprise agile coach who resides in West Sussex, UK.

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