Agile and adaptive governance in crisis response: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

Marijn Janssen*, Haiko van der Voort

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

190 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


Countries around the world have had to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak with limited information and confronting many uncertainties. Their ability to be agile and adaptive has been stressed, particularly in regard to the timing of policy measures, the level of decision centralization, the autonomy of decisions and the balance between change and stability. In this contribution we use our observations of responses to COVID-19 to reflect on agility and adaptive governance and provide tools to evaluate it after the dust has settled. Whereas agility relates mainly to the speed of response within given structures, adaptivity implies system-level changes throughout government. Existing institutional structures and tools can enable adaptivity and agility, which can be complimentary approaches. However, agility sometimes conflicts with adaptability. Our analysis points to the paradoxical nature of adaptive governance. Indeed, successful adaptive governance calls for both decision speed and sound analysis, for both centralized and decentralized decision-making, for both innovation and bureaucracy, and both science and politics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102180
JournalInternational Journal of Information Management
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Adaptive governance
  • Adaptivity
  • Agile governance
  • Agile organization
  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • Response
  • SARS-CoV-2


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