Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The company where Agile was a "Four letter word"

In my prior experience at the US offices of an Asian car manufacturer (we'll call them Acme):  My consulting company was developing the opportunity to do a new project with Acme.  I had newly started the Agile practice and was keen to identify initial customers.

We started meetings with the auto financing group of the Acme to discuss the project. The leaders of the Acme Project Management Office (PMO) seemed to want to know all about Agile methods.  After several meetings (and many questions about Agile) it seemed everything was lining up well.  

After talking informally with a few friends and colleagues though I became a little concerned.  It seemed this division of the company (and it's PMO) actually had a reputation for being very anti-Agile.  Sure enough the people who had seemed very interested in Agile during our prior discussions soon indicated that they did not want to use Agile methods at all!

The project did go forward, but without the involvement of our Agile services group.  After analyzing the situation in retrospect I realized that the financing group had almost no exposure to outside market pressures.  Because of this they had no concern about getting to market quickly or satisfying their customer.  Their customer was the auto manufacturing division - and their customer wasn't going to switch to another finance company! 

This led to a key learning for me:  Companies (or divisions) that have little exposure to market pressures have almost no motivation to be Agile.  Instead, in some cases an anti-Agile "status-quo" mentality dominates.  An important consideration before starting down the road of Agile with a company - Are they really concerned about the market at all?  

I am interested if others have seen similar scenarios, where a company / division had no interest in Agile because they had very little direct exposure to the market?  Maybe a captive finance company, government contractor, or other protected company with high barriers to entry.  Maybe a company you work for now ...

Signing off from Bangkok.  John.