Wolves in agile clothing

There is little point in investigating the culture of any org you are considering joining. Crucial, however is to understand their mindset.

— Bob Marshall aka @flowchainsensei

Wolf in sheep's clothing“(A)gile minds, able to see beyond the obvious and act effectively in an ever-changing global business landscape. At every level agile thinking is nurtured. And at every level agile minds are rewarded with competitive pay, support and opportunities to excel. So if you’re ready to join us, apply now,” says job advertising of one of large investment banks. The ad uses the a-word three times in a single paragraph. Sounds like a  buzzword great place to work at, right?

One thing bothers me each time folks from banks approach me with job interview offers. I read Jim Highsmith‘s “Agile software development ecosystems” book for the first time more than five years ago, but I can still recall mixed feeling of disgust and disbelief I had reading this passage:

Managers in the process-centric community value people, but they still consider process more important. For those who might argue with this assessment, I offer the following paragraph from a ComputerWorld article about Ashutosh Gupta, CEO of Deutsche Software India, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank AG. “There is this myth that software development is a creative effort that relies heavily on individual effort,” says Gupta from his air-conditioned office high above the din of traffic-clogged Mahatma Gandhi Road. “It is not. It is just very labor-intensive, mechanical work once the initial project definition and specification stage is past” (Vijayan and Anthes 2001).

Will you consider doing knowledge work for organization that denies its very essence? I shall not. Could Deutsche Bank shift to agile in past 11 years? It could not without a reason. As Jim observes in the same book, banks have no such reasons:

I am reminded of the comments by Lloyd Darlington of the Bank of Montreal, who observed that the new information economy defines the most pervasive change in banking in 300 years… His message was clear: Banks must adapt, but they don’t have to remake their entire structure overnight. Darlington’s comments were made at the height of the dotcom frenzy, during which a number of Internet-only banks were established. They are all gone.

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Wolves in agile clothing