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Can’t Change; Won’t Change

I have called this piece: Can’t Change, Won’t Change. It is about what I found in recent years working in the financial services industry, in particular inside investment banking. I witnessed Agile adoption inside these organizations. Sad to say, it did not happen. Instead, lip service was paid to say SCRUM, for example.

A lot of banks talked the game of Agile with a big “A”, but in truth their efforts was in a very small “a”. Daily stand-up meetings were actually, in fact, sit-downs. They did not less than 15 minutes, typically, but were regularly overtaken by database integration and production issues, project management tasks, and ran for almost an hour, whilst the whole team was wasted by business as usual matters, which most of the team did require the whole team to be present. Agile adoption was a complete waste of time, because banks did not have time for user story boards, nor did their employees or contractor really want to stick paper and/or cardboard tickets onto any type of board.

The heart was not in it to begin with. There was a lack of space for even for user story boards. It was impossible to stick papers to glass windows and the modern building architecture. Their game was just to rely heavily on JIRA or TRAC, there was a distinct lack of motivation, opportunity or innovation to extend the electronic task board beyond the machine.

In the end, they  continued to fail in any way to get close to a self-organising team. Even if there was buy-in from the senior management, sometime leading by authority could have helped, but there was somebody in the lower management that torpedoed any attempts for better agile adoption. In the end, there was no chance to practise agile software development with a big “A”; and if you wanted to try your hand at pair-programming and pragmatic test driven-development then the answer was a resounding not a hope of a chance, ever. Therefore continual improvement was at stand-still.

I have found out now that if you really want to learn how Agile with a big “A” is done, then step away and outside of an investment banking environment as I have done this year. My advice is to find organisations that do practice what they preach and not dream, where there is true transparency and integrity. In the past few years, it has become more important that developers and designers have some experience of Agile techniques and not just lip service. It is sad, but true. I can change and definitely I want change.

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