There are days when I wake up and think ‘I don’t want to hear the word Agile anymore’. And there are days when I think ‘wow, there’s so much potential in the change agile is bringing to companies’. My personal belief is that it’s not about ‘Agile’. This is a buzzword that people buy in to (which is great, because it starts change!). What this movement is bringing to us isn’t visible to most people today. Some companies get it, but most don’t (yet)… It’s about entrepreneurship. It’s about changing big dinosaur enterprises into agile, startup-like companies.
I’m reading the latest book of Richard Branson
, one of the greatest entrepreneurs currently alive. He started with 0 and has over 75.000 employees today. He writes about entrepreneurship:
“When I meet entrepreneurs, especially in tech, I am often struck by how young they are. But then, when I started out, I was a teenager. The only other entrepreneur people had heard of (though nobody used the word ‘entrepreneur’) was Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. There was Britisch Airways, British steel, British Telecom, British Coal, British Gas, British Rail – the government ran everything, and poorly. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something ‘proper’ people did. It was seen as a dirty business, as if the idea of creating and making money from it was beneath people. Over the last fifty year, thankfully, that has changed and there are new, exciting breakthroughs all the time… Entrepreneurs are everything, and society is benefiting.”
Past generations worked for large enterprises. People wanted to stay in a fixed job for decades and build their pension. Today, people want to join startups. This movement started in the 90s in Silicon Valley and moves all over the globe now. People working in startups claim freedom. They are outspoken people who freely share ideas. They work hard to make their product a success. They wear jeans or even shorts and cheap t-shirts to work. They bring their pets and skateboards to the office. If they work in an office at all (I live on Bali and see a huge amount of young guys working from any place on the globe, traveling all the time).
Now you might think this movement won’t affect the big companies. But it does in two substantial ways. Firstly, startups disrupt old business models. Telco’s didn’t see WhatsApp coming and within months saw their SMS income go to 0. Bluebird
didn’t see Go-Jek
coming and from being the leading taxi company, they now follow Go-Jek and compete with Grab
. Gojek didn’t exist a couple of years ago. Secondly, the new generation doesn’t want to work in the big enterprises anymore. They want to live the Silicon Valley startup life and make an impact on the world. And sure, not everyone thinks that way today, but it will grow.
I do a lot of work with big banks in Indonesia. Most banks are organized in a traditional, hierarchical way. The IT department is seen as a ‘factory’. The business comes up with ideas and the factory produces the systems. Less than a decade ago, the financial industry crumbled. Banks fought to survive. Somehow, within the past years, they have climbed up again. But in my view, the financial industry is being disrupted right now. Fintechs are popping up everywhere. Blockchain and bitcoin are ‘silently’ brewing underneath the surface. I’m not sure yet, but that movement might be what happened in the late 90s with the Internet. Some people (including Bill Gates) thought the Internet would be a passing movement. But think about the impact of the Internet on your life. Think about the disruptions it brought about (to retail: how much do you buy online now?; to music: when was the last time you bought a CD in the shop?). The same might happen with blockchain technology
. Or maybe the uber for finance will come up soon?
I came across a perfect example of a big bank turned ‘startup’. I’m currently not living in Holland, but my wife got a WhatsApp message from a friend. She used ‘Tikkie
This app enables people to send a link to make small payments to accounts of friends. Once you click the link, you can login to ideal (which is a brilliant system to pay with any of the banks) and transfer that amount with 1-2 clicks.
Besides the fact that I thought it is a great product, I read the following page:
I bet you can’t read that. I’ll translate the key message that inspired me:
Tikkie is a startup initiative of ABN AMRO. In a small team, we’ve developed the Tikkie app the past months. Of course, sticking to the ABN AMRO rules and guidelines for security. During the development, we’ve checked frequently with the users. Do you have points of improvement? App us on …., and we’ll start working on it.
They get it! ABN AMRO
started their agile transformation years ago and that resulted in the above app. They created startup-teams within their big enterprise with 21.000 employees. And that’s where you want your agile transformation to go: from changing the way the IT department operates (towards self organized teams
working in iterations); to changing the mindset and culture (towards innovation, self organization, openness and entrepreneurship); and finally to ‘startup style’, enabling continuous innovation within the big dinosaur.