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The Same Script, A Different Actor

A huge, lumbering dinosaur wakes up, looks in the mirror and sez: “WTF! Look how ugly and immobile I am!“. After pondering its predicament for a few moments, Mr. Dino has an epiphany: “All I gotta do is go on a diet and get a makeover!“. Diet Makeover It’s the same old, same old, script:

  1. A large company’s performance deteriorates over time because of increasing bureaucracy, apathy, and inertia.
  2. Wall St. goes nutz, pressuring the company to take action.
  3. A new, know-it-all, executive with a successful track record is hired on to improve performance.
  4. The nouveau executive mandates sweeping, across-the-board, changes in the way people work without consulting the people who do the work.
  5. The exec makes the rounds in the press, espousing how he’s gonna make the company great again.
  6. After all the hoopla is gone, the massive change effort flounders and all is forgotten – it’s back to the status quo.

The latest incarnation of this well worn tale seems to describe what’s happening in the IT department at longtime IT stalwart, IBM: IBM CIO Designs New IT Workflow for Tech Giant Under Pressure. We’ve heard this all before (Nokia, Research In Motion, Sun, etc):

The mission is to have innovation and the speed of small companies .. and see if we can do that at scale – IBM Corp. CIO Jeff Smith

I’ll give you one guess at to what Mr. Smith’s turnaround strategy is…

Give up? It’s, of course, “Large Scale, Distributed, Agile Development“.

I can see all the LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) consultants salivating over all the moolah they can suck out of IBM. Gotta give ’em credit for anticipating the new market for “scaling Agile” and setting up shop to reap the rewards from struggling, deep-pocketed, behemoths like IBM.

It’s ironic that IBM wants to go Agile, yet a part of their business is (was?) to provide Agile consulting expertise to other companies. In fact, one of their former Agile consultant employees, Scott Ambler, invented his own Agile processes: Agile Unified Process (AUP) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD). On top of that, look who wrote this:

agile for dummies

Obviously, not all massive turnaround efforts fail. In fact, IBM did an about face once before under the leadership of, unbelievably, a former Nabisco cookie executive named Lou Gerstner. I like IBM. I hope they deviate from the script and return to greatness once again.

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