Can traditional big corporate companies really do Agile ?
French has invented the term “Entrepreneur”.
The word entrepreneur comes from the 13th century French verb
entreprendre, meaning “to do something” or “to undertake”. By the 16th
century, the noun entrepreneur, had emerged to refer to someone who
undertakes a business venture. The first academic usage of the term
was by economist Richard Cantillon in 1730. For Cantillion, the
bearing of risk engaging in business without an assurance of the
profits that will be derived is the distinguishing feature of an
The term entrepreneur was further popularized by economist Jean
Baptiste Say, who in the early 1800s, used the term to refer to
individuals who create value in an economy by moving resources out of
areas of low productivity and into areas of higher productivity and
greater yield. In 1848, economist John Stuart Mill used the term in
his very popular book, Principles of Political Economy. To Mill, the
distinguishing feature of an entrepreneur was that they assume both
the risk and the management of a business.
During the Internet bubble, there were of course a few mid-size internet french startups but mostly in medias, none with completely new Internet Business Model like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Paypal,…. France has only big IT Companies called “SSII” which are Consulting companies with hundred of thousands of employees but none of their activity does involve innovation: they just rent their people to clients.
Why is this? French companies like total control in big corporate companies over their “human resources” and this spreads out at all level of organizations. So there is a strict separation between people who “think” and people who “do”. An entrepreneur being both has no real place in French companies. Most young talents are wasted to escalate the corporate ladders with salary obsession in mind. Those who will become entrepreneurs are very few among engineers from so-called “Grandes Ecoles” (French elitism separates University from these high schools) and entrepreneurship is often reduced to freelancers or companies in the IT consulting services.
What this has to do with Agile ? Well this lack of spirit for entrepreneurship has the same root cause as the fear of people to undertake any initiative in their corporate department. Taking risk is not encouraged for example to change working habits to do Agile. Oh well, today Agile has become fashionable but spirit didn’t change with the same lust for power between IT and Business and no Manager forcing to reconciliate the two so that I can’t see any real difference with the past except slogans – like process simplification. In fact things can be even worse when people use the pretext of Agile to do zero architecture and zero documentation whereas this is not what Agile says : there is a big confusion between Agile and RAD (Rapid Application Development). Agile is often seen wrongly by Managers as just a way to reduce costs. They’re wrong: total cost over time cannot be reduced just because Agile label is put on a project whereas it isn’t truly Agile.