Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Mashreq Bank’s Lean Agile Journey

Mashreq Bank’s Lean Agile Journey

After having seen and evidenced the tangible benefit of lean at Mashreq Bank, agile was seen as a natural progression, and as an evolutionary step. Agile and lean are closely linked; you still need to identify waste, and remove non-value add activities so that you can spend more time doing what the customer requires, argued Steve Snowdon, head of lean at Mashreq bank. Together with Ed Capaldi, a strategic advisor and agile business coach, he spoke about Mashreq Bank’s Lean Agile Journey at the Lean and Agile ME Summit 2019.

Snowdon stated that the goal of agile was to work in a more collaborative way, to get decisions closer to the customer, and to provide a better structure so that they could more quickly respond to the customer-driven demand, rather than push products/services at them.

Capaldi stated, "I believe in kaizen and kaikaku as central concepts all companies must value; I will therefore only get involved in a transformation if I see these. In this case I was pleasantly surprised by the passion Steve and his team had in wanting to fully understand agile and these concepts were clearly there, and the fact they also come from a lean background just like me helped."

"The head of the division was also massively behind the transformation and we very quickly agreed the metrics that would track progress," Capaldi mentioned. He said that agile is a journey; he prefers to challenge his clients in that they aren’t really trying to be agile, and that it’s ok to start with "fake agile". "Fake it till you make it!", he said

Leadership must be from the very top, said Snowdon. He mentioned that Mashreq’s CEO is passionate about customer centricity. At the EXCO level, each business head needs to see how lean agile helps him in both achieving his strategic goals, but also believe in the improved collaborative way of working with the key enablers needed to run his business area, argued Snowdon.

He further stated that leadership is needed every day, every week. "Going to Gemba" (the shop floor) is a must for senior management to help drive the importance via daily Scrums, and challenging blockages; it shows everyone how important this is and that it’s not the next "fad".

Capaldi explained that leadership is built through building trust, and through open transparent tracking of progress and kindling many fires from smoldering coals. He suggested to use "war rooms", OKRs and the agile rituals to create the right habits in leadership.

InfoQ spoke with Steve Snowdon and Ed Capaldi after their talk about Mashreq Bank’s lean agile Journey.

InfoQ: What made you decide to merge Agile and Lean practices?

Steve Snowdon: If you are structured in a way that you can also increase the speed of making customer driven change …remove silos through an Agile structure and way of working…then you will truly be differentiating in the market.

Ed Capaldi: I left university having studied Toyota Quality Management, then joined the leader in deploying cloud solutions back in 1998, where we were playing with certain approaches such as XP. In other words, as an agnostic I have always merged the two; my work is with the C level and turning annual budget and strategic cycles into 90 day sprints. I’ll use Agile as a mindset, OKRs and Scrum as accelerators as long as we are laser focused on removing all waste in the system in order to achieve maximum value and achieve class leading profitability, without which it’s impossible not to have awesome employee engagement.

InfoQ: What have you learned during the transformation?

Snowdon: It’s not easy….

  • You have to ensure you engage the Business in the design of Tribes, Squads, and also in the setting of the Objectives Key Results. (OKRs). You can’t do it to them, they have to be involved from the start.
  • Having a set rules of design principles made it easier to put people’s mind at rest re "losing control", as we are actually strengthening controls (making more data available, more frequently, and closer to where the decisions are made).
  • Ensure that the Agile Manifesto reflects our Organization’s vision and values is key…as people can relate to it better, and understand why we need to focus on one thing over another.
  • You will not get your theoretical design perfect in reality from day one…people take time to change…so look for marginal improvements at the beginning…ie a 15 min daily scrum is difficult to grasp when you’ve only had monthly meetings that last two hours…transition your way to the desired behavior, don’t demand to see it overnight…but put a "realistic" timeline in place to see it happen.

Capaldi: I have done many, and every one is different. The biggest learning came from my partner in crime, Arie van Bennekum: agile is a journey, we all know that, but just because it may work in one country does not mean you can cookie cut the transformation when you transform another country. You MUST start from scratch, but with a lot more understanding under your belt. Never assume that what worked in Dubai will work in Egypt or India or Germany. I will not assume anything; each transformation, even in a global business, will be treated differently. On a lighter note, I love guiding my clients in understanding the original Agile Manifesto and rewriting it to suit their culture, and their vision.

InfoQ: If you had a second chance to do it, what would you keep and what would you do differently?

Capaldi: These days, budget permitting, I would always start with three months of rolling out The Five Dysfunctions of a team, and having war rooms from the outset.

Snowdon: Definitely keep the Mashreq’s version of the Agile Manifesto…make it your own… I’d refer to it more however, especially in the first 12 months….i.e reminding people what’s important and why we are doing this. It helps when people get a bit blinkered into their OKR delivery.

Maintain structure of monthly Agile Committee meetings to discuss blockages and progress at Exco and Snr Mgt level.

Setting better timelines for evidence of behavioural changes…ie if a Tribe or Squad is still having 10 OKRs to try and deliver in a Sprint…force better prioritzation.

Be harsher in the "definition of done". Traditionally, we’ve used a RAG status on many projects (Red, Amber, Green) to break away from that, and state Red or Green (done or not done) is a mindset change as it removes the "comfort zone" of "not quite finished".

Quicker inclusion of Tech within actual Tribes…and not just Post Box individuals.

Ensure all Squad members have enough empowerment…and use it.

Rate this Article