Agile the hard way @ ASML

ASML veteran Arjan Martens aims for his contribution to the RTE Summit to be a personal narrative of regained focus, as well as a rallying cry to RTEs: “Stick to your principles. We need you. Don’t be swayed by corporate culture.”


With 15+ years of experience at ASML, today Arjan Martens is project manager at IBP&S, the division that handles the competitively crucial business of installed-base maintenance and upgrades for this global leader in semiconductor machinery manufacturing. It’s an unusual field for SAFe to thrive in: there aren’t that many companies that dare apply such a situationally adaptive approach to a multi-billion Euro hardware development process.


ASML First-hand experience

“I experienced first-hand how ASML grew from a start-up to a global giant. In the early days we were ‘agile’ by nature; agile before Agile emerged. We’ve rediscovered enough of the focus we had then to make work enjoyableagain. It’s been a rough ride though: something I want to help others avoid.”



“Loss of focus isn’t an overnight thing. It creeps up on you in small steps, until you look around you and realize no one is concerned with the end product anymore. Everyone is focused on their own, tiny deliverable; everyone is safely parked inside their own role. Everyone sees their attention, their passion splintered into projects – and my own work added to that division: an endless repetition of ‘scope, effort, resources’. It has little to do with working towards a shared vision anymore… it’s fire-fighting more than anything else.”


Focus regained

“Implementing SAFe brought us closer to working on products again, rather than deliverables. Today we can sometimes identify people with end-to-end responsibilities again. Predictability of our output and throughput have risen spectacularly: up to 70% predictably from a disheartening 30-40% or so – I admit we didn’t track these things earlier – which is enough in itself to prove the point, perhaps.”


There’s more to come

“So this was some the firefighting we came from, and this is the clarity we have again today.What remains is the crucial story of how we went from one to the other. The hesitance, the cold feet. The assignment of new roles and shedding of illusions. I’ll go in to that further in my contribution at the event.”


Message of encouragement

Arjan sees a bright future for the corporate environment, he says – provided the lessons of Agile prevail. He has a strong message of encouragement for the RTE: “Don’t let yourself be influenced by company culture. Stick to your principles and theory. Instead of managing budgets, we need to start managing people again. You’re here to learn how and show others. We need you.”


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