There was one moment that convinced us Ann Arbor was going to make it through the birth canal as a growing tech hub, and that was when Ford decided to locate a new agile software consultancy, FordLabs, in Ann Arbor, to recruit University of Michigan software development talent to help make the 100-year-old automaker more agile and lean. Where Ann Arbor’s arts and tech culture meet the automotive giants of Detroit, FordLabs sits at the crossroads, not just of shifting best practices but of time. John Handy, Office Director of FordLabs who welcomed us in with several other key players in the organization for a tour, told us this is really nothing new. People forget, ourselves included, that lean startup culture was in part born here in Detroit, in lean manufacturing.
Tom Meloche, a long-time agile programming advocate recalls: “We taught the first class with ‘agile’ in the title in the tri-state area, maybe in the country,” he says. “We tested the word agile in advertising instead of extreme programming, and it worked better. Now the word is overused, but that’s what people are searching on.”