Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cargo Cult Agile

It is instructive to consider human tendency towards magical thinking that finds a wonderfully didactic expression in Cargo Cults.

Magical thinking fundamentally expresses faith that performance of certain rituals alters the status of the actor and can confer benefits that are not correlated with the substance of the ritual itself.
It is not difficult to find many examples where application of Agile is an exercise in ritualistically following the form rather than focusing on substance.

The original intent of Agile was to redress the balance of power between managers/stakeholders and engineers, affording more power to the latter, and achieving better results & productivity through their empowerment.

But it is not uncommon today to find instances where Agile became co-opted as just another mechanism of control, without altering the power equation, and rests on what amounts to a magical belief that by performing formal ceremonies and rituals of Agile, the benefits will accrue even if such performance is entirely divorced from its underlying rationale.

The very same powers that demanded of engineers compliance with rigors of waterfall-style development, simply switched the rulebook and now demand compliance with the rigors of Agile. Such hollowed-out Agile practice remarkably resembles the cargo cults I referred to at the start.