Agile as Religion

For the sake of full disclosure I am not a big fan of organized religion. I truly believe that each and every individual has their own needs when it comes to “spiritual” matters and there are many ways to achieve the basic human need to feel connected to our fellow humans and the universe as a whole. Perhaps this is what has me cautious about the state of Agile today in that it taking the appearances of a religion or cult. Like many religions the actual meaning behind the religion are lost and all that remains is a slavish flowing of fundamentalist dogma (words taken as literal truth) and ceremony. Agile says that we need to do this so we had better do this before someone calls us out as heathens.

One of the really irritating thing for me is when Agilistas talk wistfully about their brush with greatness as in I was at the Agile conference and actually touched the cloak of (enter your favorite Agile deity here). Hey, I can respect these guys, but they are like all humans fallible. They may have put forth some great ideas, but quoting a source by authority alone is a weak argument. To be an effective argument one must not only quote a chosen one, but also give evidence as to why this particular bit of wisdom is applicable to whatever context one finds oneself.

I recently read a blog by Keith McMillan about this –  called Process as Religion or How Agile will Fail. I don’t throw his name around because he is one of the anointed disciples, but merely to give him due credit. I quote:

When agile fails, it will fail for one of two reasons. Either because we’ve lost the battle to keep the process minimal, and we’ve now got some bloated monstrosity; or enough practitioners will have become so dogmatic in our belief in Scrum (or XP, or whatever) gives us all the answers, that we fail to think about what’s the right thing for this project. When that happens, and we fail because we didn’t do what was right for this project, the powers that be will conclude “well, agile doesn’t work” and we’ll be on to the next process.

And Keith is not alone in his assessment. I have read a number of blogs, especially from the front line developers who have to live with Agile, about how Agile has been elevated to a religion. Hell, maybe it should be a religion, but like all religions it can only survive if it can be utilized and adapted to cover my day to day context. Without context, without original thought, Agile is doomed to die or be folded into the next new religion.

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