Agile - Cult or Culture?
Updated: Sep 10
Ideology is to real organizational change as religious instruction is to real spiritual development. You may start with the former but the latter won’t happen without a reliance on direct experience. A consultant may say: do this, trust me, it works. That can be a way to get people started on a journey of discovery. A good coach or spiritual guide will follow up with: don’t take my word for it; try it and see for yourself. The specific problem with agile, like any other complex organizational transformation, is that it can’t be fully implemented locally without significant shifts globally. The benefits rely on a change of mindset and possibly of heart to drive behavioral and process change throughout the organization. Sadly, this appears to be developmentally out of reach of most large organizations, late adopters, and even individuals. It’s tempting and perhaps accurate to say agile fails in these situations. I’d say it would be useful to recognize that from another point of view it can be seen as a huge and complex challenge that surpasses our determination, creativity, adaptability, and staying power. Cultural change, when it’s possible at all within a going concern, takes time. And like any situation in complexity, it doesn’t respond to a cookbook. Geof Ellingham says "We need to talk about... the cult of Agile."