Many large organizations have attempted to adopt agile development methodologies to increase efficiency and productivity. However, there is a growing concern that a trend of agile “cargo cultism” is happening in these organizations, decreasing the value of the development.

Cargo cultism refers to the practice of mimicking the superficial aspects of a process or system without genuinely understanding its underlying principles or rationale. In the case of Agile, this can manifest as companies adopting agile terminology and team structures without genuinely embracing the values of the Agile Manifesto or understanding the nuances of how agile methodologies operate.

One of the primary concerns with agile cargo cultism is that it can lead to a focus on process and terminology rather than actual results. For example, a company that adopts agile methodologies but fails to incorporate continuous delivery or DevOps practices may find that they are less efficient or productive than before — they have given their process a new name and framework. This anti-pattern can lead to frustration and disillusionment among development teams who should “be Agile” without understanding how it should work.

Another issue with agile cargo cultism is that it can lead to a siloed approach to development. Because agile methodologies are often associated with cross-functional teams and frequent feedback cycles, organizations that adopt these practices without genuinely understanding them may fragment their development teams further. For example, a company that tries to incorporate agile methodologies but fails to align product management or testing functions with development teams may slow down their development process and decrease the value of its products.

Ultimately, the problem with agile cargo cultism is that it treats agile methodologies as a cure for all development inefficiencies. Rather than genuinely embracing the values of the Agile Manifesto and tailoring agile practices to their organization’s specific needs, companies may superficially adopt agile methods to appear more efficient or modern. This approach may decrease the value of development by leading to confusion, inefficiency, and frustration among development teams.

In conclusion, it is essential for organizations to truly understand and embrace the principles of agile development to achieve their goals. Adopting agile practices for the sake of buzzwords and surface-level efficiencies may lead to decreased value in the long run. Organizations can drive real value and high-quality outcomes by genuinely embracing the Agile mindset and working closely with development teams to tailor Agile practices to their specific context.

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