Agile practices without an agile mindset = Cargo cult agile

Agile value: Working software over comprehensive documentationbinary-code-475664_1920

Something similar to Cargo cult science, seems to be happening with the way the Agile is being implemented in projects. Cargo cult science is a phrase describing practices that have the semblance of being scientific, but do not in fact follow the scientific method.( Here is a link to  more detailed description of   Cargo cult science )

Projects are implementing Agile practices ( Daily stand ups, User stories, retrospectives, Work in process limits et al) without fully understanding and embracing the Agile mindset. An Agile mindset is an absolute must for these practices to succeed and for projects to experience the full benefits of Agile.Without an Agile mindset, an Agile equivalent of Cargo cult science occurs, and these projects risk becoming Agile in name only. So, what is an agile mindset and how do teams get an Agile mindset.

A mindset is a set of attitudes held by someone based on what they value.  And, the  Agile mindset is a set of attitudes held by agile teams based on the values in the ” Manifesto for Agile software development” which states:

” We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value :

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more”

The Agile manifesto describes eight aspects of work as being valuable, with the items on the left being more valuable than items on the right. To ensure teams apply the agile practices effectively in different project situations, teams need to understand : why each of these items is valuable, why items on the left are more valuable, and why items of the right are still valuable. This understanding helps teams build an agile mindset. And an agile mindset ensures teams do agile right, instead of ending up with cargo cult agile, which has all the trappings of agile but isn’t the real deal.

To get teams started on building an agile mindset and  doing agile right, here is a table that lays out the relative value of the eight items that make up the agile manifesto.

Items on the left Why they are more valuable Items on the right Why they are still valuable
Individuals and interactions Because that is the most effective way of getting complex work done, with individuals interacting with one another to share information, solve problems and find solutions. Processes and tools Because processes and tools, provide the structure and the means for interactions to take place.
Working software Because that is the ultimate purpose of the project – deliver working software through which the business realizes the return on its project investment. Comprehensive documentation Because to build working software you need to convey complex ideas. Documentation enables the articulation and sharing of complex ideas to analyze, design, build, test, deploy and operate working software.
Customer collaboration Because it allows teams to build and deliver software that aligned with business needs. Contract negotiation Because, sometimes to facilitate effective collaboration, a formal contract is necessary.
Responding to change Because responding to change ensures the plans are adjusted in response to changing needs. Following a plan Because following a plan ensures, the project delivers working software in the most efficient and effective way.

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