Anti-Pattern: Cargo-Cult Agile

Cargo-Cult Agile adoption describes a situation where the organization is applying some Agile practices, but doesn’t possess the right degree of understanding of the principles and logic behind them.

(The term Cargo Cult originally occurred with respect to actual religious cults that emerged in less developed societies as they encountered significantly more advanced ones. The classic example references Melanesians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as they adopted a religious practice of building wooden airplane runways to “summon” the airplanes that bring prosperity – the “cargo”.)

Cargo-Cult Agile is often a result of a combination of factors, such as:

  • Reductionist Mentality
  • Improper education in terms of principles or lack of such education in the first place
  • Lack of effective feedback cycles

Cargo-Cult Agile prevents the organization from effectively evolving their practices to respond to new challenges and achieve new organizational performance objectives. Addressing Cargo-Cult Agile implementation may involve properly training people (while being aware of Over-reliance on Training) and most importantly, building Embedded Mental Models around every key practice. Practice Maps can be used to determine the strategy for addressing the problem.