Rituals and Religion

From an e-mail I received a year ago:

What does that actually mean? It means facilitating the “rituals” that
are part of an agile team’s work (e.g. the daily stand-ups, the
sprint planning meetings, retrospectives, etc.) and continually facilitating
the team’s discovery of improving the way they work.

What is the difference between a software process and a religion? Nothing.

I’m cool with software process, just like I believe in God.

I hate named software process because, like organized religion, it’s full of theology removed from reality, practice without the empiricism, theory without the application. When you show them empirical evidence on the consequence (or outright failure) of one of their particular rituals, they’re quick to maneuver with the words, “That’s ‘big A Agile.’ I’m not talking about that, I’m ‘little A Agile.’” (Whatever the fuck that is.)1

You can’t pin them down because they actually stand for nothing—there is no “there” there. It is the natural result of adapting a process that originated to allow sub-1000 page software consulting contracts with Fortune 500 multinational industrials in the 80’s and 90’s and blindly applying it to a shoe-string funded startups over a full decade after the dotCom crash in non-enterprise consumer-facing Internet whose entire business is software. Two different worlds; two different failure costs; one would assume that there would be two different names for two different software processes.

Instead there are hundreds of different processes all under the “little A agile” banner. And they look not alike at all. To watch the rhetorical hoops these agile adherents go through to call it “all agile” would be amusing if it wasn’t so unnecessary.

When I was a kid at evangelical summer camp, there was a parable I heard the counselor’s tell:

A man gets the opportunity to visit Heaven and Hell. He visits Hell first and meets Satan and asks, “Do you have any Catholics here?”

Satan responds, “Oh yes, we have a lot of them.”

“Presbyterians?”

“Yep!“

“Baptists?”

“Them too!”

And so on, listing every denomination and finding them well-represented in Hell.

Depressed he goes to Heaven and chats with Saint Peter. “Do you have Catholics in Heaven?”

“No,” Peter says.

“Prebyterians?”

“No, none of those.”

“Baptists?”

“No.”

And so on. Exasperated, the man asks Peter, “Well then what do you have in Heaven?”

“Christians.” Peter responds.

Catholicism is Scrum; Presbyterian is Extreme Programming; Baptists is Kanban. I suppose Hell is the dead-pool, Heaven is getting a getting funded or IPO2, and Martin Fowler is Saint Peter.3 It reads the same.

“Little A Agile”: the “non-denominational Christians” of the software process religions. If it works, it’s “Agile.” And if it fails to get you to Internet Heaven?4

Oh, that shit is “big A Agile.”


  1. If your process is defined by the outcome alone, then it is useless in a business setting. 
  2. A successful exit, in life or startups. :-) 
  3. Does that make me Satan? 
  4. The goal is to have an lucrative exit so you can blog about how hard it is to be a Founder and tweet about your First World problems. 

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