Don't be a monkey - think why over how?

After World War II, some South Pacific islandians transformed a practice and lost focus on the principle behind it. Practices for planning multi-million dollar portfolios, programmes, releases or sprints without understanding the principles behind collaborative agility is one of the core curse and a considerable agile lament.


During the war - people had seen large cargo planes attracted to small landing strips, bringing food and survival kit in bulk from the sky. Once the war ended, these apparently supernatural creatures took away the foreigners and never returned with more provisions.


The locals had seen the foreigners and their way of attracting the cargo to be delivered. They cleared landing strips out of the dense jungles, lined them with lights, prepared control towers  and sat in them speaking into radios conjured the planes to land and listening on headphones for signs of the cargo’s return.

But their microphones were bamboo, their radios straw, and their headphones were made of coconut shells. And so the planes never came back. They were certain they were doing everything right, it looked just the way it looked before, but something was missing. They said the same incantations (what I completed yesterday, what I intend to do today and any blockers, sad-mad-glad …) into the mics connected to their radios, but the planes never returned with the cargo.

And just like the people on these islands, many organizations keep practicing cargo cult agile and lean practices; they follow all the apparent steps like daily stand-ups, sprint planning, retrospectives, release planning, work in progress limits (WIP limits) and many more. However, they’ve missed something essential (the principles) and the planes never land.

Practices for planning multi-million dollar portfolios, programmes, releases or sprints without understanding the principles behind collaborative agility is one of the core curse and a considerable agile lament.

Next time you sit down and try to play planning poker (at any level) - ask the group of ‘Why are we showing the choice of points together?’. Similar to my shocking experience, you might enjoy that painful silence followed by the cargo cult answers.

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Thank you very much for the insights and suggestions.

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