One of the accusations that gets levelled at agile/lean enthusiasts is that they seem to have “got religion”. It’s an interesting metaphor, in that it focuses on one aspect of religious behaviour: the evangelistic, animated, passionate guy who wants everyone to know what he has learned and feel what he feels. Sure, that guy can be irritating, especially if he’s got a megaphone on a major crossing when you’re trying to get to work* but let’s be honest, this behaviour isn’t dangerous and it’s often actually beneficial.
There are other forms of behaviour we associate with religion, however, and some are dangerous and positively insidious. I’m thinking here of the guys who went after Galileo. This behaviour starts from a set of assumptions and seeks to conform the world to those assumptions. Received wisdom is treated as authoritative and inconvenient facts are either ignored, suppressed or co-opted into the world view. Dissenting views are regarded as things to be eliminated. Thankfully, these days we prefer insults thinly disguised as humour and negative performance reviews to thumbscrews, but these behaviours are nonetheless corrosive.
Personally, I think we’ve all got our little religions, whether they’re lean processes, time to market, PRINCE2 or constructor injection. Belief itself is pretty neutral. The question is whether our beliefs, and our behaviours, make us better, or make us worse.
*If you’re wearing a cowboy hat right now, yes, I am talking about you.