And I finally made the connection....
What do you do when your team/company is all excited to be “agile”, while your customers want to operate in the traditional, heavy-weight, documentation-driven approach? ... In most cases it turns out that they don’t trust the software team and hence they want to push all the risk to the software development side.
-- I Say Agile, You Say Traditional, Document-Driven
Ceremony is the cost of doing business in an environment without trust. Agile is efficient because trust allows us to eliminate ceremonies of security/CYA/blame/risk-shifting, which waste resources.
The word "ceremony" as used in Agile circles could almost be glossed as "institutionalized Muda (waste)". As an anthropologist, I think of it from the perspective of Durkheim: He saw religion as a mechanism that shored up or protected a threatened social order.
For example, estimates "cast in stone" are sympathetic magic, telling a highly structured story in the hope of imposing certainty on a situation involving major unknown risks. Estimates in a traditional environment are not a tool but a prayer - or an oath.
I will not identify the customer or the consulting company I'm subcontracting through. Not for any reasons of trade secrets or confidentiality, but because of this:
The customer's dress code is the new biz casual - i.e., jeans, polo shirts and sneakers are fine for everyone. The consultancy requires us to wear the old biz casual - no jeans, no sneakers, dress shirts. I was told this is because we want to impress the customer by being "a level above them".
Consistent so far.
But then - we have casual Fridays! Not the customer - they're always casual. Just the "one-level up" consultants.
... but because we really care about all our ... uh ... development associates ... , no beatings on Friday.
I won't believe a consulting company is Agile as long as it carries the baggage of the Old Biz Religion.
[UPDATE: see the clarification.]