When there is resistance to being Agile or doing best Agile Practices, “Pragmatism” is usually used as an excuse to skip important practices or disciplines, or due to lack of knowledge.
For example, “We are going to skip the Retrospectives because we are under the pump and we need to be pragmatic”
In this example, the work is seen to be important, and the retrospective is not. So it is dropped.
Why is this bad? Retrospectives are a way to look back on the work done in the past sprint and see how it can be done better. If they are dropped, then you loose the learning part of Agile, which is one of the main parts of Agile.
It could also mean your retrospectives are not bringing value. If that is the case, another format may be in order.
Another example of pragmatism being used for skipping important practices and disciplines is skipping planning sessions.
“We already know what we are doing, so we don’t need to plan”
This can happen in a “Command and Control” type structure, the person giving the orders doesn’t need to plan as he is giving the orders to those below him. This again isn’t agile, just another excuse for cowboy practices but of a different kind.
There is minimal team involvement, which can lead to people “switching off” as they have no say or control.
Another way pragmatism can be used as an excuse is to “Brute Force” the work.
“We have 50 servers to set up, we don’t have time to automate, we have to do it manually”.
At the end of the 50 servers installed, you have no automation. Something else will come up preventing you from automating, and the next time you have to provision another 50 servers, that will be done manually too and so on and so forth. This is what I like to call the death spiral of work.
At the moment, I have no answers on how to get around the “Pragmatism” argument, especially if you have no authority. I would recommend education, but even that isn’t a guarantee as those resistant are less likely to be open enough to be educated.