Archive for the ‘Alistair Cockburn’ Category

2011 agile conference kind of live – session 1

August 8, 2011

Howdy – i am being chaotic a bit and publishing unedited notes. See how it goes. 🙂

In “Becoming Agile in an Imperfect World” as first session. So many sessions I want to attend – so difficult to decide. So many folks love to talk with for hours. Ran into Alistair Cockburn and Ghennipher Weeks on the way in; great breakfast conversation with strangers.

10am: Looking at chart in this session talking about initial spike of happiness, then resistance and chaos. We “just need to know have tools to get out of it.”. Must do homework upfront and work on organizational impediments like no collaboration, like too many concurrent projects and multi- tasking.

(Thinking of Dept. Defense as the ultimate in h2ofall but they here!)

11:30 Pick shorter projects, pick lower priority projects so comfortable if don’t succeed. (But doubting on “agile lifecycle” a little. They are not advising purity. )

Customers may derail agile adoption. (Should they be exposed to sausage-making?)

ikiwisi – I’ll know it when I see it

Standardizing processes a demand? Just standardize values and principles.

For roll-outs: Iterate into small VALUE based increments. Collaborative, evolutionary, integrated, adaptive, encompassing. Embrace change to deliver customer value, plan and deliver often, human centric, excellent work, collaboration with business people.

Have retrospectives every month.

Modeled on the Tipping Point.

1 collaborative – enhancing communication and collaboration.

When people get the value they get they rituals.

11:54 implementing in fortune 20 company – Ahmed Sidkey mentions a focus NOT on practices but just on collaboration. Main issue is “we think we know” in development. And business people think ” well they did not ask me.”. People don’t talk to each other.

12 pm How does this relate to our companies. My thought – is there a roll for some design upfront? Purists may object…

On this chart see “Cockburn” level 2 and 3 people? Means ha and ri? For third iteration.

Mindset surveys – I think some people are not that interested in process. They just want to do the work. Some process improvement stuff may seem nerdy to these people. Sometimes awareness comes across as nerdy: hyper self focused and not other-aware. Low social skill.

To combat?

Inspire people. – make it real and tangible.

1 make a specific goal
adoption schedule specific
don’t try to achieve all benefits immediately
Reduce WIP – so people dont waste time re- orienting
2 make it personal – benefits financial
Don’t be pie in sky
3 shape path make it easier
( for people who think we are being nerdy – how to handle?)

Prioritize the workstream.

Losing job security if you give up command and control.

At the end collected feedback. Inspect and Adapt!


I’m Not Gonna Force Agile On You

March 31, 2011

I had the experience recently of encountering Fear and Loathing of Agile in a few people.  It made me realize that in my writing this deck for executives how important it is to understand that everyone wants process; they just don’t want your process.  Kind of like religion. They worry you’ll try to convert them to something that goes against everything they stand for. And ironically that, I believe, is at the heart of why an Agile approach actually can work better.  It allows for room for your process.

I’m picking on Dr. Alistair Cockburn this time because I’m finding the material I need to accomplish this end.  From this page on his site, “Balancing Lightness and Sufficiency”: (more…)

Is Agile Communist?

March 27, 2011

Whenever we start talking about “collectives” and not being completely in the realm of the individual, we inevitably see comparisons to Communism.

So I found this very interesting article written in 2007 called “Does XP/Scrum Violate the ‘Agile Manifesto?’” written by an anonymous blogger who refers to themselves as the “Software Maestro.” (I have not delved more deeply into this blog to figure out if they de-cloaked at any point).  I also found this article, on, also from 2007, which argues back in a very cogent, unemotional, way.

Ramses II photo by Iamimesis

Ramses II photo by Iamimesis

Software Maestro’s article aligning Agile with Communism should be considered as its very interesting viewpoint starts to pierce some of this puzzling over leadership and the role of the individual within the Agile world.  It’s back to the Big Idea, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and the need for leadership and vision for the team.  Who gets to have a vision?  Just the Product Owner? Just the Master? Just Steve Jobs?  Just George Lois? And so on. (more…)

SEMAT, Mastery, and Human Factors

February 5, 2011

In my links-to-links-to-links exploration, which I think of as fractal (but had a debate with PhD-types who felt that this is not true – but more about that in another thread), I came across this discussion of the “Software Engineering Method and Theory initiative” (SEMAT).

It seems what they are up to (again) is creating a meta-process for designing/developing software.  Digging into it, I found their manifesto (you have to scroll a little on their page to see it in context):

Call for Action

Software engineering is gravely hampered today by immature practices. Specific problems include:

  • The prevalence of fads more typical of fashion industry than of an engineering discipline.
  • The lack of a sound, widely accepted theoretical basis.
  • The huge number of methods and method variants, with differences little understood and artificially magnified.
  • The lack of credible experimental evaluation and validation.
  • The split between industry practice and academic research.

We support a process to refound software engineering based on a solid theory, proven principles and best practices that:

  • Include a kernel of widely-agreed elements, extensible for specific uses
  • Addresses both technology and people issues
  • Are supported by industry, academia, researchers and users
  • Support extension in the face of changing requirements and technology

People involved in creating this are great thinkers – out of laziness I am paraphrasing below from Wikipedia:

  • Ivar Jacobson: a Swedish computer scientist, known as major contributor to UML, Objectory, RUP and aspect-oriented software development.  (He claims to be the “Father of UML” on Twitter…)
  • Bertrand Meyer: an early proponent of Object-Oriented Programing and a proponent of (gasp) of the ideal of simple, elegant and user-friendly computer languages (I thought Basic was pretty simple and elegant, but I’m not a Master).
  • Richard Soley: lead the development of a standard called the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) which enables software components written in multiple computer languages and running on multiple computers to work together (i.e., it supports multiple platforms).

Some people I admire a lot have also signed:

  • Ken Schwaber: co-codifier of Scrum with Jeff Sutherland (don’t see Jeff on the signatory list)
  • Ed Yourdon: writer of Death March project management book.

What I found interesting is even in the language that they use in their communications is super-formal.  And it made me think if the language itself is not human-friendly, then a sense of rigidity sets in. A sense of “Well, we’re the experts, so don’t question us,” sets in.  What we seem to be up to here, we beings, is creating strong walls for reality to exist within. We’re denying the fractal nature of experience.

I found these critiques from Alistair Cockburn, Martin Fowler, and Kelly French.

Dr. Cockburn observes the effort is…

intended to generate support through appeal-to-authority, hype, and ambition

Later in his article he observes that ideas are not considered if not “widely accepted.”  This I think is at the heart of being closed-minded in some ways.  But it is a contradiction!  If thinking and writing are not peer-reviewed, how can they ever become “widely-accepted?”  And – is “widely accepted” such a good thing anyway? Seems like all those “widely-accepted” ideas get us into whole deep pots of hot water.  (Like – wasn’t Mubarak of Egypt “widely accepted?”)

Kelly French talks about how we want people to “fly right.” It’s such a great short post, I am tempted to copy the whole thing here – but will satisfy myself with:

While Extreme Programming hasn’t become the standard development model, that doesn’t mean it failed.  When the history of Software Development is written, XP will be given credit for re-introducing the most important factor; not tools nor process, but people.

For later – for me to handle in another post – she talks about the “dark side” of people. (What I’ll think about later is the dark side, “human nature?”, grasping, ignorance, and is there any “bad,” really?)

In his very short post, published just to explain why he didn’t get involved in SEMAT, Martin Fowler says:

I got the distinct impression that the central thrust of the initiative is to create a software meta-method-kernel – essentially a set of common process elements for software developments that you can rigorously compose into a method for your own project.

And this leads me back to the concept (and desire) to be peer-reviewed.  “Peer” reviewed.  Who gets to be a “peer?”  Who is an expert?  I say in another thread that it is a Master and someone who has “done” something. People who have shown the discipline and wherewithal to have spent time doing the homework and who, therefore, should be respected for their knowledge and opinions.  Otherwise, like artists who worked in the 80s rediscovering this little thing called “perspective” we just end up repeating thought patterns that these experts have already been down.

Or is this true?  Again, the student’s questions should be viewed with fresh eyes by the Master.  Was the Master really right? (correct?) The data seems to support the idea.  Could the data react differently in different circumstances? With the causes and conditions changed?  When we include the human factor?