Chat with Alistair Cockburn about 10 years of Agile and more

Chris and Alistair CockburnThe photo here is a picture of Alistair Cockburn and me earlier this week (it was taken on my iPhone and its bit blurred due to poor lighting).   A few colleagues and I had the opportunity to have a hour chat with Alistair.

We started with one of my colleagues asked Alistair about what were the main points of contention amongst the signatories of the Agile Manifesto, that couldn’t be mutually agreed?  (e.g. promoting specific practices or techniques in one discipline over another).  This was an interesting question and the response was equally interesting.  Alistair said the creation of the 4 values was easy and all parties agreed quickly as they all had a common belief.  However, there were a lot of disagreements when forming the 12 principles as each method (Scrum, XP, Crystal, ASD, DSDM etc) had differences.  In the end, the original signatories agreed to disagree and finally settled on the 12 principles as you see them today after much debate.  Each wanted to go their own way to build their brand and increase market share.  You can see how some Agile certifications are part of building that brand (as well as making money).  As a result of the diversity of each method they couldn’t find enough common ground to go to a third level of detail of the Agile Manifesto.

Hearing Alistair talk about the creation of the Agile Manifesto was a good segue into a question I had – I asked Alistair to provide a brief summary of Snowbird 10 and his thoughts of the event.  He started off by saying holding it anywhere else but Snowbird Ski Resort, Utah where it all began, would not be the same.  Besides the original signatories, he also invited CTOs from Rally and VersionOne and Lean proponents  (e.g. Alan Shalloway, David Anderson).  The Vice President of PMI was also invited, but unfortunately couldn’t make it.

It seemed many good discussions were had at the gathering.  There was a lot of discussion around the concept of leadership in the Agile community and that the Agile Alliance needed to do more in this regard.   Another discussion was around Agile needing to exit the world of software and become more enterprise wide and across the entire organization.  It was also interesting to hear that there was a small contingent of people at the event who wanted to go and create a new Manifesto of some sort.

Other topics we talked about included how important it is to increase collaboration between people and across the enterprise and that is imperative that we have a continuous flow of value.  One point Alistair did make towards the end of our chat was that Agile was becoming too prescriptive.  I couldn’t agree more – teams and organizations I have assessed or come across have very prescriptive Agile approaches which is ironically not very Agile in my opinion.  I am finding that I have to coach teams to think for themselves and stop ‘doing’ Agile.  I might blog about this more in the future.

I would like to close and thank Alistair.  He was great to talk with, very insightful and he was very generous with his time to have a chat with us.

Here’s a few related links on Snowbird 10 that you might be interested in –

2 Comments on “Chat with Alistair Cockburn about 10 years of Agile and more”

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