Alistair Cockburn

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One evening in Nice.jpg

“Alistair Cockburn is not just a methodologist, he is the only methodologist with the clarity of mind to set the standards for the rest of us.” – J. D. Krise (CSM, CSPO, PMP)

“AdvancedAgile with @TotherAlistair is like walking in as an agile Jedi then some dude with pointy horns pulls a double ended light sabre.” – Todd.

“Dare to explore new ideas.” – Julio Gonzales.

Katherine Hepburn : “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

Mark Twain : “When I build a fire under a person, I do not do it merely because of the enjoyment I get out of seeing him fry, but because he is worth the trouble. It is then a compliment, a distinction; let him give thanks and keep quiet. I do not fry the small, the commonplace, the unworthy.” (Mark Twain, 2011 centennial autobiography edition, p221)

Welcome to the garden of memes. With over 3,000 pages: articles, blog posts, poems, videos, lectures, discussions, discussions: a labyrinth of criss-crossing paths for your enjoyment. Some random, some fun, some serious; some photos, some videos, some poems, some article, some notes to myself. “Get Lost!” as they say. (Oh, p.s., just found for origin of the surname Cockburn)

See also How to use this site (discussion: Re: How to use this site) and Interesting tricks for this site (discussion: Re: Interesting tricks for this site).

And for a slightly different and fun way to browse the site, let Google Search pull up the images for you:
on Twitter & Facebook: @TotherAlistair

Dr. Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn, the Scottish way) is an internationally renowned project witchdoctor and IT strategist, best known for

Recent interests:

Alistair at Ponyfish Island Melbourne 2013.png Deception is a word (discussion: Re: Deception is a word) (poem) Ri 0.gif My recent (only) Ri (discussion: Re: Shu Ha Ri) tattoo Knowledge acquisition curve.png Disciplined Learning (discussion: Re: Disciplined Learning)
Hexagonal architecture basic.gif Hexagonal architecture (discussion: Re: Hexagonal architecture) being read and referenced (eg here, here, and here). Alistair in mountains 2013-07.png Me pi as pm magic number.png The magic of pi for project managers (discussion: Re: The magic of pi for project managers)

Only e.e.cummings is mindmap.png The poem “Only e.e.cummings is (discussion: Re: Only e.e.cummings is)

The Heart of Agile Technical Report.pdf (discussion: Re: The Heart of Agile Technical Report.pdf)Articles06/27/1604/04/18 09:38AlistairTidiededit
Re: Oath of Non-Allegiance12/04/1704/09/18 10:02CleberChangededit
Re: Oath of Non-Allegiance12/04/1704/10/18 14:07CESAR ANDRADE VChangededit
Re: Oath of Non-Allegiance12/04/1704/11/18 18:29sherief awadChangededit
Re: Oath of Non-Allegiance12/04/1704/17/18 10:40Luke HiesterChangededit

An alternate photo of me:

Alistair at Agileee Kiev 2011.png

Alistair photo 2003 PhD small 050.png

A Goal (1) pictorial.jpg
The poem A Goal (1) (discussion: Re: A Goal (1)) in pictorial format.

“Computers must support the way in which people naturally and comfortably work. This is needed both for personal job satisfaction and for corporate survival. I care about whether the team is thriving, and whether the software is being delivered. Keeping the people trained and the process light are key to both.” (written in 1991, still applicable)

Other videos:


Hello Dr. Cockburn

My name is Ivonne Flores and I’m a software engineering’s master degree student from Mexico.
I am working on a research in the field of agile methods focusing in the importance of the human factor within the software development process.

The main hypothesis of this research is to determine if software developers in Mexico are indeed prepared to succesfully adopt and take advantage of the benefits of agile methodologies in the process of software development, in spite of our generalized lack of a healthy organizational culture and organizational values.

After reading your article entitled “Agile Software Development: The people factor”, I could understand some of the desired characteristics that an agil’s development team members should bear. Unfortunately, i’m not totally clear at that.

My purpose is to make a comparison between characteristics from Mexican developers against those of the ideal agil development team and get a conclusion.

At this point of my research i have got a profile of the generic mexican developer, who appear to be obedient, cordial, moderate, neat, adaptable, indulgent, respectful and sometimes purposeless.

After all this introduction i am willing to ask you What is the ideal profile for the members of an agile development team?.

I sincerely appreciate the attention and time that you spend at reading and replying this message.
Thank you.


-by Ivonne Flores on 4/26/2010 at 3:27 PM

for Use Cases, see Use case questions (discussion: Re: Use case questions), and for Agile Contracts, see Agile contracts (discussion: Re: Agile contracts).

I recently read about this new agile methodology (well, again calling Agile a methodology itself may be problematic … anyways) ... its called PLAY BALL!
I read it twice and kind of think it is nothing but a modified version of Scrum and a little hypothetical in terms of 9 innings and all. Wanted to know your view point on the same.
-by Dinesh Madne on 12/24/2009 at 8:26 AM

Have you considered how Eliyahu Goldratt’s Theory of Contraints might be applied to Lean Manufacturing to try and increase the overall throughput of a software development organization? Just curious.
-by David Douglas on 1/29/2010 at 2:55 PM

Yes, indeed — see "Spending" Efficiency to Go Faster (discussion: Re: "Spending" Efficiency to Go Faster), which does just that. cheers – Alistair
-by Alistair on 1/30/2010 at 11:46 AM

What are your undergraduate degrees?
From which institution did you receive your doctorate and what was the subject of your dissertation?
-by Zarfman on 3/9/2010 at 10:12 PM

Hi, Evert, I moved your question to use case questions (discussion: Re: Use case questions). Alistair

Can anyone tell me where to buy a build server traffic light which will be connected to our TeamCity Build server?
Any suggestion and recommendation..
-by Build Traffic light on 9/15/2010 at 10:16 PM

I am a dinosaur of a software engineer that believes that computers are tools for enhancing the human experience.
I am impressed by your site. It is a pleasure to encounter someone in the field that looks at other aspects of life, not just the computing world.
-by oldsailor on 3/16/2011 at 9:17 AM

Hi oldsailor, many thanks for that kind note. obviously we agree on certain key things about computers and about life….

It’s has been quite a while from Case, or even when I interviewed at Evans and Sutherland. I came across your name for some reason and decided to give you a call (no phone number).
I am currently on a contract in LA, and then back to Rhode Island for a day job, while Amy and I try to get our company off of the ground.
So if you are bored, feel free to call my cell phone. You can find me on Linkedin or at
401 225 5297 cell

-by doug claflin on 4/1/2011 at 9:20 PM

Hey, Dude! I can STILL beat you at racquetball! ...snickering he lumbers back into his cave in the Boise foothills…
-by SteveBxBoise on 4/13/2011 at 12:29 AM

Hi, Steve, ... that would presuppose you ever beat me at racquetball :) ...Alistair, feigning early Alzheimers…
-by Alistair on 4/14/2011 at 9:41 PM

Hmmmm…. well… let’s call it a level playing field and try again to see who the victor is? I’m willing to risk it all to have the pleasure of your company on the court… (have you trained your sons in this martial art?)
-by SteveBxBoise on 7/27/2011 at 4:08 PM

Oh, yes, I taught them to feign Alzheimers early on. Although they’re not as good at it as I am.
-by Alistair on 7/29/2011 at 2:47 AM

Hi Alistair
Any thoughts on the Semat project? And are you part of it somehow?
Best wishes
-by René Johnsen on 2/18/2012 at 11:21 AM

Funny you should ask – a colleague just reminded me of that earlier today. Read A Detailed Critique of the SEMAT Initiative (discussion: Re: A Detailed Critique of the SEMAT Initiative)

Thanks for your reply and for the link! It somehow seems to me that your critique – which I find both interesting and necessary – is an inevitable consequence of the ways you on the one hand and the Semat founders on the other hand perceives software engineering methodology. While you seem to embrace centrifugal heterogenous chaos in the field (laissez-faire), they seem to want to play the role of the strict Kapellmeister focusing on the centripetal foundation of everything – the mother of all methods. No wonder you left the project! Hopefully both positions can add to the theory and practice of the field.
-by René Johnsen on 2/18/2012 at 9:03 PM

Thank you for that reply, René. Mary Shaw gave me the lovely distinction between something-engineering and engineering management. I specialize in engineering management, which is clear. The term something-engineering is still ambiguous, but should include the properties of the something being engineered. Bertrand Meyer is interested in the software-engineering (properties of the software). SEMAT is stuck in the middle.
I’ll move these comments to the SEMAT page in a bit. A Detailed Critique of the SEMAT Initiative (discussion: Re: A Detailed Critique of the SEMAT Initiative)
-by Alistair on 2/19/2012 at 12:12 PM

Thanks for all of your patience and hard work both prior to and during the Use Case Class this week.
-by Emmet Jones on 5/17/2012 at 1:16 AM

I am having problems finding where to order the nifty pack of cards. I would like 6 packs, if I can get them. That way I can share with the other people in our team, including Tom Holland.
Thanks, Emmet
-by Emmet Jones on 5/17/2012 at 3:34 PM

I probably have to update that page, Emmet – will post when I have it —— email me at so I can reply to you. thx for being in the class.

Dear Dr. Cockburn,
Please can you let me know your email address for I would like to speak to you with regards to an Agile forum that we are organizing.
Thanks !
-by Suchitra on 10/8/2012 at 3:06 PM

Hi, Suchitra – it is both in my comment immediately above your question and at the very top of this page! I don’t know how to make it more obvious! Looking forward to that email from you. Alistair
-by Alistair on 10/9/2012 at 7:58 AM

Dear Dr. Cockburn,
not everyone is capable of teaching even though they have the craziest phds. my lectures confused me all the time by using irrelevant examples and nonsense lengthy explanations.
But you taught me things with in an hour. Amazing. and Thank you 1000 times for saving my future. :)
hope to grab a beer or two one day. :D
All the best sir.
Thanks again

-by Jr Tuff Leo on 12/15/2012 at 2:10 PM

Hi, Phlip, I copied your question over to Use case questions (discussion: Re: Use case questions)

Hi, Andrew, I copied your question over to Use case questions (discussion: Re: Use case questions), where I answered it. Thanks for asking. Alistair

There is word or set of words that can describe the truth and beauty in your writing. The clarity in which you describe your insights is truly inspiring.

I read over 40 articles of yours today. I come away with five words. Lean forward and lift others.

-by rgostic on 11/1/2013 at 2:55 AM

thx. I am impressed by your stamina:). The purpose of me adding to this labyrinthic mine is for people like you to find things. So thank you, again.

-by Alistair on 11/2/2013 at 9:20 PM

You have made a great job and i find the use case modell very usefull but I’m sorry to say that your hompage is really ugly..

Have a nice on Cockburn!
x Mike

-by Mike on 11/5/2013 at 7:19 AM

haha! thx Mike, you’re not the first to say that :).

-by Alistair on 11/5/2013 at 5:07 PM

Did you ever take class at Ballet West in Salt Lake City?

-by Houston Allred on 3/6/2014 at 9:10 AM

Sure did. Good memory! :). And I recall a Houston Allred, iirc, who played piano and sang at the bar by the railroad station, went there w my sister Vivien and Michael Onstad. Alistair

Did you have a difficult time in high school with a last name like that?

Also thanks for helping us with our CS design final. Your insight into UML Design is highly valued.

-by Kody Laseter on 4/30/2014 at 12:17 PM

Kody : sure did. and in college. and actually ever since. People don’t really grow up, it turns out. And you’re welcome. cheers. Alistair

-by Alistair on 5/1/2014 at 2:30 AM

Mr. Alistair, how are you?

I just wanted to share with you a specific video in a series of videos from a kind of documentary in youtube, that I think you (and why not, many other people too) could find very interesting. You can find it there with the title “The Holographic Universe – 4 of 5 – Quantum Physics”.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us, I really appreciate it. Agile Software Development Book is a great guide in my professional life.

Best Regards!
(Pd. You must be an entp, as I do, and other best practitioners and business developers and philosophers, like Steve Jobs, Richard Feynman, Osho and many others…)

-by Ariel Altamirano on 7/25/2014 at 9:17 PM

Thank you Ariel… you are right I am entp:). well identified :). I will look at the video. I read the book “The Holographic Universe” when in came out long ago :). cheers, Alistair

-by Alistair on 7/26/2014 at 4:51 AM

Bo, esto es una mierda de pagina, sos una basura, a ver si explicas que mierda es tu modelo y no tengo que llerme las 100 paginas de mierda que defecaste.

-by Carlos Mangel on 10/8/2014 at 4:52 PM

Alistar -

I wanted to ask you what you thought about containers (docker for linux and spoon for Windows). I just learned of them yesterday, and since I’ve installed the studio and plugin.

They promise to allow applications to run in their own Virtual Machine context, in a ‘container’ but not requiring the entire kitchen sink, attic, basement, operating system a VM would typically bring.

I know you are very much into software design and planning theory, but the way I see it – containers are a major breakthrough regarding software testing strategies AND how people will be able to skip installation in the future. You can simply set up safe – re-usable containers with various ‘states’ of development that can easily be shared, tested, reviewed.

Am I losing my mind (or have I already lost it ! jk), or is this the greatest thing since sliced bread? what’s your take on containers. I started learning about them reading about Docker for Linux, but I see has a Microsoft solution.

I was watching that video of you in your kitchen and you were talking about developing software in a test/safe environment such that it could easily move over to production, when I read the following from spoon website docs , I immediately thought back to your comments- not sure what you were making, maybe you were washing dishes (everything matters)... Yeah, I think it was washing dishes.

from spoon docs: —begin paste—
With Spoon, testers can:

Run development code in a pre-packaged, isolated environment with software-configurable networking
Rapidly rollback changes and execute tests across a span of application versions and test environments
Test in multiple client, server, and browser environments concurrently on a single physical device
Accelerate test cycles by eliminating the need to install application dependencies and modify configuration

end paste—

So let me know what you WERE cooking, JUST KIDDING, but please do share a thought or two on the potential forthcoming impact containers might bring to how people develop, use and test software in light of these what I’d call lightweight virtual machines.

Maybe the ultimate is something closer to a fully FUNCTIONAL VM that is lightweight and portable that just comes with target software already set up. At THAT point, ‘state’ of the user session becomes PART of the software itself. I’m going to go pull a Mozilla container, enter a web form 1/2 – close it – reload the container and see if my user state info was persisted. Ok I’m digressing fast !

I’m hyper to begin with but I have coffee this morning so sorry for the long winded post.

Tim Miltz

-by Tim Miltz on 11/21/2014 at 2:04 AM

Whoops- apology on name – your name is unique to me – I see it’s Alistair.

By the way I see above I caught glimpse of The Holographic Universe. I got that book after reading The Dreaming Universe by Fred Alan Wolfe – I liked it so much I bought many from his bibliography in the back.

Talbot if I recall is Holographic Universe. From there, I found my way to David Bohm – I really liked Thought as a System. Bohm in so many ways brought back to life the Socratic method of dialogue BUT Bohm opened my eyes into what I’ll call ‘group think’ – I forget the page, maybe 192 ($c0) heh- on ‘proprioception of thought’ in ways I met my wife due to that, she liked my logo on my apartment front door ‘proprioception of thought – go for it’ but it has to do with the frank stark reality that thought is unable to really be objective about thought. I suppose it’s chicken and the egg, or you can’t make the hammer that will make more hammers with a hammer that doesn’t exist to begin with, would be NICE if one had a hammer to start with to prime it all. Hmm – raises questions on to that FIRST thought we have heh- never thought about that until this VERY instant.

Anyway though – Holographic Universe is a terrific one. I also got into Karl(k? ) Pribram – boy – some of his books were pricey- but Prigram believed that memory was holographic in nature. My FAVORITE thing to inherit from Bohm though is that a picture when torn you have isolated fragments – eh- isolated like containers as mentioned above, but when you shatter a holograph, EACH piece is a PART, not a fragment, and holds an image – each slightly distorted – but has an image of the whole. That kind of thinking changed my thinking. In fact ? Procedural imperative programming as I grew up with as a child in 1970’s ? is more like the partitive, and OOP ? or declarative where the forest MUST BE visible and viable ? is seemingly more holographic. Hmm.. Maybe there is yet a NEW paradigm in modelling thought that is more holographic such that OOP looks like fortran 77 procedural.

More coffee for me – lucky you – JUST KIDDING, I’ll refrain from posting until I have something I really want to pick you mind on, just wanted to correct your name there AND comment on Michael Talbot’s Holographic Universe. Looking back, I want MORE than Talbot offered but it’s a great starter in thinking – Bohm got me more into thinking about thinking. I like Cornel West’s line lately “Philosophy is about preparing to die”. MY I DIGRESS fast.

-by Tim Miltz on 11/21/2014 at 2:16 AM


Was the alternate photo of me meant to resemble Conan O’Brien. There is very strong resemblance.

-by Sam on 12/17/2014 at 6:18 PM


Was the alternate photo of me meant to resemble Conan O’Brien. There is very strong resemblance.

-by Sam on 12/17/2014 at 7:42 PM


I’ve noticed references to you in several c2 wiki pages about natural language used in OOP. You may be interested to figure out one of my projects, which attempts to demonstrate my internalized rules for type naming. I think the project reaches a definite set of principles.

Please see

-by Jeffrey on 1/2/2015 at 9:08 AM

Hi, Jeffrey, thanks I’ll look at that. In the meantime, the paper they are referencing is this: Using natural language as a metaphoric base for object-oriented modeling and programming (discussion: Re: Using natural language as a metaphoric base for object-oriented modeling and programming). Cheers, Alistair

Despite your obvious comfort with solving messy problems, are you ever slightly frustrated with the apparent flaws of natural language? As a programmer, I like natural language because it appears as an intuitive way to label complex entities, but its actually quite deceptive.

For example take the type name ‘StringBuffer’, it easily makes sense, but it could mean two things; ‘Buffer’ extends namespace ‘String’, or ‘Buffer of String elements’. I consider this a collision. This problem could be solved by inserting an underscore in the latter case, such as ‘Buffer_String’, rendering the name in a technically-sane fashion while utilizing the good stuff of English.

Unfortunately I cannot apply the underscore-method in practice, other programmer would think that this method is too ‘farfetched’, whatever that really means. But I often feel like programmers integrate natural language too far, that is totally fine for documentation, but not for source code. Is this the kind of interest which makes you a methodologist? I fear for a professional career as programmer if these problems keeps haunting me.

-by Jeffrey on 1/4/2015 at 12:56 PM

anyone can define these terms .
roadmap of product owner
roadmap of project manager
roadmap of Scrum master
roadmap of developer in a task.

-by Arjun Singh RAna on 3/17/2015 at 6:47 AM

Hello Dr. Cockburn,

I am a graduate student of Bradley University Peoria IL. I have been trying to find out real life applications of crystal methodology actively used in Industry as a research assignment can you help me with that?

P.S. May the force be with you!


-by Akshay Pandey on 5/28/2015 at 12:30 PM

The term “working software” is mentioned throughout the agile manifesto. Was this term meant to be ambiguous or should the word “working” be held to its true definition?

-by Jeff Osia on 6/2/2015 at 12:37 PM

Akshay, write to me at and ask, I’ll put you in touch with Jonathan House and Gery Derbier.

-by Alistair on 6/5/2015 at 3:08 PM

Jeff, “working software” is probably no more ambiguous than any other phase in natural language. The point is feedback, which neither documents provide, nor code that is typed in and not yet compiled and run.

-by Alistair on 6/5/2015 at 3:12 PM

Hi Dr. Cockburn.
I just discovered that the Iaido Newsletter website that had hosted my old moldy article on ShuHaRi is now defunct. As it happens, I recently did a rewrite of that article as a two part beast for Kendo World magazine’s website. Part 1 is:
The kendo-world (domain is .com) website wordpress/?p=1822

Part II is at the same website


Hopefully all of this makes it past the hyperlink filter.

Probably everyone has moved on from this a long time ago, but if someone looking at “Agile Software Development” wants to see something like the full article ..that’s where to find it now.


-by Ron Fox on 9/25/2015 at 2:57 PM

Dear Dr. Cockburn,

I am a computer science student. I have some questions to which I can not find answer

A use case can be characterized by behavior and attributes?

What it is meant by attributes and behavior of a use case?

If a use case is characterized by attributes and behavior, a base use case may access the attributes of inclusion or extension use case? Is possible the other way around?

Why a extension use case is characterized by multiple fragments of behavior while the same does not apply to the inclusion use case?

If the extension condition of a fragment is not satisfied what happens?It expects the condition to occur?

Inclusion and extensions use cases have preconditions attached. What if I have reached a extension or inclusion point of the base use case these preconditions are not met? He is expected to be met?

Thank you
Best regards

-by Mario on 11/21/2015 at 4:30 AM


Is there a chance you might be interested in speaking on Russia’s largest IT conference?

My team is now working on CodeFest 2016. We have been making CodeFest in Novosibirsk 5 years in a row now. The place is something like Russia’s Silicon Valley (in a good way).

Next CodeFest is going to be on March 26-27, 2016. There will be approx. 2K participants and several dozen speakers from all over the world.

We have already had such speakers as James A. Whittaker, Christopher Bennage, Dino Esposito, Michael Palotas, Brett Martin, Peter Vesterbacka. Also, speakers from eBay, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Badoo, Skype, Hewlett-Packard, Yandex, Parallels, JetBrains, Kaspersky Lab and other IT companies had their talks at CodeFest.

Having you a keynote speaker who worked on making agile happen will rock the world of IT folks down here. What regards my personal interest, yout book on writing use cases got all the companies I worked in to a whole new level of efficiency.

Do you think there is any chance you might be interested?

Aleksey Dolgushev,
Project and Product Management Section,

-by Aleksey on 12/7/2015 at 6:59 AM

Hi, Aleksey, thank you … Can you please write to my email? thank you and best wishes, Alistair”

-by Alistair on 12/9/2015 at 9:23 AM

Hi Alistair,

A few weeks ago, I Googled “Compare Use Cases and User Stories,” and one of the first search results was a PowerPoint presentation that you had created. It was very useful for a side by side comparison of the two, along with pros and cons of each. I wanted to show this to a couple co-workers because it was informative without being really biased in favor of one method over the other. Now, it seems that no matter what I Google, I can’t find it. Is there any way you’d be willing to provide me with the PowerPoint?

Thank you,
Business Analyst

-by Autumn on 2/3/2016 at 1:37 PM

_I have articles on each, but no PPT comparing them. I do have which is not quite the same.

-by Alistair on 2/12/2016 at 5:09 PM

Hello there,
I am being asked again how to manage projects in an agile environment in “portfolio” level.
Could you please help me to find the right tool, process for this?
Any recommendation would be wonderful!

More questions related to this:
Is SAFe the answer?
We are using Jira, do you think “structure” plugin can be helpful? or “portfolio management”?


-by Neda on 2/26/2016 at 8:30 PM

Hi, Neda, I wouldn’t dream of answering a question that complex in a small space like this. There are entire books written about it (Safe being one of them). Cheers, Alistair

-by Alistair on 2/29/2016 at 7:10 AM

Good morning Alistair, I am a Technology student from Brazil, and I am studying about your methodology (Crystal Family). Could you tell me which companies uses the Crystal Methodology around the world?


-by Marco Junior on 8/8/2016 at 10:19 AM

Hi, Marco. Thanks for the question. I don’t actually know, because people use it without telling me. Every now and then I go somewhere, and a person shows up with the book in hand and says, “We’re using this, it works great!” And that’s all I get to hear about it. So sorry that I cannot help you much more. Depending on your needs, if you write to me at, I can pass your question along to a couple of people who have used it, and they might be willing to answer a few questions from you. All the best to you, Alistair

Hi Doc Cockburn.

Crystal was Dead?

Ane news, or ideas coming?

Hugs from Brazil

-by Jagua on 8/31/2016 at 10:00 PM

_Hi, Jagua — The updated version of Crystal would be the Crystal served it’s purpose, and if someone needs a “methodology”, then it is still there. But it was a concept from the “methodology days”, the 90s and 2000s. In 2016, people are more inclined to use the Crystal methodology-tuning workshop reflexively, simply making up their own rules, often starting from Scrum and a base and improving / changing from there. As a result, I am unlikely to extend Crystal directly (unless I get on a distributed project with 250 people!) and will put my energy in the the Heart of Agile.

-by Alistair on 9/5/2016 at 11:09 AM

excelent. My favorite book & author

-by Christian on 9/28/2016 at 7:16 AM

Hi Doc.

How can i bring you and Heart of Agile to Brazil? :D


-by Jagua on 10/10/2016 at 8:25 AM

thank you, Jagua, please write me at Let’s see if we can make it work.

-by Alistair on 10/16/2016 at 5:51 AM

Hi Alistair – we are advising on a number of projects mostly with European airlines where there is an increasing tendency to use Agile. Comes as quite shock to many of the legacy airlines and particularly where there are bringing in offshore development teams to make this all work.

Can I ask about your latest output, writing etc and what we can read on? Did you also cooperate with others on developing agile approaches?

Best wishes and thank you
peter – London/UK

-by peter petzal on 10/20/2016 at 3:09 PM

Hi Alistair

I shared with you the CSM training en BA these days.
Was great meeting you.

The spliting game (Carpaccio) was amazing.
And your talks.


-by martin on 12/22/2016 at 1:16 PM

Hi Alistair,

I enjoyed the Heart of Agile course in Adelaide last week. In particular I enjoyed your flexible and pragmatic attitude to delivering value. This has much broader application than software – it is useful for all projects.

Some other things I enjoyed:
- Rules tell us what we cannot do, not what we can, so the “don’t get sacked and don’t get arrested” appealed to me as the main rules of the game.

- When we enter the workplace otherwise normal adults turn into kindergarten children. Be adults and do what you need to (hope I have paraphrased reasonably).

- Your comments about the difference between strict versus nurturing leadership figures. This is why I don’t like being sold into gigs as a Project Manager. I care about people and relationships over schedules and budgets, so I prefer to go in as a BA and lead without the positional authority of a PM. I have always liked the “servant leadership” concept that Scrum promotes.

I see a strong relationship between Agile and Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory. Agile values people over processes. Positive, Engaged people who have good Relationships and a sense of Achievement are the best for delivering projects. Agile inheritantly promotes PERMA in teams – this is the real reason for project success. What do you think?

Thanks for coming to Adelaide to share your insights with us, it was enjoyable and greatly appreciated.


-by Peter on 3/27/2017 at 2:00 AM

Heyyy! Thank you, Peter! — Alistair

-by Alistair on 3/27/2017 at 9:08 AM

Congratulations on all your writings and many thanks for your contribution to the software development community.
My Laura, and I’m a software engineer student and writing 2 independent papers. One is about Crystal methodologies and on the second one, I’m researching about project management in an agile world. Specifically, “Is the sequential model presented in the PMBOK guide still applicable if an agile methodology is the software development of our choice? ”

I’m doing a long shot and hoping that you find some time and kindly answer my questions:
1- On your presentation “What is Crystal?” given at Salt Lake City, UT, you mentioned that “Crystal is the result of Alistairs researches.” starting on 1991 when you began your journey to discover a methodology for object-technology projects.”
So, if you were to give a specific year when Crystal was devised, would you say 1991? Was Crystal Clear part of your Crystal family since the beginning, or did you incorporated it at a later time?
2- What type of project management would you recommend for a Crystal method to be successful? actually, to be the best it could be?

Many Thanks in advance for your response


-by Laura on 4/7/2017 at 1:47 PM

cont. on my previous post…
on the presentation I mentioned above on slide 48, you reference to your “Crystal Clear” book as of it it were written on 2002;however, after looking for it, the only one that shows up written by you under that title is published on October 2004.
Could it be that there is a typo on year mentioned on the slide, 2002, which should be 2004?


-by Laura on 4/7/2017 at 2:28 PM

Lovely thoughtful questions … let’s see what I can do …

I worked for IBM 1991-94, drafted a methodology for them that was a simple, what we now call agile methodology. It contained only incremental development, use cases, CRC cards, coding, testing, and configuration management. Since it was part of a large IBM methodology offering, my part inside it had no name. We used my methodology on the Smalltalk/ COBOL project I call Winifred, in 1994. In 1997 I was working at the central bank in Norway, and created the concept of a family of methodologies, and used the name Crystal for the first time, somewhere late 1997 or early 1998, to allow for a 2-dimensional matrix of related methodologies. I later simplified that to just colors. I started the book on Crystal in 1998-99, but XP was just coming out, so I put the book draft on my website as just that … and someone found it and taught a software engineering class using it! And, amazingly, some years later, I met someone who had been in that class, and for whom that was his first exposure to methodology! He had successes with his early projects, then when he moved jobs, couldn’t figure out why everyone else was doing things that made no sense to him, and also weren’t working! How’s that for crazy?

I didn’t do anything with the book for some years, and I didn’t even recall the publication date until I just looked it up online right now! I don’t know what talk exactly you are referring to, there are so many (maybe you pass me the link (don’t put in the http:// part, just the part after that, this site doesn’t accept URLs from visitors). I possibly put a next draft online in 2002, but I don’t recall that.

For project management, I was shown in the early 1990s that incremental-iterative was the only way to go, so that’s been my basis ever since. Everything else is good listening, amicable conversing, and a bunch of luck.

Best wishes with your paper — Alistair


Met you today after your talk which was most enjoyable. I discussed the possibility of doing a drum talk at the Pittsburgh gathering next year. You mentioned forwarding an email from me to who I believe might be your gathering organizer. Well, here it is.

Be well,

John R
+1 310 292 9288

-by John Ryskowski on 8/8/2017 at 6:32 PM

Hey Alistar!

Being a firm believer in the Agile Manifesto along with the 12 Principles, I made a commitment to memorize them so as to share them back with team mates at the drop of a hat. In fact, I have several mnemonics to assist with recalling them.

My question or request from you: I’d like to understand a bit more about HOW you all came up with the 12 principles. Were there 16 at first? 22? or maybe only 8? What was the process involved in getting to the 12 principles?

Thank you so much for what you have contributed to Agile.

-by Steve Toalson on 8/14/2017 at 11:39 AM

That I don’t recall. I know we said, “a strong name and 4 values is pretty good, but what could lie underneath that?” and someone proposed principles. We were running out of time and energy and agreement, so it wasn’t a tight process. I don’t recall a discussion of how many there should be, but clearly 10-12 is an upper limit. Someone just proposed one and we wandered around having discussions. There was not complete agreement, people started leaving, and we tried unsuccessfully to close it out by email, but that didn’t work, so we just published the closest approximation to what we had at the time. Ergo, not a tightly revised set of words, but best-3nd-round writing. Cheers

I have had Writing Effective Use Cases since seeing so many of my colleagues use it around 2009. I am putting together an event about Requirements Engineering for NY SPIN, one of the longest running grassroots associations of technology professionals in NYC dedicated to promoting knowledge of software process improvement. Requirements Engineering is a topic we always come back to, because it is so fundamental. Your work continues to make a major contribution to the field. We would be honored to start a conversation with you about speaking to our association in 2017-2018.
-Bill Greenbaum
Secretary, Treasurer, & Marketing Chair

-by BillG@nyspin on 8/15/2017 at 12:22 AM

I heard you read poetry tonight while I was in Portland, OR. Very multifaceted! The magenta/green light poem was my favorite. Thank you for taking the time to share your creativity with us tonight, it was greatly appreciated!

Shannon Adams

-by Smartonick on 9/13/2017 at 11:59 PM

That’s really kind of you, Shannon. And then to look me up and post here. Thanks! Yes, the magenta/green is one of my all time favorites. All the best to you, Alistair

Hi Alistair,

In your last presentation of the heart of agile (I appreciated it a lot by the way) there is a mention of rewards as a motivation. Since I’ve seen some work of Alfie Kohn about rewards, I believe that maybe there is alternatives to this. I’m learning about nvc and real feedback about needs met is an alternative that enforces trust, collaboration and motivation. Don’t know what you can do with that but I hope it will be usefull.

Hope to see you in France (Lyon or Grenoble)
Au plaisir,

-by Pierre C. on 10/24/2017 at 4:24 PM

Alistair, I’d like to have team members make Heart of Agile “cootie catchers” as a discovery tool for a team I coach.

To save me time, would you be willing to send me the source file so I can print the image?

I saw your cootie catcher in your GOTO 2017 conference presentation. Great talk!

Thanks, Paul

-by dpaulsims on 12/13/2017 at 8:58 AM

Dear Sir,
I would like to usher you a big F-U to coming up the with the idea of Agile Development.

Agile Development has literally made me unemployable to every employer because I do not prescribe to this methodology.

Agile is a joke, it does not work for introverts and removes all privacy and respect of the human being. You have made us all slaves to large corporations with absolutely no peace and killing all creativity!

I seriously wish you ill!

-by Agile Hater on 12/14/2017 at 9:00 PM

thank you for writing me, Agile Hater. I commiserate with your plight, even though I can do little to change your path. I honor your post and wish you well in finding a place to work that suits your style. Alistair.

Hi Alistair

I have recently took over organising the Adelaide Agile meet up chapter. After attending your heart of agile and CSM course in march 2017, I’d like to rename thr group to Heart of Agile meet up. What do you think? Can we use the name and your logo. You are welcome to pay us a visit if you come back to Adelaide. We like your vests :)

-by Lisa Jones on 2/20/2018 at 2:30 AM

Hi, Lisa — that sounds wonderful! What an honor. Write to me at or find me on FB. There is a group in Melbourne moving a long a bit, so I can connect you to them. (You can find the Meetup group online also, Daamon Parker and Phil Gadzinski are the main agitators). And thank Ed Wong for the impetus for wearing vests :)). thx, Alistair


I am the author of the only dedicated Scrum blog on Recently, I did an interview (remote Q&A) with Ken Schwaber and he generously answered the questions to which we posted them on our blog. While Jeff Sutherland is busy for some months before he can look at out questions, Mike Cohn has asked to see the list of questions and we are waiting for his answers.

Would it be possible for Alistair Cockburn to answer some questions on Scrum. Some questions are similar and some specific to the author (ie. where we mention a book of theirs). Is this something that is possible?

To give you an idea of the kinds of questions I ask, please take a look at the list of questions currently being revived by Mike Cohn:

1. Why do you believe Scrum is the most popular framework for delivering Agile projects?

2. In your book “Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum” you wrote that one of the attributes of a good Product Owner is that they are available. What are some ways to handle an absent Product Owner who is also an influential stakeholder?

3. One of the biggest problems with the implementation of Scrum is apathetic middle-management, even when Scrum has been sanctioned at the Executive level. Can you suggest ways for organizations to overcome this issue?

4. We all know Scrum is very well suited to the IT and software development domain. How about domains such as Building and Construction? Can you give some examples of how Scrum in particular could be adopted into these traditionally waterfall projects?

5. Many of the benefits of Scrum are associated with reduced time to market which increases profits. How do you view the benefits of Scrum in the not-for-profit sector?

6. You are a well-known proponent of the stand-up meeting. What’s your advice for those Scrum teams who still sit down for the Daily Scrum?

7. In my Q&A with Ken Schwaber, I asked him should the Scrum Master role be renamed Scrum Coach to adhere more to a servant-leader model. He thought that would be a bad idea. Can you share your thoughts on this matter?

8. Scrum professionals debate over the use of UAT and when it should be performed. Many suggest it should be done at the end of the Sprint, some suggest just after the Sprint has been completed, while others prefer it during the Sprint Review. Ideally, when is the best time to perform UAT and why?

9. What do you enjoy most about assisting organizations transition and succeed with Scrum?

10. Where do you see Scrum 5 years from now?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sante Vergini

-by Sante Vergini on 3/17/2018 at 3:23 AM

Hi, Sante — Please email me at Better there. Thank you. Alistair

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