Interview with Alistair Cockburn

Alistair Cockburn needs no introduction to the Agile world. I have been lucky enough to get into a conversation with him.

For the uninitiated, he is one of the original signatories of Agile Manifesto, internationally renowned IT strategist, expert on agile development, use cases, process design, project management, and object-oriented design, and a Poet. Here is our conversation on what is Agile and what is not Agile.

Q1. People recognize Alistair Cockburn as one of the original signatories of Agile Manifesto. What alternative introduction you wish to give yourself?

Alistair: If there are only a few words, and to a technical audience, that is fine. If you have more time, more words, then I guess I would like you to say that I have spent my whole life traveling, living in different cultures. This brings to my work a particular perspective about not intervening in cultures. Maybe also that my favorite activities are dancing, learning, and traveling.

Q2. From 2001 to 2016, how do you see the Agile methodology evolving?

Alistair: There were a number of agile methodologies in the 90s: Crystal, Scrum, FDD, DSDM… XP was the dominant one in 2001 when we wrote the manifesto. At that time, people were very focused on finding the right methodology (XP was very good, for example). Two of us in the room (Jim Highsmith and me) wanted a multitude of methodologies available – we want all methodologies used to be this thing we called agile.

Adaptive was the other word we almost chose. Methodologies should be adaptive, that is, the team should change their working rules every 3-6 months, to keep up with changing team members, state of the project, changing competitors.

In 2001, that was still pretty strange, even in that room. They thought XP was already adaptive. By today’s standards, XP is very strict.

“Adaptive” methodologies are no longer strange, they are the most common thing, even though some people keep looking for a single scalable model (which they won’t find).

I love that these days, simply “delivering software” isn’t enough. We do that, we know how to do that, many teams do that. So now, we get to focus on the meaning and the impact of what we are delivering.

This is the new frontier, and it is exciting.

Q3. What is Agile and what is not Agile?

Alistair: ‘Agile’ is an ordinary word in English, it means “able to move quickly and easily” (online dictionary), with an emphasis on changing direction. It was for that reason we chose the word to match the sense of the way we wanted to work, when discussing our approach to software development back in 2001. Once we had the word in place, we had to decide what it meant to us for the purpose of writing software (and more generally, of designing products). We selected 4 values, or ways of centering ourselves in the world while working. We chose:

  • Individuals and their interactions
  • Working software (or product, or more generally, accurate feedback)
  • Customer collaboration
  • Responding to change

We decided that other people might center themselves in other ways and places, but these four would be a good to characterize our way.

That is all. There is no more to “agile software development” than that.

We added some principles afterwards, to help people get started, but didn’t have unanimous agreement on those as we did on the four values. Therefore, with the 12 principles, you might find some that you resonate more with than others, as do all of us authors.

So to answer your question,

  • Can we move and change direction quickly and easily?
  • Do we center ourselves on these four values?

If you are going to say you are doing agile software development, those are the only tests there are. All else is someone particular’s personal addition.



Dr. Alistair Cockburn is named one of “The All-Time Top 150 i-Technology Heroes” in 2007. He is a project witchdoctor and IT strategist, best known for co-authoring the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and articulating how to write effective use cases. His specialties are organizational (re)design and project management strategies.

When not doing all that, he likes to travel, dance, dive, or sit underwater.

Interview with David J Anderson

David J Anderson – a business leader, author, trainer, public speaker and originator of The Kanban Method and Enterprise Services Planning.

It does not end here. David is equally a wonderful person who never failed to amaze me during the last two years of association for Lean Kanban India  conference, which is a part of the global Lean Kanban conference series.

I am excited to present our recent conversation with David J Anderson about Kanban, its benefits and contributions of Lean Kanban India Conference.

Q1. What do you see are some of the key benefits that Kanban adopters get?

David: Improved transparency, visibility, collaboration, greater trust, greater empathy, faster delivery, greater predictability, and relief from over-burdening leading to improved quality.

Q2. What are some of the success factors in helping customers ensure that they do get these benefits?

David: Proper education whether from books, videos or training classes – it isn’t just sticky notes on a wall. They need to understand STATIK – the systems thinking approach to implementing Kanban – together with work item type definitions, class of service definitions, and the Kanban Cadences.

Q3. How do you see the Kanban method evolve over the next couple of years?

David: We are seeing a lot of innovation in upstream Kanban for product management and discovery of ideas. I expect to see more development in Portfolio Kanban. And our main focus is improving enterprise scale adoption at the scale of 10s of thousands of people using Enterprise Services Planning, particularly dynamic reservation systems, risk assessment and profiling, demand shaping and triage capabilities.

Q4. Can Kanban be adopted across teams and organisation level?

David: There are Kanban implementations exceeding 5000 people and by end of 2017 we expect to have implementations exceeding 50,000 people. We’ve seen individual Kanban boards with up to 75 people and networks of Kanban systems across entire product or business units from 150 to 600+ people.

Q5. How should performance appraisal systems change when teams use Kanban?

David: Performance appraisal should be based on observable outcomes such as customer satisfaction and fitness for purpose of any given service in which an individual is working. Individual metrics should be based on how an individual can contribute directly to overall system improvement, so measuring local cycle time for activities, coupled to defect or rework rates, together with system liquidity metrics such as “immediacy” (how long items wait before being worked on at any given step in a workflow), would be ways of measuring whether individuals are making useful system contributions. Liquidity should improve with staff training and hence investment in training should reflect in improved immediacy as well as shorter local cycle times and higher quality.

Q6. What’s a good litmus test for teams to confirm that they are using Kanban right?

David: We have the Kanban Litmus test; Since you adopted Kanban;

  1. Have managers changed their behaviour?
  2. Has the customer interface changed?
  3. Has the customer contract changed?
  4. Has the service delivery business model changed?

If people have truly embraced Kanban then all 4 of these things should have changed: managers should be focused on work and workflow, not individuals, task assignment and utilization; customers should be attending replenishment meetings and making commitments to work items to fill free Kanban slots; the customer promise should be managed with an SLA which aggregates risk and their shouldn’t be individual commitments with specific promises on individual requests; and classes of service based on urgency, cost of delay and other business risks should enable work to be treated differently by class rather than homogeneously.

Q7. How do you think Lean Kanban India conference is contributing to the Kanban world of change?

David: Lean Kanban India is attracting top international speakers and has a world class program. It is serving a role of raising awareness within the Indian market and providing Indians with access to new techniques and concepts that they would not be able to get anywhere else. Agile conferences do not cover Kanban or if they do it is shallow superficial coverage that fails to communicate the breadth and depth and the great economic value to be obtained from fully embracing the Kanban Method and Enterprise Services Planning.

Q8. How is your experience working with INNOVATION ROOTS as organisers of Lean Kanban India conference?

David: INNOVATION ROOTS has been a good partner for us and together with Digite has provided an event that has embraced our brand values and represented the Kanban Method admirably in the Indian market.



David J Anderson is a thought leader in managing effective teams. He leads a consulting, training and publishing and event planning business dedicated to developing, promoting and implementing sustainable evolutionary approaches for management of knowledge workers. He has 30+ years experience in the high technology industry starting with computer games in the early 1980’s. He has led software teams delivering superior productivity and quality using innovative agile methods at large companies such as Sprint and Motorola. David is the pioneer of the Kanban Method, an approach to evolutionary to improvement, and Enterprise Services Planning, a system of management for modern businesses operating in complex environments.


Team INNOROO, the Awesome

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”

– Steve Jobs

Most of us have experience to work on projects in a Team either at Office, School or College.

Does the Teamwork really help you and why is that important?

In my view “Teamwork” is a very important construct for creating a High Performing Team. Teamwork brings unity, strength, reliability, support and all key factors required into the play, to build a successful team. It maximizes team’s overall capabilities, brings out the best in each team member and as a result offers the best outcomes. I have a recent experience —to share with you– working with a superb team – INNOVATION ROOTS Team, I call the “Team Awesome”

It happened recently, when our Team was working for one of a grand event at Bangalore. Like many other projects, our team also faced many unexpected challenges. It gave us the nightmares. Our “Teamwork” increased the trust and collaboration between people, which helped us to perform as a Team. And as a result, our event became a great success.

Before launching the event, our Team was not experienced to manage event of this volume. We found it difficult at each step without having prior experience. Team identified multiple challenges during the planning and execution of this event. Here are few major ones and what we did as a team –

Focus: Working on multiple projects and multiple deadlines, people tend to lose their focus. As a team, we were aware of the importance of the event and the hundreds of open items on us. Context switching is a big problem and it could be due to a big pending list. Team realized this problem and started focusing on ‘finishing the most important task at any given point of time’ as a better approach to achieve the goal.  That’s we call teamwork.

Collaboration: Managing the time and working in silos is also a challenge that may result in significant delays. We faced problem generated by silos. Our Team understood the gap and decided to collaborate more on common goals. This increased the success of our team as we engaged in collaborative problem solving.

Quality: Delivering quality work has always been our priority. Over the time, team learnt that ignoring quality is originating a lot of rework. Team started reviewing and pairing for their deliverables. We identified the quality expectations are as per the business requirement and focused on completing work with highest quality standards. This helped to build great team momentum.

Now, the team is confident and full of enthusiasm to make success on our new projects and that’s what makes us “Team Awesome”

Despite of different background, culture, and experience; Team Awesome is focused to strive hard in moving towards perfection. This leads us to achieve success. Each one of us contributes to add value, quality and innovation at work.

We believe that one is not success, until the whole team is not successful, and team is not successful until each one in the team is not successful.

Team Awesome believes that collaboration and trust builds the team so strong that you can overcome any challenges.

I am proud to be a part of “Team Awesome”.

Thriveni B Shetty

Leader and Learner

Interested to learn, have fun, and succeed together?

Reach us at to explore the current opportunities.