Becoming a Meme & Agile 2.0 – Alistair Cockburn (Transcript)

The “enigma wrapped in a puzzle” Alistair Cockburn has an interesting story: signatory of the Agile Manifesto, author of two pivotal books “Writing Effective Use Cases” and “Agile Software Development,” and founder of the Agile software development conference in 2003 along with the more recent “Heart of Agile” conference. This last, “Heart of Agile,” has meme-ified Alistair, in ways oversimplifying who and what he is. But becoming a meme, he says, is crucial in order to have a greater impact. Alistair also shares his thoughts on Agile 2.0, what that means, and provides us with possibly our favorite quote for all of the Agile2017 conference: “Some people say that Agile is dead — no, it’s just been incorporated into the bloodstream so you can’t see it”.

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Full Transcript:

Howard: Hi and welcome to another episode of Agile Amped. I am your host, Howard Sublett. Today is August 9, 2017, and we are live podcasting here at Agile2017 in beautiful Orlando in the Rose and Shingle Creek Resort. We’re on the conference floor and you can probably hear some background noise ’cause they’re setting up for the big event tonight. And sitting across the little desk from me here in the conference center is the one and the only Alistair Cockburn. Now here’s the problem for me, and I just asked you this, I don’t really know how to describe you because every time we’re together Alistair it’s like you’re this enigma wrapped in a puzzle and you’re fascinating and interesting. So let’s find words to describe who you are.

Alistair: Alright, so, and by the way, this is what counts as what I call “jazz dialog.” It’s dialog with improvisation built in. Sometimes you go meta and you reflect on the dialog and you follow it, and for me it’s an art form. So we’re going to practice the art form called jazz dialog right now.

Howard: Alright here we go.

Alistair: And you said “enigma wrapped in a puzzle.” So for those who came in late, like we didn’t rehearse much, but exactly what he said is “I don’t know how to introduce you because you’re an enigma wrapped in a puzzle.” And I said, “Why don’t you just say that.” And then we literally turned on the mic and went. So, poor Howard-

Howard: This is the entire prep. This is it.

Alistair: And so I’m curious how Howard, who’s known me for a while, you know, would think about me. So what’s the enigma wrapped in a puzzle part?

Howard: You’re a man that lives out of suitcase that moves from place to place to place, so you’re very nomadic in the way you live, which is always fascinating for me. You’re always posting pictures from different places, and I wonder sometimes were you there intentionally or did you just get lost and that’s where you stopped?

Alistair: So that’s enigmatic? It’s interesting, it’s bizarre. Why does the word “enigma” show up in your brain right then.

Howard: Maybe it’s because of the complexities, I don’t know. There’s so many facets there it’s hard to explain. You’re fascinating, you’re interesting, you’re a puzzle in a way.

Alistair: So let me unfold that for you in my own way-

Howard: Okay.

Alistair: … since we’re in the jazz dialog.

Howard: Got it.

Alistair: I was totally taken by the moment in the Batman Returns movie where not-yet Batman is training with it turns out to be the evil guy and he falls through the hole in the ice and he’s sitting by the campfire and the evil guy says to him, “The problem is that right now you catch bad people, crooks, one at a time. If you want to be effective, you have to become an idea. You must become something so big that just your name will have the effect of what you want.” Now the unit of idea is a meme. So what he was saying is “You must become a meme.” So then the guy took on the Batman and he became a meme. The Batman meme was the meme right, and you would just project the bat signal up in the clouds and then every crook was afraid – they didn’t know which alleyway he was down. So he was a meme. So memes are powerful. So I said okay. So some 10-15 years ago, I need to become a meme. I need to meme-ify myself right to build my business, to have impact on the world, I have to be a meme. So doing the kind of thought experiment I do – so Howard’s taking notes now.

Howard: “I have to create myself as a meme” was a fascinating phrase.

Alistair: I have to become a meme. So now doing a thought experiment on that, I found all these things have boomerang, backhand effects that hurt you. Memes become simpler over time. So the problem with the meme is that it strips down over time so you get the Nike swoosh. Nobody knows what Nike makes. Nike makes 100 things, or one thing. Once they made a shoe, who knows. Swoosh symbol on cap, right, all the brand designers in the world are insanely jealous because the swoosh is nothing, it has no meaning, it’s not an anything … It’s so simple, just do it. Right? So all we know about Nike is swoosh just do it. Right? So Nike’s become a meme, but all the complexities around Nike got stripped out. So if we say Agile, Agile became a meme, and all the complexities and subtleties got stripped out of it. So anything as it become more famous becomes simpler and simpler and simpler until you lose whatever was there at the beginning. So I said “Well that’s really interesting.” So that gives me now a paradox, I’m in a contradiction, because if I want to have bigger impact on the world, I do that by being a meme. As I become a meme, whatever I stand for becomes shrunk down and stripped down to the point it isn’t what I stand for anymore, so is there an antidote to that? This is how my mind works, by the way. So then I said okay, as a human, if I’m just being myself, if I’m not being a meme, people get upset because I’m too complicated. They want to simplify me. So I follow that thread for a while and said okay so the humanity and the person is the complicated-ness that is all the intrinsic paradoxes and contractions inside a person to make them hard to understand and they do this one day and they do that one day. But that’s the person-ness of the person. So what I did – I write poetry and I do tango and I do free diving – and the people go “What’s that got to with Agile?” And I go “Why should it have anything to do with Agile?” A got a life outside of Agile right? So what I did was I put on my whiteboard, I put a line down the middle and I put two questions up there and I was thought to evaluate either every day or every week, not a hard numerical evaluation. But on the left side I put “Did I become more a meme today?” And on the right side I put “Did I become more myself today?”

Howard: Wow.

Alistair: And on the left was all the stuff that makes you famous but strips your humanity out of you and turns you into a Nike swoosh so you can’t find you anymore. And the other stuff’s all the stuff that makes you interesting and fractal and contradictory, but makes you a person and interesting to be around. So I would watch the balance of my activities that I was meme-ifying and I was complex-ifying -simplifying and complex-ifying.

Howard: So what would be an action that would meme-ify you? I’ve never used that word before.

Alistair: Heart of Agile is a meme. Heart of Agile is four words stripped down to nothing. It contains only four words – collaborate, deliver, reflect, improve. It’s my new push. It’s a meme – it’s a simple, like Crystal Clear was as simple as I could make it and it was still too complicated. So I’ve got it to four words, and I know it’s still too complicated, but I refuse to simplify it to less than four words. The meme would want it less than four words. I got it to four words, and I’m hanging on for dear life. So meme-ifying is me giving away pins and badges here – doesn’t have my name on it, doesn’t have my logo, doesn’t have my company, it just has a picture of a heart and four words – collaborate, deliver, reflect, improve. And I stick it everywhere.

Howard: And we know it’s know – we definitely know it’s you – I mean I’ve got … Pulling out my laptop here, I’ve got one right on the outside of my laptop so-

Alistair: Well I give them to servers who don’t know me. I give them to people who will never know my name and I say “Here, try this” – collaborate, deliver, reflect, improve. So that’s meme. Now if I’m successful, nobody will know anything about anything interesting either about Agile or about me or about my life or anything, but if they do, they have the sticker. Sticker, Heart of Agile. Heart of Agile, boom. Those four words, done, right. And that’s meme-ifying it. So when I put these stickers out everywhere and I hand out pins, that’s meme-ifying my ideas, not me, but I care more about the ideas.

Howard: But it’s a symbol of you in a way.

Alistair: It’s a symbol of a very small part of me. This is the contradiction-

Howard: I’m with you-

Alistair: So as Heart of Agile becomes more famous and it becomes ascribed to me, people will put me into a smaller and smaller box so I’m only that logo. And to counter that, they go “I don’t understand Alistair, you’re a puzzle wrapped in an enigma, an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. I’m sure you’re very interesting, but I can’t make any sense of you ’cause you go like free diving and you do tango, and you jump off of cliffs, and what’s that got to do with Agile?”

Howard: You know that’s not what I meant.

Alistair: I know, but I’m illustrating the nature of the dialog right, and that’s-

Howard: Sure, sure.

Alistair: … what happens. So yeah, so we did the first part of the jazz dialog.

Howard: We’re doing really, really well so far.

Alistair: And we haven’t introduced me either, so-

Howard: So I was gonna say all of that and it still didn’t tell people who you are. So you’re a signer on the Agile manifesto, what else it is things people really know about you except for the Heart of Agile right now?

Alistair: Most people would have actually known me from the Use Case book. So Ivar Jacobson came up with use cases in 1967. Think about that for a moment. Twenty years later he resurrected them and wrote a paper about them in the Oopsla Conference in 1987. I was searching for something as a junior methodologist in ’91, found them, and then wrote a book to explain them that came out actually in 2000 and sold enough copies to pay the mortgage on my house – that was kinda cool. And so a lot of people know me from the guy who explained use cases finally from what Ivar had said. So use cases is a thing and I did object-oriented design in the 90s – I was known a bit for that. And then co-authored the manifesto. I actually founded this conference that we’re at, the Agile Software Conference in 2003, and 2004 was held in Salt Lake City.

Howard: I don’t know that I knew that tidbit. I knew the rest of it, I did not know that tidbit.

Alistair: There was big fight between me and the XP crowd at the time ’cause XP owned the stage, XP universe, whatever the thing it was. But that was only for programmers and only for XP and I said I want all roles and all methodologies, I want big a tent. It was a terrible fight between the two and eventually there was a reconciliation and actually money changed hands, and a bunch of stuff, and in 2005 the merged version came out but the structure of this conference is entirely the 2003 conference, Agile Software Conference.

Howard: Wow

.Alistair: So I did that. And actually the sad part about it – I’m glad the conference exists – is that I was due to write a book on project management strategies in that timeframe and I didn’t write that book because I was organizing the conference for two years. So in my mind the book is written, the book is out, I’m done with the book. I can’t write that book now, but as I was saying in my session yesterday, nobody knows about the book – people never read the book that I didn’t write ’cause I didn’t write it. But in my head, it’s all written. So people don’t know I’m actually a project management expert almost more than anything else because I’ve managed so many projects and I’ve collected strategies.

Howard: Well in between tango and cliff diving surely you can work a book in now.

Alistair: Well, now I’m supposed to be writing a book on the Heart of Agile.

Howard: I’m surprised that there hasn’t been some drafts out already.

Alistair: Well the problem is that I need my own publishing channel, I don’t trust the big publishers and I’m actually technology averse so I can’t learn – I’m learning how to splice a movie and add a sound effect right now. Like that’s how baby I am. I’ve been writing for decades, but the splice movie stuff is killing me – I don’t know how to do who stores the videos, how do you do Pay-Per-View, what is the tech stack, and I shut down when I go … That’s not me. I need to find a partner for that. Which is why I haven’t written for the last 10 years actually is exactly that … I need my own publishing outlet. So we’re going to see about that. But as a shout out to a friend of mine and colleague Craig Brown in Melbourne who kicked off this whole Heart of Agile thing, ’cause I was talking about the center of Agile, the essence of Agile about three years ago, and he just said to me basically – I was sitting in his living room and he goes, not exactly it was a bit more words, more or less he goes “Alistair, look”, cause he was like fairly high-up manager in a fairly small company, and he goes “Look Alistair, your shit works, but nobody’s paying attention to it and all these other people out with books and they’re all going around selling their books, and we try it and their shit doesn’t work, but you have to get back on stage and you have to make a thing and it’s got to have a name, it’s got to have a logo, and it has to have a certification program. Those are table stakes, like you have to get back in the game, so shut up and do that.” So on account of Craig, I was in my next class I actually drew this little diamond – no idea what was going in it – and I wrote the four words and I didn’t know what to call it and I did research and and that’s why it’s called Heart, and boom. And so we had a name and we had that and the diagram and I had a certification schema going, but I got my certified Scrum trainer license back and they called me up and said “Thou shalt not have any competing certification schemas going when you’re a CST”, and I said so okay. So I put that in a box. But because I don’t have a publishing channel, I couldn’t write a book about it. And just this last year, about six months ago, I’m in Melbourne and Craig goes by and taps me on the shoulder and says “You know you gotta write that book.” And I went “Ah damn. Yeah you’re right.”

Howard: Right.

Alistair: So then I put on Facebook “What do you guys want to see in a book?” And everybody said “stories, lots of stories” So I’m going to have like 16 co-authors and I’m going to get stories from outside IT. Here’s the new part that’s like about three days old as I’m in Florida trying to structure this book. I realized that we’re trying to get it out of software – it’s got nothing to do with software. But Agile has a boat anchor around its neck that it’s attached to software. And I keep saying I’m describing the physics of how people work together in teams to get work done, and not anything about software. It’s the put it out in the world, you’re trying to have an impact in the world. There’s a team of you with an idea, you have an idea, you’re going to deploy it, it’s going to have an impact in the world, profit, non-profit, business, non-business, it doesn’t matter what. And I have decoded kind of the laws of physics of how you do that and so on. So I said why don’t I just call it “Teamwork?” But “Team Work” like teamwork internally, but work that teams do. I’m talking about what happens when teams work together to do something. So the current draft title is going to be Team Work, and that shifts actually the direction of the book now because I have to literally, having changed the title, it changes kind of the audience, it changes the nature of the structure like who’s going to read it, what are they going to want to see. So it’s going to be much more stories driven, much more narrative, and I hope to be able to reach the execs with the stories and the light stuff, but I need to put in my heavy stuff so I can use it in my classes. So a lot of exercises, it will have some short version of theory, it will have lots of stories. I’m trying to design it right now. So that will maybe a year from now.

Howard: Can I ask you about the Heart of Agile conferences? So I think they’re a little unique, I mean you said you kind of started the Agile conference, but the Heart of Agile conferences are different in a lot of ways.

Alistair: Right.

Howard: And it’s kind of interesting ’cause people may have heard about one being here, one being there, and they may not understand how they’re organized or how they happen. So I think that’s really unique.

Alistair: So when I started the Agile Software Development Conference in 2002, at the time that we were putting it together, end of 2001 start of 2002, I wrote a vision document – a mission and purpose document – in which I outlined what was the purpose of the conference, who were the constituencies, who were we catering to, what was the structure, why did each piece of the structure exist, what was its differentiating factor that made it interesting, and so on. And at the end of the conference we collected feedback through the feedback session and I updated it and said so here are the changes to that and so on and so forth. As far as I know this current conference they haven’t kept that up, but I did that. When I was asked, actually asked, to create a Heart of Agile conference for the group – and I’m going to get these people’s name wrong – there are two conferences, one in Detroit and one in Columbus, Agile and Beyond I think is the one that was just before Columbus Day … If I haven’t screwed up the names. But anyway they had about 700 people and someone said “Can you make a Heart of Agile conference for us for next year?” And so I designed it entirely and exactly for 700 people in a roomful of rounds of 10. So the way you would design a conference for auditoriums is different than rounds of 10. And so I said okay. So I designed it for them, for that setting. And I wrote a document, again, and I said so why does this exist, what are we after, what’s the differentiating factor in every element in it, why is it different than other ones? And that document is available on line. Probably on the website.

Howard: Okay.

Alistair: And the thing was to focus on these four words – collaborate, deliver, reflect, improve. So there are no keynotes and there are no panels. I’m allergic to keynotes ’cause it’s a talking head. And what I’m interested in is increasing collaboration. So the very first I’ll call a plenary – a plenary is when everybody is sitting together, plenaries and breakouts. So there’s a plenary each morning and then a closing one, and the others are breakouts. So in the plenary I would spend 20 minutes, or somebody would spend some time introducing what is Heart of Agile like and why do you care. The next hour basically should be guided conversation so that the people at the tables meet each other. My goal is – so everything has a goal right – so the goal is when they hit the first coffee break, people have already met other people and have been in a conversation. So when they go to coffee break, right, they’re not going cold not knowing anybody, they already know people, they already had one conversation, they practiced their conversations. And inside those conversation, a guided conversation, would be to tell story about collaborating, tell stories about delivering, tell stories about reflecting and improving. So that should set the tone for the conference. Then in the breakouts they’re themed so before lunch on the first day, you’re only allowed to talk about collaboration. If you’re a programmer, whatever you want to talk about has to be about collaboration. You can talk about pair programming or mob programming, but the topic is going to be collaboration. So now there’s formats. You have an experience report format. But whatever it is. So actually my sister is a trial lawyer for the US government and she gave a talk on osmotic communication during intake at the Attorney General’s Office in Washington DC, and how accidental overhearing between the police officers and the lawyers and the clerks helped them catch errors and update files. They had a terrible, nasty, messy room … It was noisy and jam packed and it was in the basement and everybody hated it. But they caught so many errors and updated so many cases just by the fact that an officer or a lawyer or a clerk would overhear somebody else and then make a correction – “Oh no, no, we have an update from 7th Street, blah, blah, blah.” So there’s a talk totally not from IT about collaboration that fits in the collaboration track. So there’s experience reports, there’s tutorials and there’s kind of like adult workshop, open space, whatever. But the only thing is about collaboration. After lunch, the only thing is delivery, whatever that could be. Whether it’s slicing or you know whatever, Kanban, any of those things. And then the last one is reflecting and improving techniques, whatever, experience report, or tutorial or open space. The next morning is like a world café, lots of topics, people rotating every 20 minutes between tables. And then we do another delivery and then we do a collaboration set, and then the final one is like ice cream social but with people reflecting on the conference, like what do we improve on the conference? But reflecting on the two days, what are they taking out of it. So everything is targeted to the Heart of Agile forwards.

Howard: I love that ’cause in a large conference like this, and I don’t know how many sessions there are, there seem to be thousands – there may not be that many – but it appears when you open up the program and it’s really easy to jump from dev ops to a leadership … And you jump topics and you context switch in your brain all morning long and actually never really have any conversations with anybody and then you have lunch. So I like that focused on one topic in a block of time like that that everybody in the building is actually thinking about the same thing.

Alistair: About collaboration.

Howard: Or whatever the topic is yeah.

Alistair: Or delivery or reflect and improve-

Howard: Yeah. And focusing on that. I think that’s brilliant.

Alistair: So James Gifford – shout out to James Gifford – took it on himself to organize the first – he said “I’m going to organize it.” So I have nothing to do at the conference by the way. He does everything and doesn’t usually tell me and I don’t know anything. And I said “Hey do you guys want a sponsor, how you doing.” “Oh no, that’s okay.” And then I just show up and I do the opening keynote and a little of Master of Ceremonies from time to time. It’s all his show … Huge personal effort to him. He found a colleague in Pittsburgh, so they’re doing it in Pittsburgh. We’re trying to get one set up in France, next year, in Paris, for end of May. The guys in Melbourne at Tabar where Craig Brown is associated ran their first conference using this theme last year and they’re liking it, so they’re going to anchor for that theme for this next year.

Howard: Awesome.

Alistair: So it’s kind of little bit spreading out in different places. And I forgot to mention crucial in this is the social activity at the end of the first night, ’cause this is typically a local conference – people go home. So we have to have dancing and entertainment … You can’t just go home.

Howard: There’s gonna be a tango.

Alistair: There’s going to be a DJ, there’s going to be music, there’s going to be dancing, not just beer at the end of the day, beer social and go home. That doesn’t count because there are people who literally only meet in the non-verbal aspects of dancing and music and stuff. That’s also in there with a reason. Anyway, so that was a long answer-

Howard: No it’s great-

Alistair: .. about the Heart of Agile conference.

Howard: I was going to say outside of the conference, what is your hope for this whole Heart of Agile movement? I mean I know you want it to be a meme, and you want it to be more than buttons and stickers, but it seems like it’s an effort for change for the future.

Alistair: Yeah, you know what I like about it? Partly Scrum and the other ones have become put in straitjackets. They started as Ri level stuff and if you guys don’t know Shu Ha Ri just look up Shu Ha Ri on the internet and you’ll find out all this stuff. But Ri is the advanced, free-flowing things. And they started all of Agile, Crystal, Scrum, started off at Ri level, very loose. And as you scale it to a couple hundred thousand people everybody wants recipes and it get Shu-ified, it gets a straitjacket. So people complained that Scrum is Shu level, but that’s Scrum for the masses being trained by masses is Shu level because that’s how you train masses of people right? But Scrum by itself is Ri. So I wanted to loosen it up, and so my joy when you see if I light up about Heart of Agile is because all you do is collaborate. Yeah, but how? And I go “You already know how to collaborate. Don’t tell me you don’t know how … You don’t want to do it. You don’t want to do what you know you have to do, that’s different. But I don’t need to teach you how to collaborate – you know how to collaborate. You know right now what you could do in the next five minutes that would improve … You know it.” Delivery is a bit more technical, but that’s fine. So it opens it up and you don’t say “This is right, this is wrong.” Just this morning someone said, it was in the Spanish group and they were looking for translations and they said they had two different interpretations on collaborate. “And Alistair, should you adjudicate this for us?” And I go no, no, because if you improve either of those, everything’s going better anyway, so don’t get tangled in the word. So now, there’s no forced techniques and so people go “Oh, I don’t have to have to right?” And you just see them relax and the brain opens up, the peripheral vision is there, and they do things that nobody’s ever heard of or nobody’s thought to mention that are too obvious, and they start to collaborate better. Right? And they get technical deliveries, more technical but you get more slicing and little stuff. People are practicing on reflecting and there’s some Shu Ha Ri. But the nice thing is for beginners you don’t have to tell them they’re know nothings. They actually know this and for people who are tired of … So the joy that I get is watching in the workplace as people relax, you know, you just watch the body tension relax. You know “I could do something about that.” And that’s all we want.

Howard: And they stop arguing about what order the three questions go in at the stand up, which is not really the most important thing at all. It’s that we actually sync today and talk, we actually know what we’re working on.

Alistair: Yeah.

Howard: If that gets in the way, get rid of it. It’s almost like it’s – I know you and I have talked about this before – it’s and Jeffries and I visited about this that the intent in the beginning, and I know that’s where your heart was and we’ve gotten really far in the Agile sometimes swinging in one direction. And this is like a swing back to the beginning, but yet, at the same time in a really weird, warped way, it’s actually Agile 2.0.

Alistair: It is, it really is.

Howard: You know what I mean?

Alistair: Yeah, it’s really funky because on the one hand like this is the beginning of it, but because the framework is so soft, I’m finding really interesting brand new topics like things we haven’t talked about – guest leadership, what happens if the guests are the leaders, the employees are the leaders – that fits in the collaborate part and there’s stuff coming from psychotherapy called solutions focus coaching or solutions focus psychotherapy, which is reflective. Those are brand new, hot topics. And I saw yesterday, and this is the thing I talked about almost the most in my classes, but Jeff Patton was also saying, so we’re saying the same thing, deliver to learn. Deliver to learn. So sometime he said today “earn or learn.” Like you’re delivering for money or you’re delivering for learning. Well, all of the delivery for learning basically really came out of lean start up and it’s been bumped up. We’re now trying to get more people to do a better job of deliver for learning. This is a very modern thing. So those are like new things because it’s soft and open, it’s the plugging in of the latest things. You go “Oh, that thing fits in here and could help us.” So it’s very, very exploratory, it’s exciting because it’s new stuff. And the one thing I want to say it’s about the book, but it’s also about the Agile industry and it’s also about, you know, the post-Agile era that we’re in, as I put it. I’ve got to try to tie these and it’s probably the last thing I’ll have time to talk about. I use the word post-Agile in a very particular way. People say “Agile’s dead.” No, it’s been incorporated into the bloodstream so you can’t see. Now there are people – it’s in the Mitochondria right. So post-Agile doesn’t mean it’s not there – it means it pre-supposed and so they’re asking the next question … Having gotten that, what’s the next question? And we don’t know. Post means we don’t know what it is yet. So post-Agile means we don’t know what it is yet. But you’ll see it in the product management. It’s Gabrielle Benefield, it’s Jeff Patton, Melissa Perry, Angel Diaz-Maroto from Spain, these are the people that I watch. And here’s the analogy that I make, or metaphor … When you’re reaching for something on the table, reaching for a pen, you don’t think about how to move the muscles in your arm. You know how to move muscles in your arm and you reach for the pen. And if you’re blindfolded and you know there’s a pen, you feel with your fingertips till you find the pen. The first decade of Agile was really shanghaied by the fact that we didn’t know how to deliver software. We didn’t know how to deliver anything. So we literally didn’t know how to move the muscles in our arm. So all the dialog was internal – like how do we move muscles in our arm to deliver a product. That’s not the point. The point was never to move muscles in the arm. The point was always to reach for something.

Howard: That’s great.

Alistair: So now here it is 15 years later, enough people know how to move the muscles in their arm, we don’t talk about can you ship any software any more. Well some people do, they gotta learn to move the muscles in their arm. But the people who are on the forefront are now totally fixated on the fingertips. You see the number of sessions here at this conference on getting feedback, how to know after you deliver, how do you figure out what happened? So in the current draft scratchings of my book, I’m opening with a metaphor of you’re sitting blindfolded – and I know there’s a lot of background noise here.

Howard: They can hear you just fine.

Alistair: Okay good deal. You’re sitting blindfolded at a table. Someone tells you or you believe that there’s something to drink on the table. Now you don’t know if it’s a hot cup of coffee, could be a tall, ice-cold flute of champagne, it could be a whiskey tumbler with ice, and it could be a plastic cup filled with Coke or something, you don’t know. And oh by the way, there might be a prickly cactus on the table, there might be some broken glass, or a toilet brush … You actually don’t know what’s on the table. So, again, not thinking about the muscles in your arm ’cause you’ve internalized it, so if we talk Heart of Agile or modern Agile or whatever the current state of the thing, you have to pay attention to the internals of your organization so you can move the muscles, you can deliver, that’s part of the story, you can’t forget about it. But the attention’s now on what are you feeling with your fingertips. Now the story’s got to get real world verisimilitude, I have to amp it up. So you do that and you find something and you drink it and it’s good. You put it down and you reach for it and it’s not there anymore. Well you work out that actually the table has a conveyor belt on it and it moves to the left. So that has to change your strategy because now you, when you put something down, you have find it again before it moves off the table. So that’s the next stage. Now the next thing is you don’t know there’s a person in the room who periodically just randomly puts things on and takes things off the table ’cause why not. See we’re matching the real world right? Now we just make the final one. There’s a team of you trying to have a meal and you’re all blindfolded and you’ve got the conveyor belt and the person moving things, and now that’s your team trying to have an impact on the world. And they why it’s called Team Work, where the team is working to do something. You’ve got the internals of the team, you’ve got all the feedback and interactions with the world that’s constantly changing, and now we’re trying to learn how to work out what’s on the table, what are we gonna have to eat or drink, and where did it go because I put it down a second ago and it’s not there anymore. And those are all the people reacting to our brilliant initiative of whatever variety. So this is now for me kind of exciting because now we’re out of software and really in any group of people doing any category of work to have any impact on the world, they’re in this space now.

Howard: Right. That’s awesome. So where are you going to be next if somebody wants to bump into you? What’s on your next calendar event?

Alistair: Oh I’m not telling anybody where I’m going to be. I don’t want anybody to bump into me. I’ll tell you where my classes are, but you can’t find. That the complex-ification part right? The meme part will tell you where I’m teaching a class and broadcast it, and the complex-ification part won’t tell you where I’m going to show up.

Howard: How about this? How can people find out more about you? How can they find you on the worldwide web? Are you a Twitter person?

Alistair: Twitter is “totheralistair.” By the way, people don’t understand … They try to read my name and they go “to the Alistair.” No, actually when I got my Twitter handle, you only get 15 letters, and so I tried to be “alistaircockburn”, but that’s 16 letters and I wasn’t going to truncate it. So I tried to be, and I can’t be “Alistair” because there’s always another Alistair that beats me on these places. So I decided I was going to be the other Alistair. And it truncates, that’s 16 letters. So for a while on Twitter I was the other “Alistai” without the “R” and that didn’t work really well. So then I did the T apostrophe other Alistair, “t’other.” Now if you’ve got the right dialect and you go to the rights places, then you say “could you pass me t’other honey bottle. Could you pass me t’other saucepan”, right, whatever. So I’m “totheralistair.” So that’s why I’m totheralistair everywhere. So I’m I’m totheralistair on Twitter and I’m totheralistair on Facebook. I’m totheralistair on Skype.

Howard: We’ve talked about that that I think you’re still the only human being on AOL. And I think it’s hilarious that you’re still there.

Alistair: Wonderful. I am along with 15 million other people that you don’t know about.

Howard: I know. You’re the only one I know that’s still on AOL.

Alistair: I’ve got continuous email history back to the 90s.

Howard: I think that’s great.

Alistair: It works. It tells you that there’s no ROI on shifting email servers. There’s just no ROI on it.

Howard: Alistair I know that you want to get out of here and you want to go to the pool. Thank you so much.

Alistair: Something about sitting under water is on my what I’m doing next.

Howard: I know. You’re heading to the pool. This won’t get up there fast enough for anyone to go meet you at the pool, but that’s where you’re heading. Thank you so much my friend. Thank you guys for joining us for another episode of Agile Amped. Make sure and subscribe because you don’t know what might be next.