Who is Alistair Cockburn (@totheralistair) ?

Alistair was invited by Henrik, Michael and our 100th reader : Volha Ikhelis
Does Alistair still need an introduction? He was one of the co-authors of the agile manifesto and one of the co-organizers of the event that led to the manifesto. The more I get to know Alistair the more he surprises me, or should I say, the more he surprises me, the less I am surprised by him?

Alistair hardly ever choses the easy path (and I only say hardly, because I’m trying to never say never again, damn done it again…)

Writing about:

[You might disagree with how he does it, I believe he is doing it for the right reasons. (Or as I heard Jerry once said, certification will happen, you can’t stop it, you might as well do it yourself and try to do it right. )]

What I liked most from him, is his explanation about shu-ha-ri and the shoe-box

Update: this was posted on my blog, the day that Alistair did his first class in French. Being succesfull as he is, he is not afraid to start from scratch and risk to fail. RESPECT

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Living around the world as a visitor in so many different cultures (8 countries and more cultures) makes it nearly impossible for me to impose my own culture on anyone else. Hence, my Crystal Clear work is so culture-accepting and culture-adaptive, as is pretty much all of my advice.

Being continually rejected by schoolmates after moving from Dacca (Bangladesh) to Cincinnati made me trust in myself for my own actions.

As a result of these two, I am almost entirely self-contained in forming my own opinions, and almost never try to convince anyone else to follow my ways.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

Either a psychologist or a technical salesperson / manager. Understanding how people think is my main interest, so quite possibly there. The technical salesman thing was a likely way for me to get a job, and we all know how easy it is to get stuck in a job. Don’t do it.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

Challenge in what respect?

  • At age 3, I was in a fire that nearly killed me, and spent the next year in the hospital, and had skin graft operations for years after. And why was it a good thing for me? My mother says I was a little thug before the fire, and well behaved afterwards. Imagine how I’d be today if I hadn’t become “well behaved”!?!
  • At age 7, I moved from a British grammar school in Bangladesh to grade school in Cincinnati. I dressed differently, spoke and move differently, had been taught different material up to that point, and was two years younger than my classmates. That was tough. And why was it a good thing for me? Because it taught me it was OK to be different, to trust my own opinion of things.
  • I twice had to tell my boss or sponsor (when I was a consultant) that he/she was asking for something completely non-sensical, and put my job on the line, once just shortly after I moved my family to Switzerland, once on my first freelance consulting job. Both were career threatening. And why was it a good thing for me? Because it taught me it was OK to be honest about giving my boss bad news.

What drives you ?

Curiosity. Why does this work and that doesn’t? Might it be possible to do <something or other>? Can it be done better? My first boss said, “If there’s a known way from A to B, Alistair will find another way.”

People. I have a fascination with the way the mind links with reality. It manifests as a person does almost anything. I used to refer to it as the boundary between mind and computer, but it’s more general than that. It is also the boundary between a person’s mind and mathematics, the boundary between rational thinking and emotion, the boundary between a person and a problem the interface between a person and a piece of software, the interface between a person and almost anything.

What is your biggest achievement?

Probably helping kick off the Agile movement, which has revolutionized software development around the world; currently, defining the learning roadmap for the International Consortium for Agile, which may have a similar effect for education standards beyond just software development.. I have a hard time imagining achieving anything like that in the first place, so it’s hard to imagine anything bigger.

What is the last book you have read?

Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

“Choose one word to describe people.”

Rubber-band: it’s not being itself unless it’s being stretched. (Ditto people; ditto rubber-bands)

Who do you think I should ask next?

Jeff Patton

May, 2012

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