Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Alistair Cockburn - Designing Quality of Life

Writing the introduction to a podcast interview with Dr. Alistair Cockburn is not a simple thing. He is the co-author of the Agile Manifesto and the author of numerous books on Agile, Use Cases and Object Oriented Programming. There is also his work with Crystal and now with the Heart of Agile. He’s contributed a significant body of material around the topic of how we work. While this interview touches on most of the above, the primary focus of the interview is around a simple question with a complex answer: How can you design a lifestyle that is based on continually examining and enhancing the quality of your life.

The interview is a long one, but is filled with volumes of advice and wisdom on how to build a professional life that supports the level of quality you want to achieve in your personal life. The information will be especially valuable for anyone working on consulting. For those who are pressed for time, I’ve created detailed show notes below so you can jump to a specific portion if you need to and you can find them here: (because they exceed the text limit for a Soundcloud podcast).

If you would like to learn more about Alistair Cockburn, check out http://alistair.cockburn.us
If you’d like to follow Alistair on Twitter, you can find him at https://twitter.com/TotherAlistair
If you’d like to learn more about Heart of Agile, check out http://heartofagile.com
If you’d like to check out the Facebook Live conversation between Alistair and Nic Sementa, try http://bit.ly/2cESM57

Show Notes
00:08 Interview Starts
01:10 Topic Introduction - Designing your life with intention to create quality of life
02:27 Overview of the trajectory of Alistair’s professional life and consulting background
02:58 Alistair’s advice for maintaining quality of life as a consultant
03:44 The jobs you can’t take if you want to maintain quality of life (especially if your focus is family)
05:11 How do you become an old married consultant? If consulting is so great, why do people quit?
05:41 Rule #1 Limiting your travel / Manage your budget
06:40 Resigning from the full time travel gig and making sure they can’t make an example of you
09:10 The smart way to look for a new job
09:44 How much you need to have saved to look for a new consulting gig
10:56 Why you need to pace yourself during the job search
11:22 Getting published and planning to be in the rejection business
13:28 Coping with the ego blow of getting your soul rejected
14:24 Applying this advice to getting new clients
15:14 Landing the first consulting gig teaching about Object Oriented Design
16:08 How do you survive the first days as a consultant?
16:53 Driving for lifestyle
17:43 Consciously making choices for the lifestyle you want to achieve
18:22 Asking yourself “Does this enhance the quality of my life or not?” and applying it to all aspects of your life
19:27 Celebrating the things you do choose to do
19:50 The infinite potential workload vs. the finite number of plates you can juggle
21:22 The number of things you can’t get around to is infinite (no matter how much you do)
22:31 Do less to get more joy/quality/everything
22:45 Bookshelves, kids and divorce
23:10 18 years of being a married consultant
23:55 Do five things with job instead of 15 things with less joy - and learning to be conscious of your choices.
24:15 Going to the buffet
25:25 “The amount of food I did not touch was infinite”
25:48 Practicing “I would have everything, but if I just have this, I can have the best of the best
26:00 Budgets - Figuring out how much you need to put food on the table, how much for gravy and how much you need to declare greed and quit for the rest of the year.
28:15 Setting an upper limit for how much you want to make and staging work with financial goals
28:45 Knowing when “anything else in my life is more important than the next job”
29:25 What you need to live - take your base number, multiply by 2.5 and find your greed limit
30:10 When you hit the greed limit, do you actually have to stop (even if you don’t want to)?
31:05 Not operating from fear - if you are getting on the plane… why?
32:00 Teaching yourself to say no, limiting travel and limiting conferences
32:40 When they call, and they want ONLY you, and they offer gobs of money…
34:05 Saying “Yes” when you should say “No”
34:35 Establishing a writing practice
35:10 A question about maintaining routine while traveling
36:00 Alistair’s life/phase changes
36:50 More advice on how to maintain a healthy life/marriage when you are a traveling consultant - set up a rhythm
38:40 Self-care while traveling (Alistair and Nic Sementa on FB live)
39:10 Life in the hotel
39:50 Air BnB so you can cook and maintain a healthy diet while traveling
41:17 Recap on maintaining diet while traveling
41:40 Alistair’s phase change - moving to France to practice his French
42:45 A brand new life in Brisbane playing volleyball for Christmas
44:14 In case you are thinking “My life can’t do that…”
44:57 How to get a job working in Zurich at IBM Research… but taking a chance and applying
47:31 Writing the Agile Manifesto in Snowbird, why it worked and why it was different than many other attempts to try and write something that would change the world
48:43 What made the running of the workshop in Snowbird so good? Generous Listening
49:10 Seventeen Alpha-types who all chose to be quiet and listen
50:18 “I’m Steve Mellor, I’m a spy”
52:46 Recap of Alistair’s tips in the interview so far
  • 50% travel cap
  • 1/2 week travel every week
  • Set max and min income target
  • When you hit max target, anything is more important than the next gig
  • Write some books to fill up the home time
  • 2 conferences a year
  • Drip feed for the clients
  • The only thing that makes things impossible is not being willing to take a chance
  • Generous listening
  • Constantly pursue areas of interest that improve quality of life
55:16 living below the poverty line and being okay with your quality of life
55:43 The three income levels according to Alistair Cockburn and understanding how much you need to feel survive or feel wealthy
59:46 Radical Simplification
60:38 The Heart of Agile, Shu Ha Ri and Kokoro
62:20 Living an improvised lifestyle
62:55 Agile has become over decorated
63:05 Scrum has become Shu level and it was designed at Ri level
63:32 The Heart of Agile - Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve
64:40 Kokoro - Heart of Essence
65:20 The top of performance is Ri, transitioning to teaching is Kokoro or Radical Simplification
66:25 The new lifestyle - looking for radical simplification in everything
67:08 Maximizing your freedom through simplification
71:34 Do you need someone at Ri or Kokoro to be guided towards simplification?
72:30 Can you transform to Heart of Agile at the organizational level?
73:20 Questioning collaboration across the organization to set a baseline you can use for transformation to Heart of Agile
74:44 If you move the needle on the collaboration, everything improves
75:31 Going back to the basics of being able to deliver incrementally
76:28 You don’t need a specialist, just people who are open
76:42 The next Heart of Agile Conference - Pittsburgh in April 2017
77:47 Wrapping up

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