James "Cope" Coplien

How a Bell Labs researcher impacted the Scrum framework

James (“Cope”) Coplien is a well known author, educator, lecturer and software philosopher who I’ve been following for some time. Firstly with his books on C++ during the 90’s (“Advanced C++ Programming Styles and Idioms.”, Addison-Wesley, J. Coplien) and after I moved into the Scrum community with his famous article on the Borland Quattro Pro team (“Borland Software Craftsmanship: A New Look at Process, Quality and Productivity”, Proceeds of the 5th Annual Borland International Conference, James O. Coplien 1994)

It was a great pleasure to finally be able to meet Cope and to talk about how he came into the Scrum community. Cope’s journey was long and involved many twists and turns as you’ll discover. We talked about many things including his work with patterns, how both the his 1994 Borland article and his pattern work influenced Scrum, and why be became a Scrum trainer. We also discussed some of is more recent work with the ScrumPLoP community, and the Knowsy iPad game.

This is a long interview (about 90 minutes), and touches on many different topics; from Buddhism to Denmark, and from Bell Labs to working with Nonaka. I think you’ll agree that Cope has had a remarkable career and his work has influenced a wide spectrum of the community.


Cope: Cool. So [laughs] sorry, I hate being recorded because I just, I
don’t know what it is. Just something about being recorded just sort of
sets me off. I’ll try and relax again. So…

Cope: I’m confident. I won’t say I put on a clean shirt, but I did take off
my bathrobe and put on a shirt. So, I’m set.

Cope: Well, I did notice that you put on an Ozzie shirt, which is really
…did you do that deliberately?

Cope: I didn’t even think of that.

Cope: That’s fantastic.

Cope: I didn’t even think of that.

Cope: That is the coolest thing ever. That is just brilliant.

Cope: Yeah, okay. Oh, yeah. Thanks for noticing that. That was totally by
accident. I’ve been wearing it for a couple of days.

Cope: brilliant. I thought it was deliberate.

Cope: No.

Cope: Even by accident that’s fantastic. Too good. Too good. Anyway, so let
me get started. Actually let me ask you this. How do you prefer
to be referenced? Do you like being called James, or do you like
Jim? Because I’ve known you from, through other people, they’ve
always talked about you as Jim. But do you prefer that or prefer

Cope: Oh really? That’s funny people are calling me Jim. Most people call
me Cope.

Cope: Yeah, that too. Yeah. Absolutely.

Cope: Yeah, so Cope probably works best. Only my mother calls me James.

Cope: So you prefer Cope.

Cope: Yeah, Cope works good.

Cope: Cool. Excellent. So…

Cope: How about you?

Kane: Everyone calls me Kane.

Cope: Is it Kane or Kaney or…

Kane: No Kane. Kaney is the Hawaiian. So, yeah.

Cope: Yeah. All right.

Kane: Yeah, I try to avoid that. It’s just Kane. People just call me Kane.

Cope: Kane. All right.

Kane: Like Kane and Abel. That’s…

Cope: Right.

Kane: Yeah. That’s me. Nothing terribly exciting. It’s nice and simple
which is a good thing. It’s sort of like one of those short,
short names. Which is always good.

Cope: Yep.

Kane: So, tell me how did you get into this kind of community? What brought
you into this form of community. Because I’m guessing that
you’ve got a really long history with Scrum, in some way. But I
don’t know what it is.

Cope: Yeah. Yeah. It depends on where you want to start. It’s kind of like,
have you seen the, what’s the Steve Martin movie, where he
starts, you know saying I was born a poor black child. You know
Steve Martin?

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, I don’t want to go back that far.

Kane: Let me see the. Let me ask you this. One of the things that you’re
really well known for is the Borland article. The study about
Quattro Pro team in Borland. So, how about we start there? I
think that was, what ’93, ’94 time frame?

Cope: Something like that. But if I could back up just a few years before

Kane: Oh, brilliant. Yeah.

Cope: I feel it will make the story a little more interesting. You know,
why was I doing that?

Kane: Yeah, good point.

Cope: I was at Bell Labs and that’s engineering heaven. Actually, doing a
little programming but mainly doing program administration.

Kane: Right.

Cope: And it was technological hell and we were rewarded for doing crazy
innovative things on this Deaf March Project. And, you know, I
was very good at that and was duely rewarded for it. Then I got
into applied research or forward looking work and started
getting to know a guy named Moody Amahd. He started to give me
this vision, you know, that in addition to technology there are
these things out here called people.

You know, people. People are really interesting and that the
interesting problems are organizational problems and that it all
sounded interesting and intriguing. So, I started looking at
that and that was, you know, that was probably the mid 1990’s
when I started looking at that. Then I got into Bell Labs
research, you know, the ivory tower. At that time there was some
guys doing some work on visualization. There was a guy named
Steve Ike and he’s pretty famous in the visualization community
for visualizing large data sets. I guess today we’d call it big
data. This was back in 1990, 1991. It was maybe, around ’91 when
I was invited by Kent Beck to go to this meeting of seven guys
on a mountain top in Colorado. To, was it in Colorado? I can’t
remember now. He had, Kent had been inspired by the work of
Christopher Alexander on patterns and he said, well let’s get
all these guys together, these object oriented guys. Because I
was kind of like the C++ design guy back then. And lets talk
about going beyond objects and these isolated things to patterns
of interaction between objects.

Kane: Right.

Cope: And let’s launch this thing called the pattern community. So, we did
that. So, I sat down and wrote my first pattern at that
workshop. At that time I had started doing organizational
analysis and I wrote a pattern that was actually called Buffalo
Mountain, which probably wins the prize for the worst name
pattern in history.

Kane: That’s pretty good. Anything with the word buffalo in it sounds good
to me.

Cope: Okay, that’s, you know buffalo burger is buffalo mountain.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: We had started doing this ethnographic research on organizations
gathering real data from real organizations and putting it
together to make some models and I thought, I can talk about
these models using these things called patterns. Now, the reason
for the research is, we in research had been approached by the
people in development saying, alright, we have to market in
Europe. We have this joint venture with Phillips Communications
called APT and we need to get ISO 9000 certification, so we need
to be ISO 9000 compliant. They’re looking for researches help in
doing process stuff. So, what can we do to help them? So, I went
in and I had a look at the whole ISO thing and the whole thing
is total bullshit.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: It’s just total crap. It’s along with all the other things that the
British have done in unfolding their empire around the world,
ISO 9000 rates up there with some of the greatest damage they’ve
ever done.

Kane: I can’t believe that you’ve just equated ISO to British Empiricism.

Cope: Isn’t it obvious? [inaudible 06:57]

Kane: I love it. That’s really, that’s terrific.

Cope: So, I went to these organizations and we made some empirical models
and what the organizations were doing and we compared them to
the online methodology, the OLM, which was the official guide
for what AT&T was doing. No correlation. I was never allowed to
publish that, obviously.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: I would have [inaudible 07:24]…but I thought, alright, if processes
are not the hallmark of what an organization should be looking
at, what is it? What is it that an organization should be
looking at? So, we thought it’s probably in the organizational
structure. It’s in the rolls. And we started making these roll
based process models and in the end, what I unwittingly did was,
I reinvented a branch of sociology called Social Network Theory.
One of the casualties of my career is I’m always discovering
that someone has ripped off my ideas and stolen them 30 years
before I was born.

Kane: It’s funny how that happens.

Cope: And this was a small one. Social Network Theory and all the things we
had pioneered were invented by a guy named Merino in 1934 and we
had kind of reinvented this as a way of studying organizations.
And then we started working with more and more organizations to
study them and make these social network models and understand
how they worked and capturing them as patterns. And one of the
organizations I studied indeed was Borland Quattro Pro for
Windows. The way that happened is that David Intersimone, by the
way, who’s still at what ever Borland is called today. That part
of Borland is no longer called Borland, I don’t remember what
the name is but he’s somewhere in San Francisco. David is still

Kane: Wow.

Cope: He said…

Kane: That’s a long time.

Cope: Hey, you know, we’d like you to speak at our conference on C++ and
we’ll pay you a lot of money. Well, it’s a conflict of interest
for me to take money for engagements, working in Bell Labs. I
said, tell you what, instead of you paying me why don’t you give
me the opportunity to interview one of your teams that supports
my research. He said, okay. So, he put me together with the
Quattro Pro team and, I mean, I had just never seen anything
like it in my life.

Kane: You know, I was about to say…

Cope: My job [inaudible 09:24]…

Kane: When I read that article I was just amazed, I mean, I would have
loved to have worked with a team like that myself. I can just
imagine how exciting that would have been for you to actually
see the team and how they work.

Cope: Yeah. So, of course I went back to Bell Labs and I published the
information internally and I said, guys, you know, we don’t need
all this heavyweight methodology crap.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Look, here’s a company, that they rock and they’re doing with four
people what we’re doing with hundreds. I mean, guys, you know.
This is what the future’s going to be like. And then ultimately
that was published in Dr. Dobbs journal. That’s the article
everyone knows about but there was a draft circulating on the
web and this was, this was, and I’ve actually gone back and
looked at the exact dates. Because the exact dates are
historically interesting. Because in parallel there was this guy
names Jeff Sutherland…

Kane: Yep.

Cope: …who was working on his stuff at the time, which would eventually
be called Scrum. And I think it was in ’92 when they had run
this first Scrum spring and then Jeff came across my article and
after reading the article, introduced daily stand-ups and Scrum
Masters into Scrum. Before that, there were no daily stand-ups
and there were no Scrum Masters.

Kane: Oh, interesting.

Cope: Now, let’s make things even more interesting. Do you know who I
learned this definitively? So, I mean, Jeff has, of course,
talked about this but the dates have been a little fuzzy. I was
in Japan in January and at a key note given by Nonaka Sensei.

Kane: Oh, very interesting.

Cope: And he had a slide up there with a time-line of Scrum.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And here’s his initial work and here’s the patterns from Jim Coplien
and here’s Jeff Succens friend, with daily stand-ups and Scrum
Masters and here’s the next thing that Nonaka Sensei did and so
forth. So, Nonaka Sensei sees the patterns as kind of being the
historic link from his work into Scrum. And of course, Jeff does
too, for some elements of Scrum.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And, as I said earlier, there’s much deeper foundations for the core
of Scrum that go back into, to Jeff’s personal experience but
interestingly enough, also go back into Eastern culture.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And that, of course, is another touchstone of one of the things that
Jeff and I have in common is that we see very, very strong
metaphors in Japanese culture and ultimately in classic Chinese
and Indian culture for the things that we see in Scrum and will
sometimes rub up against Western morays. And I think a lot of
the struggle we have with getting people to understand the
really, really deep pars of Srum follow on those lines. But I
had already gotten some encouragement in that direction from my
office mate, a guy named Tom Burroughs, who was a very,
ideologically, a very Buddhist guy, he had, you know, done a lot
of reading. It all made sense to him. It’s how he conducted his
life, so, I mean, he wasn’t, he didn’t go to temples, he didn’t
dress funny or anything. It was just a school of psychology to
him and a good world model. And he had a big influence on me in
terms of how those world models affect the way we think about
the world of work around us. And then, I carried on the patterns
work, started working with Neil Harrison, the book would be
published in, when was it, 2001, The Organizational Patterns

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And I didn’t meet Jeff until, oh gosh, about 2005, 2006. I’d have to
go back and look. It was the first time that I met Jeff, when he
was teaching a Scrum Masters class here in Denmark and I
attended his Scrum Master class.

Kane: Oh, interesting. So, even though your patterns work influenced the
daily stand-up, way back in, what, 1992, 1993 time period?

Cope: Sometime back then, yeah.

Kane: You didn’t actually meet him until 2006? Wow, fifteen years.

Cope: Something like… yeah it was a long time. Yeah, Scrum’s getting old.

Kane: Yeah, that’s quite amazing because I’d always thought you were an
intimate part of that whole community of people. So, that’s a
bit of a surprise for me.

Cope: I mean, Jeff tried to get me into the community early on. I mean, he
and [inaudible 13:46] and some other people use to say, come be
a Scrum trainer.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: But I was a little bit concerned about the kind of Amway nature of it
and the financial model behind it. And I’m just not a believer
in certification. Anyhow, and out of leaver and certification is
the way of making the kind of money those guys are making. So, I
wanted to not taint myself with that, with the trappings of that
community. Eventually I gave in because, I thought, well I can
do more damage on the inside than I can do from the outside. So,
if I get into the community, I have a better chance of getting
them back on their, on track, than I can by throwing stones from
the outside. So, I drank the Kool-Aid.

Kane: It’s interesting you said that because Ron Jeffries used,
essentially, the same words when I talked to him about how he
came to the, you know, Scrum alliance. And he said, essentially,
the same thing that he can do more damage from the inside than
from the outside. So, it’s interesting that you should say that
as well.

Cope: Yeah. Ron has other agendas. He and I argue a lot and see things a
lot differently but I have immense respect for him.

Kane: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Cope: Do you know that I don’t think he offers certification in any of his

Kane: Yeah, I’m not surprised. Yeah.

Cope: He does the train…

Kane: I can believe that.

Cope: …and training has value but he says, this isn’t about
certification. I’m not going to offer certification. And, I
mean, for him to do that, you know, is, it takes some guts.
Because most people clammer for these Scrum courses they give me
the piece of paper.

Kane: That’s right. Yeah.

Cope: And he just said, booga-booga, screw that. So…

Kane: He’s a brave man actually. In many ways, I mean, he speaks his mind
and he stands by it and I think that’s quite admirable.

Cope: One of the things, again, we have in common, we kind of have nothing
to loose. We’ve made our names, we’ve made our reputations,
we’re both retired. So, what are they going to do to us? Fire
us? Come on.

Kane: Good point.

Cope: So, we can afford to speak our minds.

Kane: Yeah. So, let’s continue on with the story. To recap, you’ve been
doing quite a lot of patterns work, a lot of organizational
patterns work. You went into Borland, saw how they work. And
published that paper, the, I can’t remember the name of the
paper but…

Cope: The Quattro Pro paper about Borland.

Kane: Yeah, the Quattro Pro paper. That was picked up by Jeff. Jeff read
that and of course, that influenced Scrum. What happened after
that? What happened between roughly about ’94 and 2006?

Cope: Well, that’s when Neil Harrison and I were working on the
Organizational Patterns book, that was later published. And…

Kane: Were you still at the Bell Labs at this time?

Cope: Yeah, I was at Bell Labs until about, I don’t know, maybe about 2000.
When did I leave there? 2000 or 2001. Bell Labs had just ceased
to be, you know, the great place that I’d come to love over the
preceding twenty years.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And, things were really starting to fall apart. I got a bad manager
and she started doing some stupid things and her boss was doing
even more stupid things and I thought, yeah, it’s time to get

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, actually the Organizational Patterns book came out near the end
of that, so I think it probably came out after I left Bell Labs.
But the research was done in Bell Labs and the early research on
that had the very strong support of managers. Some great
managers like Eric Sunder Jr. He’s still floating around
somewhere out in New York and New Jersey. Eric was a great
manager in he’d come in and tell us what to do and we’d tell
him, you’re full of crap Eric, I’m going this direction. He’d
say, Okay well, I’ll let you go that direction but you take your
own consequences. And we did something different than what he
said, 9 out of 10 times and for most of those 9 out of 10 times,
each one of those things turned into something fairly
fundamental and great. I mean, Steve Ikes works on visualization
is landmark. He actually spun off a company from the department.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Oh. Ken Rehor, went off working on this stupid thing which today is
called Voice XML. So, Voice XML came out of our department. That
was Ken Rehor and Chris Ramming.

Kane: Interesting.

Cope: Of all these things that our boss thought was stupid but he let
survive, he had the wisdom to leave them survive and he’s very
proud of that.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: The organizational patters were one of them. So, we spent about ten
years refining that book. Refining the hell out of that book.

Kane: Wow.

Cope: Now, I mean, I was doing some other things on the side too. They were
seeing some more architecture work that was starting to happen
and a few other things but, I mean, that’s kind of the great
thing that survived from those ten years of work.

Kane: Cool. To my great shame, I haven’t read the book. I’ll have to get a

Cope: It’s kind of not a book that you sit down and read. It’s one that you
skim and you use as a reference.

Kane: Yeah. Yeah.

Cope: But people who’ve gotten the book have really, really enjoyed it.

Kane: I’m going to have to try and dig out a copy. Cool. And then how did
you eventually end up in the Scrum community? What was it that
sort of, that took you from 2000 to 2006?

Cope: Well, I moved to Denmark in about, I kind of moved gradually, so it’s
hard to say whether it was 2004, 2005, 2006. I got a job at a
great little consulting company here called, Nordia. Great
culture. One of the best job of programmers in the world worked
there, great guy. Pretty good management. I was doing a lot of
consulting from there and that’s where Jeff came in. He offered
the course at Nordia.

Kane: Right. Okay.

Cope: We certified the entire company.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: I eventually outgrew the company and one day with fear and trembling
I went to the boss and said, you know, I’m gonna quit and go out
on my own. And he sat back in his chair and laughed out loud and
said, well we’ve been waiting for you to come and say this, you
know, it’s about time. And they’re still around, the consulting
part has been absorbed by another company but the guys from
Nordia are still doing set-top box software and it’s a great
bunch of folks. I got into that course. Got my certified Scrum
Masters certification and…

Kane: And did you feel special afterwards?

Cope: Actually, I did a little bit. It’s, you know, I was a little bit
proud of that. It was kind of okay. And because, I mean, Denmark
is like Scrum central. Culturally, it’s the place in the world
you want to be if you’re running Scrum. The level of trust here
is high. It’s a very flat society. A lot of small companies
rather than, a lot like Sweden except Sweden has big companies.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And so, Jeff Sutherland was like through here, you know, every other
week teaching a course. And, Jens Ostergaard, who was running,
he ran one of the first Scrums here in Denmark and became a very
prolific Scrum trainer. So they became kind of part of my social
circle and we started hanging out a lot with them and talking
about Scrum and celebrating our common history, going back into
the organizational patterns.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: Jens bought a [inaudible 21:56], and old country estate out in
Skulna, or right on the Skulna laking a border in Southern
Sweden. So, I mean, it’s this mansion with, you know, fourteen
rooms or twenty rooms or whatever. And he’d gather people
together there. You know, people like Allister Coburn, and
myself and Borris Gloger and Jeff Sutherland and Jens Ostergaard
and Mary Poppendieck, Diana Larsen, and we’d just come together
there and hang out for three or four days.

Kane: Wow. Sounds great.

Cope: And so, Jens was instrumental in kind of building this community. And
that got me more and more interested or more, I’d say, more
engaged in the Scrum melia and in that community. I started
doing some co-trainings, you know, some with Jens, some with

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And, like I say, eventually at some point, you know, drank the Kool-
Aid and decided to become a Scrum trainer.

Kane: Cool. Cool. Just out of curiosity you’re not Danish, you’re not from,
your heritage isn’t Danish is it. Or are you American or you?

Cope: I was born in the U.S.

Kane: Okay.

Cope: Yeah, the Midwest.

Kane: So, I’ve always, sort of, associated you with Denmark but, you know,
you’re obviously…

Cope: Yeah, well, keep that. I like that. It’s good to be from a civilized
country, yes.

Kane: So, I was just curious because you obviously don’t sound like you
have an accent, you just, and I just couldn’t, when I started
speaking to you I just couldn’t put the two and two together. So
that explains it.

Cope: Yeah.

Kane: So, you moved to Denmark after, what, after Bell Labs in 2000,

Cope: Well, I mean, there was another job in between time. I got a job
doing hardware work. Electronic design automation work in Boston
and I was there for a couple of years.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: But at the end of that, I was actually commuting three weeks. Three
weeks in Framingham, three weeks in Denmark.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: After leaving Bell Labs, oh, there’s quite a bit that happened after
Bell Labs. I actually had a job for two years as a University
Professor at North Central College. Which is a small liberal
arts college in the Chicago suburbs. And I did some consulting
and I was at this EDA firm, so it was actually quite awhile
between leaving Bell Labs and coming to Denmark.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: About four years, five years, something like that.

Kane: Yeah. Cool. Well, you’ve obviously made the transition because it
sounds like you’re permanently there now.

Cope: Oh yeah. The next time they move me it’ll have to be in a pine box.
This is, it’s a great country and I mean it’s great people just
on the personal interaction level but also, like I say, if you
want to be doing software development right the cultural roots
are here in Denmark. The Poppendiecks, Mary Poppendieck give
this talk, there’s a book, I can’t remember the name, that
dissects cultures along several important lines and she’s
aligned some of these cultural trappings with things that are
important to agile. And looked at the correlation between these
cultural trappings, what you find in different cultures and
basically, if you want to be doing Scrum, you want to be in

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Denmark, Sweden or Finland. The high order bit, I don’t know if Mary
talks about this. But one of the things that my wife and I have
invested a lot in is looking at trust. And you measure trust in
culture, you know, through some survey questions and looking at
how people ask and, I mean, there’s no where in the world like
Denmark when it comes to trust. The Netherlands is very high. In
general, the Nordic countries are very high.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: You don’t want to be in Brazil. You don’t want be in Mongolia. You
don’t want to be in central Africa. And frankly, the United
States is kind of just in the upper-middle. And then there’s
places like Turkey and the middle east which, you know, are
often pointed to of having a good, adaptive spirit, they’re very
agile but there’s something missing in the personal relationship
level, in terms of this trust thing. Now like I say, in terms of
the corruption index, which I just again looked at yesterday.
And that’ a very strong contrarian indicator to trust. Australia
and New Zealand also rate very, very high. So, you know, when
I’m looking to open markets, I go in with a, you know, with an
open eye. And it’s either, to let’s try building on the trust
that’s here or if I’ll go into a market where there isn’t that
level of trust, let’s help the market see that that’s the issue
they need to deal with and emphasize more of the personal
development side rather than the, you know, here’s the Scrum
framework side.

Kane: That’s, that could be a heck of a lot of work. Because instilling
trust is something that takes time. I mean, that’s not something
that’s easy or trivial to do. And I can see that being very,
very difficult.

Cope: Well, there’s a difference between being difficult and taking time.

Kane: True.

Cope: And people equate the two and I focus more on the, this takes time,
then it being difficult. There’s very, very few things that are
intrinsically difficult. Most things that are difficult are in
ourselves, you know, we haven’t done it so it can’t be done.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And limit ourselves in that regard. There’s very, very few things
that are intrinsically difficult. I mean, there’s some things,
if you try to violate the laws of physics, you’re going to get
in problems. If you try to lift something that’s beyond your
strength, you’re going to get in trouble but, I mean, this is
all about doing the impossible. Now, and you laugh a little bit
but if you look at Toyo-…

Kane: I laugh because it’s true.

Cope: If you look at Toyota, which is where Scrum takes a lot of it’s
inspiration, and Jeff is very open about this. The new CEO of
Toyota set impossible goals for the country, for the company.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: He said, we’re going to make a car, it’s impossible for the car to
get into an accident. It’s impossible for the car to injure a
human being. We’re going to create a car that can go all the way
across the United States on a single tank of gas. So, he comes
in and he sets impossible goals. And that’s what it’s all about
because once you set those goals.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Even if you don’t, even if don’t meet them, it doesn’t mean you
failed. But the more exciting stuff, is if you look through
history, I’m really big again on history, and if you study,
there’s a wonderful anthropologist who’s inspired me a lot. If
you look at the organizational patterns, they were inspired, in
large part, by an anthropologist named Kraiber. And, he wrote a
book called Patterns of Culture, that I think was published in
the 1920’s. And some of the manuscripts even go back to near to
the beginning of the century. It’s organizational patterns. It
is. So, this notion of patterns and using them for culture is
very, very, very old. But one of the things he looks at in
culture, is, diffusion theory or idea of dissemination.

Kane: Right. Yep.

Cope: And he looks at the history of key inventions and he’s got like a
hundred inventions in there and saying, well we all know
Fairiday invented this and that Kiery invented this and for
every one of them he can find a co-invention, usually further
than a hundred kilometers away and, most often within a month,
almost always within two years.

Kane: Interesting.

Cope: Hundreds of inventions.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Individuals don’t invent. Society invents.

Kane: Absolutely. Yeah.

Cope: And these things show up in individuals.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So…

Kane: Yeah, interesting. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve actually heard that before. So,
I’ve heard that word before. I didn’t realize who it was by. But
I did realize a lot of inventions, even though we may attribute
them to an individual, are really part of that period. They
evolve from a part of the culture and the things that people are
talking about during that period and time frame.

Cope: Yeah. That’s right. That’s exactly right.

Kane: Yeah. I think that probably a similar one is the invention of the
internal combustion engine and flight as well. I know that the
Wright brothers weren’t really the first to fly. They were the
first to have mechanical flight but they weren’t the first to
fly. There were other people flying before them.

Cope: Even being the first mechanical flight is contentious and I think the
French are trying to make beach heads on that. But yeah, it’s
all these things. There just a product of the era.

Kane: Yeah. Absolutely. The things that people are experimenting with at
the time frame and the environment that they’re in. So…

Cope: How did we get into invention, why are we here?

Kane: I’ve got no idea but it’s interesting all the same. It’s fascinating.

Cope: Yeah.

Kane: So, let me ask you this. You sort of talked us through how you came
through and, you know, from your work with patterns at AT&T
right through to how you sort of got involved with the Scrum
community and then became, you know, part of the Scrum alliance.
What are you doing now? What are the things that you’re working
on now that interest you? I know that you’re involved in quite a
lot of the Scrum PLoP stuff. Would you like to talk about that?
What are the things that are fascinating to you at the moment?

Cope: Yeah. I mean, I’m working with clients to try to drag them kicking
and screaming into better worlds of work. I just had a parting
with a client where it’s clear they don’t have the will in
management to do it. I mean, that’s what I, you know, that’s
what I’d like to be on my headstone, right. Is…

Kane: Parting of ways?

Cope: Well, in fact, maybe, you know, I think these things succeed if the
change agent isn’t visible. That, or you know, you get people to
think it’s their own idea. But I mean, that’s what I’d like to
do. There’s another thing that’s taking a lot of my energy and
time, it’s a very small thing, and then we have a Scrum game
called Scrum nosey. Runs on the iPad and you can get on there
and play this game where you challenge your Scrum knowledge
against me or Jeff Sutherland or, and so we’re evolving that
game. It’s a lot of fun.

Kane: I’ve got that game.

Cope: But yeah, I mean, the Scrum PLoP thing is probably the biggest thing,
the most, the biggest mind share thing in terms of Scrum. And, I
founded that several years ago from several perspectives. One is
the pattern community had kind of lost its way. That, when we
founded the pattern community way back on that mountain top in
Colorado, we had a great vision and great ideas about building a
body of literature, I mean, literature. Stuff that’s beautiful
and that enables groups to come together to build a body of
literature for looking at quality of life and with a real focus
on people and quality of the world. We all shared that vision,
all seven of us there.

Kane: Sounds like a Utopia.

Cope: Oh, yes, it’s all inspired by Alexanders, kind of Utopian vision.
And, I mean, you know, how do you get to Utopia? You know, how
do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time.

Kane: Absolutely. Yes.

Cope: And maybe you never get there but it’s okay. You know, the journey is
what’s important. But the point of view was to be focused
outward on human beings and about quality of life and this thing
that we call a quality without a name. The current pattern
community doesn’t get that. It’s become a, in terms of being a
community, they support each other well, there’s a lot of warmth
and mutual support and so it’s kind of a big, you know, 1960’s
love-in if you go to a plot, I mean, the culture is wonderful
but, I mean, there just not producing anything.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: I technically, every once in awhile, a book will pop out or something
but it’s probably, I don’t know if I’d go so far to say as it’s
some of the worst literature that’s coming out of the technical
arena but it’s close. Because it kind of doesn’t have the rigor
of peer reviewed academic stuff. Because early on we kind of
pushed away the academic value systems so we lost that rigor.
And it doesn’t aspire to these great human notions of emergence
and of morphological wholeness in the world. So the pattern
community is lost that, so I thought, alright let’s try again.
Let’s build a community off to the side and, you know, we have
kind of the blessing, for what it’s worth, of the old side
group, which is the, kind of the, the group that is the glue
between all the patterns conferences. And kind of the blessing,
from what it’s worth, from the Scrum alliance, saying, yeah, you
guys often do this. And at one time, you know, we aspired to
making this the new Scrum standard because the Scrum guy is a
standard as far as the rules of the game go. Okay, so if you
want the rule book on how to play chess, you get the game rules
for chess and that’s what the Scrum guide is. And that’s fine,
more or less fine. It’s got some problems too but we’re working
on those. So what we wanted is a rationalized description of
Scrum. Why do we do this? How do you make this work in a certain
context. So, it’s not just a blind set of rules, it’s, you know,
here’s the history, the rationale and thinking of this as a
system rather than just individual techniques or individual
meetings. As an example of what I mean by this, if you say
process improvements, so if I say process improvement to you,
you’re a Scrum guy, what’s the thing that comes to mind, as a
Scrum guy?

Kane: Inspect and adapt would be the first thing that comes to mind.

Cope: Okay, I like that. And now you’re going to go back and do process
improvement with your Scrum in your organization. So, how do you
do that? See, most people will think, oh the retrospective.
Okay, that’s where I’d put the process improvement part, right?
That’s just wrong. I mean, Scrum is a process improvement. It’s
not that it’s got this thing in it called process improvement
which is called the retrospective but that’s how a lot of people
are thinking about it.

Kane: Right. Yeah.

Cope: And how a lot of Scrum trainers teach it.

Kane: Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s endemic. It’s endemic throughout the whole

Cope: Exactly. And what we’re trying to move this next level up. So, we put
together this, actually the way it started was one of these
meetings at [inaudible 37:48], Jens Ostergaard’s big house in
the middle of the Swedish countryside where there were a bunch
of us together and we started talking about patterns and
Gariella Benefield was there and Jeff and Jens and I don’t
remember who else all was there but they got excited about this
concept of patterns and we said, well let’s get together and do
this again and actually write some patterns. And that’s how
Scrum PLoP was born.

Kane: Oh, interesting.

Cope: And now it’s become a little more institutionalized, so it’s kind of
the same time, same place, every year. It’s up here in Denmark
at a, these old bath hotel, the beach hotels. There’s only, I
think, four or five of them left in Denmark that go back to the
turn of the century. That’s between 19th and 20th century, that
turn of the century.

Kane: 1800’s to 1900’s.

Cope: Right. Where the wealthy people would come and, you know, spend the
summer or summer week or something. So, and it’s out of the way,
it’s a beautiful [inaudible 38:54] and, you know, there’s
between, yeah, ten and twenty of us who’ve been getting together
four times now and having a very, very disciplined writing of
these patterns, refining the patterns, making sure they link
together in pattern languages, making sure they’re empirically
backed. So, part of it is restoring the pattern vision of being
focused on systems thinking and on beauty and wholeness and
quality of life. The other part is to, is to go into the
foundation of Scrum. Now, we have Jeff Sutherland there every,
so we’ve got the oracle who can lead us by the hand through some
of the history and some of the rationales about why things are
the way they are. And there’s some really, really simple things.
I mean, what’s the purpose of the daily stand-up?

Kane: Are you asking me or was that rhetorical question?

Cope: Yeah, what would you say? You know if I asked you, what’s the purpose
of the daily stand-up?

Kane: To communicate. To [laugh], I’m trying to describe it without using
the word talk. But really that’s what it is, to talk and

Cope: It’s to re-plan.

Kane: To re-plan. Yeah.

Cope: What it is, it’s kind of a spring planning meeting, in the small.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And so, what you do, the reason this was put together is like the
Borland people did, right? Is, we’re going to re-plan every day
and the team is going to equal…

Kane: [simultaneous speaking- inaudible 40:27]

Cope: Re-plan it’s direction to optimize the chances that they’re going to
meet their spring commitment, right? Well, and Jeff tells us
these kind of things and everyone has kind of the same answer
that you do. Well, it’s good to get around and make things
visible and chat. But there really is a focused objective and
reason for doing this, which is, okay we’re going to re-plan the
Scrum every day.

Kane: Interesting. Yeah, yeah.

Cope: So it’s just these little insights that most Scrum people don’t know.

Kane: I can see it now. It’s funny that you should say that because now
that you’ve said it, it’s, I can see that actually being the

Cope: Yeah.

Kane: Interesting.

Cope: These things are, there’s a term we use in the pattern community,
which is ahhhhh, BS. Of course, it’s obvious.

Kane: Yeah, yeah.

Cope: But it’s not what you said.

Kane: That’s right. Absolutely. Yes, yes.

Cope: That’s exactly what these patterns are trying to do.

Kane: Yeah, and it’s a very subtle mind shift. It’s not a, it’s right
there, it’s just a, it’s quite difficult to describe actually
what went through my mind when I just had that experience. It’s
actually quite interesting. It’s obviously there but there’s a
subtle mind perception. [dog barking]

Cope: Oh, I’m sorry. I have a dog here that doesn’t like something you
said. Teddy. Teddy, stop [inaudible 41:56]. Teddy, Teddy.

Kane: [inaudible 42:00] What kind of dog?

Cope: It’s a Shetland Sheepdog.

Kane: Oh, very nice.

Cope: It’s, ahh, the postman is here. He can here the [inaudible 42:10]

Kane: Oh, yep, yep, yep, yep. That’ll be what it is.

Cope: Yeah. It’s kind of a [inaudible 42:15], we have him part time. He
belongs to a doctor and the doctor is on vacation right now or
when the doctor travels to be with patients, we take care of
him. Well, he’s with us this month.

Kane: Cool.

Cope: Before we were so rudely interrupted, where were we?

Kane: We were talking about the patterns. How you were describing how some
of the patterns were trying to restore some of there original
thoughts behind Scrum and some of the…

Cope: Yes. Now, back to people who are watching this interview are gonna go
through the same mental gymnastics that you just went through.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: When we come to this point in the interview. Now, what we’re doing at
Scrum PLoP, is we do that ourselves.

Kane: Right.

Cope: So, as a group we go through these gymnastics and then we reflect.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And say, and I have to say reflect because you’re colleague down
there in Australia, Auckland Hastman, who’s one of the, teams do
not introspect, individuals introspect. Teams reflect. Okay,
Auckland. But he has a degree in counseling psychology so I’ll
take his word for it.

Kane: That’s right. Yeah. He’s a good man. I like Auckland.

Cope: He’s, I just in the middle of sending him a long mail. So, we get
together and reflect on that and say okay, what are we just
learned? Alright, now, how do we get other people to come to the
realization that we’ve come to? So, it’s kind of, and I hate to
use this metaphor because it’s a sucky metaphor but you know the
rock opera Tommy?

Kane: Yes, I do. Yeah.

Cope: And, so, you know, it’s kind of this Tommy experience. You know, how
do we give the masses the same experience we’ve been through,
either by practicing this stuff or from the perspective of
collective deep knowledge in history, find a real nugget worth
capturing. How do we get you there so you feel you discovered it
and that you own it?

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And so, we’re building this body of literature. We’re in our fourth
incarnation. There’s people really, really eager to get this

Kane: It’s already out there, though, isn’t it? It’s on the web.

Cope: It’s on the web but there’s one of our group that wants to, he wants
to make everything into an app. Okay, I want to make an app out
of this.

Kane: [laughter] There’s an app for that, I’m sure.

Cope: And, I mean, there’s other people who want it to be out as a book. I
mean, I want it to be out as a book but there’s something you
mentioned before, I can’t remember what it is now but I’m
patient and so, if I’m gonna go in and change the culture of a
country, I’m patient. You know, I’m willing to wait the ten
years. But Alexander wrote his first pattern book, he took ten
or twenty years. When Neil and I wrote the Organizational
Patterns book, that took ten years. No one takes ten years to
write a book anymore.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: But that’s what it takes to write archival literature and people just
don’t understand this. So, you know, I don’t want to have any
wine before it’s time. When it’s ready it will be ready but
there is pressure now.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: To get it out there. And I suspect that the pressure is going to,
eventually we’ll have to give in. And probably within the next
two or three years we’re probably at least start to assemble
this thing into something that looks like a book.

Kane: Cool. That sounds pretty exciting actually. That’s pretty cool.

Cope: Yeah. Well, but as you say, they’re on the web and scumplop.org. And
so, they’re out there, they’re accessible, now.

Kane: Yeah. Cool. So, the final question that I’ve been asking people is
where do you see Scrum going? What is your vision for what Scrum
is going to be in ten years, twenty years, maybe even further

Cope: Well, hmm…

Kane: Pure speculation of course.

Cope: I’ve answered this question in another interview, curiously enough.

Kane: Oh, really?

Cope: And, I hate this kind of question, what’s the future of agile? What’s
the future of Scrum? Actually sat down and thought about it in a
disciplined way and, I don’t know, you may not like my answer. I
mean, Scrum is just a word and it’s now in the public domain.
And [laughter] you know, we like to joke, some of the more
mature trainers. The reason the Scrum alliance was created, or
one of the reasons, is so that no single large company, you
know, like an IBM or Orally or anyone else could run with the
concept of Scrum and make it their own and turn it into a big
company that was the only company to own Scrum. And so we formed
the Scrum alliance so that wouldn’t happen. So, gee, I’m really
glad there’s no single big company that feels it owns Scrum.
And, I mean, the fact that they’ve done that, and I mean, I just
saw a post from a Turkish trainer last night and he’s from
Scrum.org. By the way, in the Scrum PLoP work, we have I think
four PST’s involved.

Kane: Oh, really. That’s interesting. And how many…

Cope: And I’m trying to make this non sectarian. It’s not a Scrum alliance
thing, it’s a Scrum thing. Don’t confuse Scrum with the Scrum
alliance. Don’t confuse Scrum with the Scrum guide.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: Scrum is bigger than any of those. And what we’re looking at is going
for the, you know, the big picture here. So, unfortunately, I
think this word called Scrum is going to go more and more into
that direction. Jeff and Ken created Scrum to change the world
of work and to help people who have nothing, get something. The
Scrum alliance was formed to help people make money off of
teaching Scrum. Now, in terms of, you know, what’s in the water
and what people do, I mean, what everyone does today is called

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: We’ve got to call it Scrum, you know, where is that going? And most
of the people will equate that with agile. This little talk I
give where I look at the values of Toyota production system and
I compare them with the production at the, with the things at
agile. So, Agile’s about deferring decisions to the last
responsible moment. Lean is about pulling decisions forward. You
know, I have like five or six dichotomy like that where Toyota
production system, which most people call Lean, is exactly the
opposite of Agile. And everyone equates Scrum with Agile and
they’re running Scrum as Agile, they’ve lost the thinking,
they’ve lost the planning.

Kane: Right.

Cope: So, my aspiration for Scrum is they start doing Scrum in the Toyota
production system sense.

Kane: Right.

Cope: So, in addition to Scrum PLoP, where I’m putting a lot of my effort
now, is in Japan. Because these guys, they just get it, the just
get it. And now we can go in and do the refinement. I don’t need
to do that aspect of the culture change there. So first, the
first step would be, you know, doing Scrum as Jeff envisioned
it, rooted in these practices of the Toyota production system.
Because too many people are doing this Agile stuff and the XP
kinds of things and they see it as practices. That isn’t what
Scrum is. It’s a way of life, it’s like, I do Aikido. Jeff does
Aikido. And people think that Aikido is something you do if
you’re attacked in an alley. No. Aikido is a way of life.

Kane: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a daily practice.

Cope: Scrum is the same way.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, that would be my first aspiration. The second aspiration is that
we get beyond that to swarm development. So, I’m a big fan of

Kane: To swarm development, did you say?

Cope: Yeah, swarm development. So, there’s swarm development going on, not
only in software right now. Do you know about the swarm
development, the open source using these new 3-D printers to
make a 3-D printed…

Kane: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Cope: …planetary rocket.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: it’s an open-source project. I thought, this is pretty cool.

Kane: Yeah, it’s pretty cool isn’t it. Yeah. It’s amazing stuff happening
with the 3-D printing community. It’s really quite incredible.

Cope: And the open-source community. So, you know, I aspire to things that
look more like Linex, more like Chrome, more like things are
developing in community to go the next step beyond Scrum.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And that’s kind of, you know, a hyper-Scrum where you’re not limited
to individual, local teams. And I think that there’s a great
paradigm shift between, you know, the way we were doing things
and what’s popularly called, waterfall, to doing things in Scrum
in small teams and then another paradigm shift from there to
community development. So, and it’s not Scrum. It’s another

Kane: Yeah. Yeah, it’s bigger than Scrum.

Cope: And my fantasy would be that a good amount of development of complex
systems goes in that direction. Now, unfortunately I get pretty
cynical about this and I’m not optimistic. We have the great
dumbing down of Scrum through the certification agencies,
through the books that have been published. People don’t get
this deep stuff down at the level of double loop and triple loop
learning. There running with the practices, they’re running with
the techniques. I’m pulling my hair out right now, in the
retrospectives community. I’m part of a mailing list and they
have a very carefully defined and a very carefully defended
fortress, in terms of what retrospectives mean. And if you come
in with an idea then you’re being upsetting, you’re not
respecting others opinions and you’re violating their feeling of

So, these people want to be safe. This is, retrospecting is all about
getting out of a comfort zone. And these people are defining
themselves, in terms of, we need to feel safe. And so, they
don’t understand even at the metal level this notion of getting
into areas of discomfort to evolve. And so, I’m not very
optimistic because the, there’s something in the training and
certification communities, in particular, or in the consulting
communities, it’s broader. It has to do with making money off an

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: That reads a very disconcerting conservatism. That, you know, I can
get my ticket punched and make money off of this once, don’t you
dare muck with my ideas because that takes away things that are
important to me at very low levels of the Maslow Hierarchy. And
so, unwittingly, in the name of progress, this has become a
community that’s very unable, and in fact, unwilling to grow and
learn. So, this is why I like going into places like Japan that
are otherwise, virgin markets. Turkey. Nepal. I’m going to
Palestine in November. They get it. They get it.

Kane: Yeah. So, I can totally understand where you’re coming from. I
totally understand what you’re saying and quite honestly, I see
it all around as well. The places I can see it tend to be with
large corporates. Large corporate organizations, where there is,
of course, as you said earlier, lack of trust. And I’m not so
worried about that because the way that I see it is the large
cooperates aren’t going to survive. It’s going to be the small
aggressive companies that are going to push them out of the way.

Cope: Yeah. I’m totally with you. And it’s not the big cooperates I’m
worried about, because exactly of what you say.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: It’s that they’re either going to, I think what will happen with them
is, I don’t think it’s as black and white. I don’t think that
they wil die. I think they will learn from how they will learn,
they will learn to become many small corporations internally.

Kane: Yes. Absolutely.

Cope: And so, I’m not worried about them. What I’m worried about is this
silent majority. This invisible ghost.

Kane: Right. Yes.

Cope: I mean, there’s nothing uglier than watching a bunch of facilitating
consultants try to facilitate each otherI’ve been to these coach
retreats and retrospectives gatherings and, I mean, you will
never see more acerbic interactions all, I mean, my favorite
story. This is all about them having to feel good out of their
insecurity and protecting their well being. So I went to the
retrospectives gather in Bathe…

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: …three or four years ago, and I was there and Gabby was there and
Jens was there. What they did, was they handed out tokens,
appreciation tokens and they were stickers. And you were given a
finite number of them. And what you could do is, you could give
them to people to appreciate people. If you appreciated
somebody, you could give them a token. Of course, some people
ended up, you know, the big name consultants ended up with all
of the tokens because they’re visible and there are some people
who ended up with none. Where is that community? What they
should have been trying to do is support the people, who
otherwise would have ended up with no tokens.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So what they’ve done is they’ve created a false economy with limited

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And, that’s how they work in the real world.

Kane: Oh, dear.

Cope: Now, there’s some things that aggravate that. So, the Agile people
work that way out of insecurity. You’re seeing less and less co-
training, I mean, the managing director of the Scrum Alliance
had to just come out and make a plea for this train the trainer
program because trainers are too busy doing things that give
them visibility for getting their ticket punched…

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: …to make a contribution to the community.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: It’s all driven by money. And it’s not like these people are gonna
starve. I mean, these people are making hundreds of thousands of
euro’s a year, some of them. This is crazy. So, it, we’ve
created this false economy and it’s created a community of

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And, you know, I don’t know how to fight that. It’s really, really
difficult. The other thing that makes it difficult is they’ll
hang their hat on some, you know, some real important trappings,
like, commitment is non-existent. You try to get commitment from
a lot of these folks and they’ll commit to something and they
won’t deliver.

Kane: Yeah. Yeah.

Cope: So, even for Scrum PLoP, one person met the deadline. Now, how did
we set the deadline. I asked them, when can you guys commit to
deliver? I did not propose a deadline. I did the Scrum thing.
Estimate, when are you guys going to deliver? One person made
the deadline.

Kane: Yeah. Now, I…

Cope: So, and they’ll say, oh, we’re Agile. We get to inspect and adapt.
They don’t understand commitment.

Kane: Convenient excuse. Yeah. Yeah. Very convenient excuse.

Cope: Yep. And so, that’s my concern about what will ultimately discredit
Agile. Eventually there’s going to be a backlash and there’s
going to be enough people who figure out that that’s the game
they’re playing and they will fall hard. Now, you know, you
can’t predict what will follow a crash like that. You simply
can’t. And I see some people carefully avoiding getting a Scrum
label or an Agile label because of things like this. A guy who I
respect a lot is Alistair Colbert. And, you know, he very
carefully avoids labels.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And I think this is part of it. It’s a survival strategy.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, he’s very clever and very cunning from a business point of view
but he’s honest and adding value.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And I respect him for that. And, you know, he’s a really, I’m trying
to emulate that to the degree I can. Yeah, I have one foot in
the Scrum Alliance because there’s still hope I can, maybe, use
that foot to kick them in a good direction. But, you know, my
patience only goes so far.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And they’re great people individually, it’s just that a lot of them
are insecure and collectively, the intelligence of any
organization is the intelligence of the least intelligent person
divided by the number of people in the organization, so.

Kane: I’ve, to be honest, I’ve got a much more optimistic point of view. I
reckon that something will survive regardless of what you call
it. It may not be called Scrum in another ten years. But I think
the, you know, the whole flow, the Deming cycle, I think that
will still go forward.

Cope: Okay, but, I’ll buy that but now let me play historian with you.

Kane: Okay, yeah.

Cope: I’ll buy that but I’ll say those things will be the same things that
survived into Scrum…

Kane: Absolutely, yes.

Cope: …ten years ago.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Which were the same things that survived into that from the previous

Kane: Absolutely.

Cope: And so, I’m not optimistic about progress. I’m optimistic about
retaining the status quo that we’ve always retained and if you
want to ascribe some Scrum [inaudible 59:42] to that, that’s
your prerogative.

Kane: Right.

Cope: One of the things I do in my Scrum training, I love this. I go in and
I draw a process and say, okay guys, I’m going to draw a
process. So here’s a process where we have six to eight months
of deliberation and analysis. Maybe as much as five years and
then there’s a review. And after the review you do high-level
design and at the end of the high-level design there’s a review.
Then you go into implementation and test. And at the end of that
there’s a review. And then you ship. What have I described? So,
what did you just hear? What have I described?

Kane: Well, it could be interpreted either way. It could be interpreted
either as waterfall or it could be interpreted as Scrum.

Cope: It’s Scrum. Get over it.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Jeff Sutherland just said at the last Scrum PLoP that there was one
client where they did five years of analysis to get to an
enabling spec for the PDI’s. Five years.

Kane: Good grief.

Cope: On the average, I think a good product owner should take six months.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Analysis is hard. Analysis is a lot of work.

Kane: Absolutely.

Cope: I tell people, I wan to see ten product owners for every developer.
That’s where the payoff is.

Kane: Really? Ten product owners for every developer?

Cope: I mean, if I say ten, I’ll get three.

Kane: Oh, okay.

Cope: I say ten.

Kane: Fair enough, yeah.

Cope: Right? That’s where the payoff is.

Kane: Absolutely.

Cope: So, these are the kind of things that break mindsets. Right? And
let’s actually, and not in an informal way, but have the whole
team together. Work with e-business to do analysis. Get to an
enabling spec. And this is a good idea. And it goes back to the
Egyptians building pyramids for crying out loud. I mean, there’s
nothing new in Scrum from the point of view of that principal.

Kane: Yes.

Cope: But the Agile people want to destroy it. And say, oh we’re Agile.
Because they avoid commitment and these planning up front, they
equate with commitment. And I think it’s, again, it’s one of
these subtle differences.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And people can’t see the subtlety and the difference between
planning. You know the phrase, defer? Defer decision to the last
responsible moment?

Kane: Yep.

Cope: Do you know that comes from Lean?

Kane: Yes.

Cope: And it means, it means, exactly the opposite of what the Agilists
tell you it means.

Kane: So…

Cope: What does it mean?

Kane: So, let’s be clear. What are the differences?

Cope: So, what deferring decision to the last responsible moment means,
where it comes from, is if you defer a decision, decisions
depend on each other.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: If you defer a decision, if you defer making the decision the
decision may be made for you because history still marches on.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And at some point other decisions will box you in and take away your
options in being able to make that decision.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: Therefore the responsible moment comes very early. Now, what you
should do is line up the dependencies between your decisions in
something called the decision structure matrix, a DSM. Where you
look at the dependencies between your decisions and pull as many
of the decisions forward as you have the power to make now. It’s
about pulling decisions forward, not about pushing them off.

Kane: Now, that’s interesting.

Cope: You find the last responsible moment and you make decisions up to
what the last responsible moment is now.

Kane: Right.

Cope: That’s, there’s this great essay by a guy named Ballard, in the Lean.
Ballard? In the Lean Institute, which is called the, it’s a
paper on something called negative interaction. If you google it
on the web, you’ll find it.

Kane: Negative…

Cope: And he explains the original sense of the phrase, deferring decisions
to the last responsible moment. It’s brilliant.

Kane: Yeah. I’ll look that up. See, my understanding of that concept,
deferring things until the last responsible moment, must be the
way you’re referring to it as the Agiles point of view, which is
that, you don’t make decisions until very late in the process.
And so…

Cope: Right.

Kane: So you go down, sort of a, sort of a set base design approach where
you can try multiple solutions and then you decide on which
solution makes sense much further down the track.

Cope: Ah, but notice what you’ve done. The set base design is a powerful
concept here and it feeds into my definition, it does not feed
into the common Agile definition. Let me explain why…

Kane: Please, do.

Cope: So, what you’ve done, okay, what the Agilists do is they view time as
a single line. I don’t know, are you into NLP at all? There’s
some pretty honorable things in neurolinguistic programming that
have to do with how people look at time. If you look at time
being in the timeline with the timeline going through your head
or if you look at it from outside and this is called in-time and
through-time. So, the Agilists are viewing this in what’s called
a through-time perspective, which is the time-line goes through
your head and I don’t have enough knowledge now to make the
decision, therefore I need to defer the decision to the last
responsible moment until I have enough knowledge to make the

Kane: Yep.

Cope: Well, that’s just stupid. You want to be an in-time person who can
stand outside the time-line, slice the time-line into pieces and
do set-base design. So instead of serializing the decisions,
parallelize them.

Kane: Right.

Cope: Do set-base design, pull the decisions forward, so that I can make
decisions early. That gives me an informed posture from which to
make the next decision. Rather than an informed posture that
will constrain my ability to make that decision in the long

Kane: Wow, that’s…

Cope: See the difference?

Kane: Yes. Absolutely. That’s quite a flip. I mean, that’s similar language
but the, what you’re talking about is actually quite different
even thought you’re using the same language.

Cope: So, here’s another time. It’s happened three times in our
conversation where you said, oh, it’s the same but it’s subtle.

Kane: Yes.

Cope: And the subtleties will kill you.

Kane: I can see that. Especially with this one because this is a big one.
That’s a big flip. That’s not a trivial flip. That’s quite a
large difference in understanding.

Cope: No. And you see, this is why I treasured working with Jeff and why
I’m trying to use, in fact I’m working with Jeff, I also with
Ken. I don’t know if you know this, four of us who kind of own
the Scrum guide, it’s Jeff and Ken and two other guys. And I’m
one of the two other guys.

Kane: You and David are, is that David Star? You said…

Cope: Yeah, David Star. Great guy, at Microsoft.

Kane: Yep. Yep.

Cope: And, you know we’re trying to get to the bottom of this stuff and
say, gosh how do we get this stuff out to the masses. So the
masses don’t fall into the sound bytes that the consultants use
to promulgate their careers and their constituencies. Right?
Because they’re feeding on the fantasies of management who want
to hear certain things. Managers don’t want to make decisions.
Decisions are painful. Oh, I can defer decisions to the last
responsible moment. That’s super. I’ll pay a consultant to tell
me it’s okay to justify my behavior here.

Kane: That’s brilliant.

Cope: That was just about discipline.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And the Agile people, too often, are missing the discipline and they
think Agile is laid back, California guitar playing,
programming. No, it’s not.

Kane: Yeah. Interesting you say that because my early experiences with
Scrum were, actually, you mentioned earlier about people wanting
to be comfortable. One of the things I really loved about Scrum
was the total sense of exposure that I felt. It gave me a bit of
a thrill because it was just so raw and so naked and I really
love that.

Cope: Yeah.

Kane: And it’s, very seldom do I see that now a days. And when I see it, I
still love it. I still love that, just, you know, that complete
sense of uncomfortable, not knowing what the hell is going on.
You know, it just on the edge of chaos, it feels really, really
nice. And I do miss that.

Cope: And people use these words but if they go deep they don’t really
appreciate what that means.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And the, to me the biggest problem here is, you know, call it
paradigm or call it culture. You and I were raised a certain
way, we have certain beliefs. We belong to a tribe. You know,
what tribe do you belong to? You know, I belong to the C++
tribe. Okay, that was, that was kind of the tribe I was raised
in right. Tribes have tribal beliefs.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: It doesn’t matter whether they’re true, I believe them. And that
operationally makes them true. People in American culture
collectively have certain beliefs. And Australian culture,
slightly different set of beliefs. And these beliefs will,
people feed on these beliefs to come to certain conclusions.
Now, and now there are consultants who will feed on these
beliefs to make your career.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And most of them are doing it accidentally out of their own traps and
their own tribal beliefs. There are some of them who are doing
it consciously and they know better. So one of my favorite
examples is Kanban. Which is really big on this, not only
deferring decisions but we can rearrange things at any time,
more or less. Right. The manager, it gives the manager the power
to rearrange things and to not have to coordinate the work as a
team. To be able to manage things on an individual level. And
the whole thing is based on this notion of a Kanban, which is,
kind of, demand driven flow. Is that, if I’m out of a resource I
make a request for more work or more resources and I manage work
in progress that way. The problem is, is that if you put a work
in progress limit on a system, it becomes a push system rather
than a pull system. People, you know, I talk to people in the
combine community and they’re trying to resolve this paradox and
some of them will have some religious statements. There’s a
really clear-minded guy named, Chris Matts. He gets this. Okay,
he’s kind of the co-inventor of Kanban and he’s since broken
ranks with the rest of them because he says they really don’t
understand what’s going on. If you go into Toyota, which is
where this came from, number one, Tychy Ono hated Kanban.

Kane: Interesting.

Cope: He says that, he says it’s a concession to, it’s what you do when we
can’t do things right. Doing things right means co-located team
work cell. When we can’t do things right because the supply is
remote, we suck. So we gotta do Kanban.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Number two, if you do it that way, when Toyota does that, they always
plan in advance to tell the supplier when the Kanban card will
be coming. It’s not just in time.

Kane: That’s right.

Cope: It’s planned. The value stream is planned and the people who are big
on this just in time stuff, well there’s another killer phrase,
just in time. Don’t understand the bigger picture.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, if you read books like extreme Toyota, this is extremely complex
to understand. And the Kanban people trivialize it. Number
three, no one using real Kanban in Toyota, ever uses a thing
called a Kanban board. You look at the whole modern software
Kanban thing and it’s based on this notion of a Kanban board.
See, and I started pointing these things out two or three years
ago and then, the Kanban community did a back peddle and said,
Oh no, ours is not based on the Toyota one, it’s something
different. And the community’s kind of split right now about
whether they’re honoring Tychy Ono or whether they’re just
stealing the term, which is frankly a little embarrassing.
Because it looks a little intellectually dishonest and of course
it is.

But people so cling to their need to make a living off of concepts
that they feel will be accepted by managers and so unwilling to
get outside of the comfort zones and change that, you know,
we’ve really institutionalized some bad things. And, I mean,
Kanban is open of my favorite whipping boys because it’s so easy
to deconstruct. The others are much more subtle. So, some of the
subtle we’ve talked about here. I can talk with people until I’m
blue in the face about last responsible moment. And they don’t
get it.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: It’s extremely difficult to make that mind-set change. So…

Kane: Yeah. It’s interesting thought. It’s quite a different point of view.

Cope: Yep.

Kane: Quite interesting.

Cope: So, now you understand why history’s important to me. I’ve done my
homework on these things.

Kane: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, let me ask you this, why were you
frightened or why did you dislike that question because, the
question that I asked at the start of this thread? Which was,
where do you see Scrum going? Why do you dislike that question
because personally I’ve gotten most value out of, you know, the
last twenty minutes or so. I think that’s, you know, really,
really interesting discussion.

Cope: Right. But that has nothing to do with where Scrum is going. I mean,
to me, asking where is Scrum going is kind of asking where is
zen going?

Kane: [laughter] Yeah.

Cope: It’s a non question. It’s not like, now there is something profound
here. And I think it happens starting on an individual level,
you know, one of the people who’s influenced me a lot, is it’s
probably obvious, is it’s Christopher Alexander. And, you know,
there’s a lot of people who kind of recuse me as being an
Alexander cultist or at least an Alexander fan boy. But he also
thought about things very carefully. I can’t think of the guys
name right now, there’s a, part of my brain shuts off when I’m
interacting in an interview [laughter]. Oh, Andres Tomosini. His
line on his mail is Agile is not something you do, it’s
something you are.

Kane: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve seen that one. Yeah.

Cope: And I think he’s wrong.

Kane: Really? Why you say that?

Cope: It’s not something you are, it’s something you become. Agile is about

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: It’s not about being. And it’s not just about doing. Now, there’s
elements of all of these but people don’t get this becoming part
so your question about the becoming, I think is very important.
Now, that happens at the individual level to start with and then
moves to the collective level. How do we as a team become? What
are we becoming?

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: What are we as an industry becoming? And so, one of the blogs I need
to write one of these days is that people do things for
basically two reasons. One is that they’re driven forward by a
goal and they see a possibility. And the other is that they’re
running from something. Right?

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: This is so bad that I don’t care, whatever it is I end up on, the
first thing that comes in front of my eyes, I’m going to run at
because it can’t be any worse than what I’m at. And my concern
is, if you ask a question about how does Scrum evolve, it
anchors you in the second world view.

Kane: Right. Okay. Yes.

Cope: It’s a, what’s wrong with what we have today that we have to run
from? What I’d rather do is build on something deep within
humans. It’s a vision of possibility. And then, get the process
of becoming going.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Rather than the process of doing, which is more in that second
paradigm of let’s fix…

Kane: Something that’s broken.

Cope: … what we’re doing today. And Scrum has it’s problems. Scrum only
fixes things in small chunks.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: There’s no place for a paradigm shift in Scrum.

Kane: Yeah, that’s right.

Cope: Scrum was perfect.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Scrum was perfect. There was no process for changing the Scrum guide.
Hell, there’s a process for changing the CMMI. They know they’re
not perfect. It’s a process for evolving it. They’re Agile. You
can’t evolve the definition of Scrum. So, I said, this is
bullshit. Okay. We need a process for evolving Scrum and that’s
why David and I have stepped in and we’re kind of the feeders to
Jeff and Ken, about, okay guys, Scrum needs to be Agile too. We
need to be able to evolve the Scrum guide, guys.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Let’s be Agile. And so, when I think about the future of Scrum, you
know, and this is why I’m saying things like open-source, this
is vision of a community coming together and deciding where we
need to go. That’s part of what Scrum PLoP is about.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Let’s tap into the communities and get the vision. I mean, even Scrum
isn’t Scrum. Do you know what a type C Scrum is?

Kane: I used to. I don’t anymore. It’s been ages since I…

Cope: I mean, this comes out of the Taky Uchy and Nonaka paper, this is the
kind of Scrum that Jeff was running a patient keeper.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Where they’re kind of running, you know. floor sprints in parallel.
They can deliver three times a week. And Ken came in and looked
at it and first all said, that’s not Scrum. But it’s one hell of
a competitive monster.

Kane: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. [laughter]

Cope: So, is that Scrum? I mean, is what Jeff Sutherland was doing, at
patient keeper. Is it Scrum? Who gives a damn.

Kane: Yeah. Good point.

Cope: One of the things I’ve learned working in Japan is a word has a
spirit. And over use of a word destroys the spirit of the word.
So Kaizen use to have a spirit and we saw, we have used it so
much we destroyed the spirit of the word, Kaizen. We’ve
destroyed the spirit of the word Scrum. And people aren’t, they
don’t get the spirit, they get the trappings, they get the

Kane: Yeah. Yeah. The process…

Cope: Scrum has this many meetings, this many ceremonies and blah, blah,
ba, blah, blah, blah. This many artifacts, right?

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: No, it’s not. That isn’t what Scrum is.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: And that’s why I say, the future of Scrum is like future of zen.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: What does that mean? It’s a world view. It’s a way of life.

Kane: It’s a good analogy actually. I see a lot of similarities too.

Cope: That’s not by accident.

Kane: Yeah. Yeah. I was about to say. You’ve thought about this, haven’t
you. So, I’ve actually got one final question for you. I’ve been
mulling this over since you mentioned it right at the very start
of the hour and that is, about Scrum and Buddhism. How, and you
talked off camera, before the interview began, you talked a
little bit about some of Jeff’s experiences with meditation. And
how that sort of led to Scrum. Indirectly. But what were your
thoughts about how Scrum is like Buddhism? What were some of
your ideas you were referring to there?

Cope: Well, this is something I thought of more than I can convince you
that I’ve thought about it. I gave a, for people who want to
follow up, there’s a, I gave a talk at, what was called the
Alexander fest in Japan about four or five years ago and the
talk is on YouTube and it’s a fairly long talk, so it’s split up
in six or seven videos. But I’ve been around, I’m older than I

Kane: Dare I ask how old?

Cope: I wrote my first code back in 1969, so I’ve been around awhile.

Kane: I was born in 1969.

Cope: Right. So, I’ve been through patterns and you know, if you, I don’t
know if you read any of the pattern stuff. Any of Christopher
Alexanders books but I mean, it reads like the dow de jing. You
know the Japanese call it the do ke oh. And the first time I met
Alexander, face to face, in ’96, I said, you know, Professor
Alexander your stuff sounds a lot like the dow de jing. You
know, is there any correlation there? He said, of course, isn’t
it obvious? And so, there’s those roots there. There’s the
oriental roots that Jeff had for Scrum. And, you know what’s on
the cover of the Organizational Patterns book?

Kane: No.

Cope: Which is the Terracotta soldiers.

Kane: Oh, interesting.

Cope: And so, you know, my brushes with Buddhism with my friend Tom
Burroughs, and my best sensei ever, is a guy named Chris Skelly,
was another one of the early C++ guys. Absolutely brilliant guy.
And I could really, really see how this stuff, at an extremely
deep level modeled, explained to my deepest self, why these
things work. Now, the problem is, is that for people like us,
who converse the way that we do and we’re in a western context,
you know we’re part of that tribe. We have a certain background
and certain metaphors and imagines we can draw on. I can’t use
this medium and this language and these metaphors to tap into
that stuff.

Kane: Right.

Cope: So, I need to go to something deeper. And this gets into stories,
experiences, shared experiences, lateral ways of thinking. You
know, if we could do group mediation, that’d be great but I
haven’t, I think there are people who do that but I haven’t
figured that out yet. There’s something here that’s
intrinsically inaccessible to the common way that humanity has
evolved to deal with every day things. And to me, part of Scrum
is a return to something extremely visceral. Very primordial in
social wiring. Not in individual wiring, I mean, that too.
Buddhism and it’s stories, it’s words, I mean, it isn’t that
Scrum is Buddhism. Buddhism is just a tool.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: That helps access these things. It’s like Alexander said, great
patterns aren’t discovered, they’re invented. They appear to
creation, they have always been a part of you and it’s your
upbringing that covers them. And I think a lot of Scrum is the
same way.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Is that, I mean, if you go back and you look at how the [inaudible
1:23:14] were working in the, you know, the hacker community at
MIT, back in the ’60’s. It had a lot of the trappings, what we
call Agile today before we learned how to do methodology.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: When the companies got afraid of managing these big complex things.
So, yeah, that’s my path. That’s my tool to these very, very
deep things in Scrum. Other people will find other paths, you
know, for Indian subculture, there’s unbelievably strong
parallels between Vastu Shastra, which is another school of
architecture. And, some of the things you find in patterns, you
find in Scrum.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, I mean, every culture is gonna have to find it’s own path and you
know the result may not always be the same. So, Denmark is great
for running Scrum out of the box.

Kane: Yep.

Cope: What’s India’s Scrum look like?

Kane: Yeah, yeah. Good question. Yeah.

Cope: Where you have a cast system. And the Scrum Master is of a different
cast then the rest of the team. How do you build on those
cultural roots? You see, it’s easy, okay let’s call the Brits
again and cultural relativism in my culture’s better than yours.
Well, no. I’m not against that our western culture is better
than what the Indians have in their cast system and maybe the
best culture for their society. I am not in a position to judge.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: What is, what is Indian PLoP look like? What’s China PLoP look like?
You want to find a place that incompatible with Scrum, oh yeah,
let’s go to Beijing folks. Hierarchy, respect culture,

Kane: But you know, there is some aspects of Chinese culture that are
exactly what you’ve just described but…

Cope: Right. The but is important. Yes. Go for it.

Kane: There are other parts of China which are very different. I mean,
there’s the North and South divide and the Northern Chinese are
very much like that but the Southern is quite different.
Southern China is very, almost, fly by the seat of your pants

Cope: Oh, but that’s a pretty universal cultural pattern. North to South.
And it has to do with climate.

Kane: Really?

Cope: I mean, yeah, I mean, the Denmark’s are the free and easy, we’re the
Italians of the Nordic countries. All right. I mean, you want to
see people that look more like Chinese, go to Norway. Go to
Finland. Right?

Kane: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Don’t know. I totally agree with you. I see that

Cope: Well, that’s a very well known cultural pattern. Is that the further
toward the equator you go, which in the way the world is set up,
it usually means going South.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: The less structure the culture is. So there’s something about the
cold winter months that require the need for more structure in

Kane: You know what, I hadn’t thought about it…

Cope: There’s a amazing stuff like this.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: Why does all outsourcing go from West to East? Can you think of a
company that outsources to a company of the West of it?

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: There’s something very powerful going on there. This comes out of
some anthropological research I did back in Bell Labs.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So did a guy names Peter Burgy. Who’s a anthropologist out of the
University of Chicago. It has to do with time zones. There’s a
lot going on here that you’re not gonna find in the owners
manual. There’s a lot going on here you’re not gonna find in the
Scrum guide. That has to do with what makes us intrinsically
human. And that’s what I’m trying to tap into and Scrum is kind
of my path through the Toyota production system, through
Buddhism, to this, what the Japanese call [inaudible 1:27:11].

Kane: Which is?

Cope: This nameless thing. Giving something a name destroys it. Giving
something a name destroys the spirit of that word in some small
measure. That’s not only the orientals who understand this.
Voltair said, [inaudible 1:27:35], is that speech was given to
mankind that he might better hide his thoughts.

Kane: Brilliant.

Cope: And so, words destroy.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: But it’s kind of all we got and that’s the paradox and that’s kind
of, I mean, you asked, what am I about, what am I up to, I’m up
to this, that’s what I’m about. Is working through that paradox
to help the world, help other people get to this deep stuff
that’s already inside of them.

Kane: Yes.

Cope: A lot of it is just stripping off the crap that they’ve picked up
over the years that prevents them from seeing this wonderful
stuff inside of them.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: So, when Scrum came along, I said, yeah, I know this stuff.

Kane: Yeah.

Cope: There was nothing new in Scrum for me.

Kane: It feels quite natural.

Cope: And natural’s a funny word but yeah, it’s again, it’s a word. It’s
all we’ve got. Yep.

Kane: Cool. Well, I’ve, oh my god is that the time? [laughter]

Cope: Oh, it’s fun when you’re having fun.

Kane: Yeah, I was enjoying it as well. I had, I do apologize. I mean, I
really should have kept closer eye on the time but I sort of got
carried away.

Cope: I’m on vacation so, I’m enjoying this too.

Kane: Oh, good on ya. Sounds like fun. So, I, if you don’t have any
objections I think probably now might be a good time to wrap it
up. Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of hours. Thank you for
taking the…

Cope: Thanks for the opportunity. I’m glad we finally got to meet up. It’s
been a pleasure meeting you, too.

Kane: Absolutely.

Cope: If I get down to the other side of the equator, which I’m not doing
so much these days, I’ll try to look you up.

Kane: Oh, please do. Yeah. Yeah. Give me a shout if you’re passing through
and I’m happy to fly to where ever. I’d be happy to make that
happen. That’s a commitment.

Cope: Oh, that’s super.

Kane: That’s a commitment.

Cope: Okay, yes. Unfortunately I can’t commit to coming to the other side
of the equator but it’s a hope. It’s a hope.

Kane: Excellent. Well, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.

Cope: No, fun talk. It’s been a lot of fun for me too.

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