Agility is more than just product development. It’s the whole mindset, a paradigm shift in the way your organization works. Examples are abundant where empiricism is practiced, for instance in the way the world has to deal with a pandemic like the one that is going on right now.
Speaker, author, trainer, consultant, and legend James Coplien joins Sander Dur in this episode of the Mastering Agility podcast to have a great discussion on where he sees business agility has evolved to, how science has taken a few big hits, and the influence of large players on the market.
What you’ll discover in this show:
– Agility didn’t start as agility
– Large players in the market don’t necessarily have a good impact on the overall state of business
– Science has taken a big hit during the last couple of years
Lean/Agile Process and Architecture Coach
Executive consultant in the areas of organizational development and software architecture with more than 40 years of experience. Extensive foundations, experience, and industry leadership in software patterns, organizational patterns, software architecture, and electronic design automation. Innovative integration of deep technical insights and concern for the human side of your business.
Specialties: Software architecture, organizational transformation, software patterns, EDA software, object-oriented design, Agile software development. Certified Scrum Trainer®, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Practitioner, Certified Scrum Product Owner.
Sander Dur (host)
Scrum Master, Agile Coach, trainer, and podcast host for ‘Mastering Agility”
Sander Dur is a business agility enthusiast, with a passion for people. Whether it’s healthy product development, agile leadership, measurement, or psychological safety, Sander has the drive to enable organizations to the best of their abilities. He is an avid article writer, working on a book about Scrum Mastery from the Trenches, and is connecting listeners with the most influential people in the industry.
Discord community: https://discord.gg/6YJamBJxUV
people, agile, problem, software, talking, short term, thinking, focused, stephen, market, consultancy firms, question, scrum, point, science, called, agility, consultant, perceive, good
Sander Dur, James Coplien
Sander Dur 00:00
Hey guys, welcome back to this week’s episode of the mastering agility podcast series. This series aims to inspire you and others by bringing in the best people in the business. My name is Sander Dur, and I’m your host. This week marks the launch of our Discord server. We’re building a community to collaborate with you guys more, to be more interactive, where you can get inspired more with the best people in the business as well as peers with other people who are interested in agility. We’re doing exclusive giveaways for discord members as well, like books at Norland markers are going to be doing interactive sessions with our speakers, where you can ask your questions during the actual recordings is going to be awesome. I’ll include the link to the server in the show notes. I hope I can welcome you guys there. Speaking of awesome people, in this episode, we have James Green, joining us via mobile internet to talk about empiricism science, the state of agility in itself. I really love this episode, because I really appreciate the way that he speaks. So unambiguously so passionately. I hope you guys really like it, too. Let’s welcome James. James, thank you very much for joining us today really appreciate you making the time. How are things over there?
James Coplien 01:20
They’re cold, it’s winter. But we are in northern Denmark, Denmark. So I guess that’s, that’s to be expected. And it’s good to be talking with you face to face here. It’s been a long, long time. I think I think last time I actually was in the Netherlands and we met up somewhere or maybe it was at a conference
Sander Dur 01:39
might be the case indeed. But looking back at this winter, I don’t know how today’s video guys, but it’s not that cold over here. It’s a little bit chilly. But there definitely have been colder.
James Coplien 01:50
Now No, that’s true. It’s been it’s been up and down here. But it’s it’s down today.
Sander Dur 01:57
Speaking of things going up and down. What I would like to talk to you about today is the current state of things when it comes to agility and how these things are perceived? Because things have changed quite a bit since you initiated these kinds of things, right?
James Coplien 02:14
Well, if they hadn’t, that wouldn’t be very agile, would it?
Sander Dur 02:19
That’s very true. Definitely. Do you feel that we’re going into a right direction when you originally envisioned where we would be going?
James Coplien 02:29
I think a good way to characterize it is that the the standard deviation is extremely broad. And I’m concerned that the the mean is going quite a bit lower. But with with such a straw. Such a big standard deviation, it’s a little bit hard to assess objectively, I know that I run into enough individual cases that are in the lower part of the distribution that it gives me cause for concern. So I am concerned that we need to tighten things up and and and get back on track. Not that we need to reset the clock back 25 years but that I think we need a good honest assessment of how we’re doing things and how we’re moving ahead.
Sander Dur 03:14
I think this also the perception out even Ben accom had a couple of episodes ago as well. Could you share is how did you experience this when you were starting thinking about agility and making this more? Not necessarily formal? But before the whole agile hype before this whole wave came about? How was it that you came to such a point where you thought we should be doing this a lot more than the more traditional ways of things?
James Coplien 03:44
Well, there’s several ways of coming at that question. Um, I mean, a lot of what the foundation was for for Scrum and, and extreme programming was some research that I had done at Bell Laboratories in the early 1990s. When I when I asked exactly that question, are we doing things the way that that good software development should be doing it? Because in the in the 1950s, we knew how to do this. I mean, before the methods before, you know, the big IBM got hold of things and impose management, and then under the, the methodology hammer of the of the 1960s. Things kind of got slowed down. So I mean, even in the 1990s, we were we were looking at development, and asking the question that way and saying, Well, are we doing things in the right way? So the question persists today, but it’s it’s a little bit different form. It’s, it’s the emperor’s new new clothes. I mean, the the current religion is agile, and at that time that the new religions were waterfall and structured analysis and structure, design and so forth. And though there are some worrisome interesting cases where the new religion is uncannily like The older religion, the the denials of the of the current crowd to the contrary notwithstanding, I think we have a new a new set of diseases that are, that are born of, of this new context. And I think there’s a lack of focus, frankly, on on the right thing. And I think the, the biggest problem or the top problem is that we’re not focusing on, on on value on, you know, on what it means to really deliver value to our markets and, and to our developers, you know, for for good, good development environments. We’re making them effective. And then there’s a whole bunch of subcategories. And so then I can look at as a scientist and say, you know, we’ve completely lost touch with science. Some of them are just blatant raw opportunism, and, and attempts by people to to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. So they don’t have to prove that something is good, they just have to say, No, I have, I have something that’s different than anyone else. And that’s enough to, for them to find a niche. And in this in this market, where you know, compared to the 1960s, we’ve moved into a much more service intensive, much more software intensive market, there are more and more players who are looking to get their, their showing out of that market. And yet, the market has grown and so to a large degree, it’s kept up, but maybe we’re turning a corner, and maybe, maybe the growth in the market has slowed down, or the growth in the in supply has turned up. So I think the normal laws of supply and demand are starting to be broken, and people are breaking them by by creating their own opportunities, and things are just going nuts. So I don’t think there’s any given point at which this started. And by the way, the way you phrased it, you know, when I when I started looking at agile, I mean, the thing I started looking at wasn’t agile, it was just, you know, how do we do effective development and, and just doing shotgunning kind of research using social network theory and, and grounded theory, development and things like that. Agile is a label that got applied to some subset of this later. Um, and I’m fat vole people with label, a lot of what I do is agile, because I mean, a lot of what I do is very scrum related, but also a lot of what I do is architecture related. And I mean, I really wouldn’t call much of what I do Agile in terms of what most people mean by agile, that was never the goal. And in fact, I mean, there’s some interesting percentage of clients where the problem is that they’re agile, they’re too agile. They don’t have continuity of purpose. They don’t have constancy of purpose. But they just, you know, they, they follow, you know, whatever, whatever wave comes along. And, yeah, they respond to change, or they react to change, rather than thoughtfully planning and thinking. So maybe you have a follow up question that’s more specific, but just kind of to frame the space. It’s, it’s broader than just, you know, looking for some good and agile and I think this problem of not being focused on the prize is a very long standing problem. And there’s nothing really new here.
Sander Dur 08:38
No, exactly. I think that that’s, that’s a really nice way of looking at things, especially what were you mentioned, you were looking into ways of doing things, in a better way, create value in a better way. Whereas now, the Agile thing, what is commonly accepted to be the Agile thing seems to be more of the end itself, rather than a means to an end. Where do you feel that we lost that somewhere the purpose of value driven rather than just implying in instilling agility?
James Coplien 09:11
I think a lot of the value came in the, the techniques themselves. I mean, a lot of people, you know, blame the frameworks. I mean, I even I tend to blame blame extreme programming as being kind of the first one that did this. A lot of people Brandt blame Scrum. You mentioned on it. I don’t think anyone’s planning DSDM because the SDN wasn’t wasn’t really big enough. But I think there’s a thing to be blamed and I mean, it’s it’s, it’s kind of in the same space as the frameworks, but but things like things like continuous delivery. Things like basing our quality around unit testing and having all the focus there. So there’s a lot of things that are marketable you can you can, you can make a market identity for them. And therefore consultants can sell them. tool vendors can sell them. I mean, a lot of a lot of the the interest, the early interest in test driven development came came about because a couple of folks on an airplane had put together a unit testing framework, even a testing tool. And so they knew that the market out there, the new market, this agile market, the post 1990s market was driven more and more by the developers. Because developers now had a lot of power in their hands, we now had personal computers, everyone had the power to develop, we no longer had to go through committees or management processes in order to go forward with stuff. So development. So now developers were making the rules. So the way you can sell something is by appealing to the the desires and an opportunity. So developers and and so we became very technically focused, or we can’t became very focused on kind of, you know, superficial, low hanging fruit. The problem with that is that the problems that we’re facing are really system problems. And these things are solving very small slices, very individual problems that are part of the whole so I think that this focus on marketability of saleable certifiable package bubble things, ideas, little memes, little nuggets. And then and then turning them into you know, kind of kind of social mandates like you know, you’re you’re evil, you’re not agile, if you don’t do unit testing, is kind of where it all started going wrong. It’s a it’s an erosion of systems thinking. And again, this is one of those both sub paragraphs to that that earlier paragraph of value, rather than focusing external, on delivering value to the people that matter out there on on the on the gamba floor of our customers, we’re focused on making our own lives easier as pushers. So it became a pushers market. tandra, we’re out there, we’re selling drugs.
Sander Dur 12:24
But speaking of drugs, with short term dopamine shot, do you feel that we’re currently or a lot of organizations are focusing on the short term things that they’re they’re about to do, for instance, when they’re trying to do this Agile transformation, if you will? It seems to be to me at least, that a lot of organizations expect this whole thing, this whole change to stick within anywhere between three and six months. While this usually takes a lot longer. What’s your perception on that?
James Coplien 13:00
I tend to agree with what I think you mean, but I do think that that model is worth pursuing. Because I mean, if we, we know we can do this in the short term, we have seen this. And so it’s not really a matter of short term versus long term. But it’s a pattern. It’s a it’s a, it’s a matter of shallowness versus depth. And of course, it’s easy to shallow things in the short term. And people have this feeling that to do deep things. It takes a long time. Well, no, not necessarily. It’s a matter of will. And so I mean, if you want to divide incur to cross functional teams, you can do it in a painful, low iterative way, incremental way, one person at a time with a lot of stumbling on the way. Or you can just say, guys get together and and form cross functional teams, you have you have four hours, you know, rent to rent an auditorium or something and put people together and say self organized and cross functional teams and just do it. And maybe there’ll be a little bit of pain for you know, a couple of cycles but but then things will get better and better and I think will soon surpass the the model that was there before. So yeah, I mean, you it shows up as a a short term versus long term thing but but that’s a symptom. I think the same time is the courage to to make the gutsy changes the the paradigm shifts that are necessary to to transcend the current way of development. And too often that gets translated into short term, but it needn’t be.
Sander Dur 14:49
What’s the best example that you’ve ever experienced in your career so far when it comes to making such a transformation or that the paradigm shift really stick?
James Coplien 15:02
Well, again, it’s an interesting question. Because I mean, if the consultant is the one who comes in and makes the paradigm shift stick, that’s not very agile, because Agile is about self management, right? So the example I have, in fact, is there’s a, there’s a company in Germany that they call me in for an architecture course. And I have a way of doing architecture that’s very amenable to, to, to, to iterations and to incremental features, and, and so forth, because it separates the feature software out from the objects. It’s called the data, data context interaction thing. I was going to teach them the style of doing architecture. And they said, Oh, yeah, we’re agile. We’re doing Scrum. I said, Okay, that’s great. What’s, what’s your position? She says, Well, I’m the I’m the product manager. Like, Well, okay. And it kind of went downhill from there. And I started getting angry. And I said, you know, why the heck are you guys doing this shit? And they said, Well, you know, Stephen, Stephen, i Boss, he’s making us do this. I said, I want to talk to Stephen. Now. He said, Well, you know, we’re, we’re here in Berlin, and he’s over in Munich. I said, I don’t care. There’s a phone, get him on the phone now. Well, okay. So they called him up and said, Well, you know what, he’s going to be here in Berlin tomorrow. And he’ll meet with us at 11 o’clock. So Stephen came in and, and we explained the problem to him and Stephen said, Oh, it’s all very simple. And he gave this bullshit explanation. And I, you know, that my tongue and talk back at him all, it’s all very simply kind of trying to explain it away. And I started getting really angry. And finally, some of the team members started seeing they had some support. So they chipped in. And we convinced him, and he sat me thought he thought, he says, Well, I can’t work on this with you this week. But how many of you are willing to work with me next week, and solve this. And the person who had brought me and Catherine actually broke down and cried, she said, we’ve been trying to get through to stuff in for for months, and months and months, and this is the first time. So I came back there and a few months, I’m not with a CEO and 50 of his reports. Wow. And, and I said, Wow, how often do you guys get together like this? And he said, Well, this is the first time ever. And wow, what what what a meeting this is, this is one of the dumbest organizations that I’ve ever seen. And I thought, well, I’ll never get invited back here. Oh, we’re very agile, we deliver once every six months. All right, two years later, I found a video on on YouTube. They fired the CEO. They fired all the managers. They organized as Scrum teams and the product owners were running the product. Now, this isn’t some snot nosed little startup. This is Bosch IoT.
Sander Dur 18:06
Oh, wow. Not the smallest of organizations.
James Coplien 18:10
No, the point is, they did it. So it took Yeah, I mean, I gave him the kick in the pants. But the point is, this is a really great agile story, because it wasn’t, it wasn’t a consultant spoon feed exam, and, you know, training them and, and telling them exactly what path they should follow. I’m sure they brought in some other folks who support them. But, and I’m sure that Stephens leadership, oh, by the way, Stephen, this idiot manager who had to talk down. He’s the new CEO.
Sander Dur 18:47
What changed for him? What is it the meditate? What is your very direct approach? Isn’t?
James Coplien 18:53
Isn’t this a beautiful story? I love how he just he just got his ego out of the way and said, Look, we want results here. All I care about is results. And he made it happen. Or let me say he let it happen. You can’t make agile happen, right? Managers cannot help agile, they can only make it worse. The best thing a manager can do is get out of the way. Now Yeah, they can they can support them with funding and and all those kinds of things if they if they need some specific training or equipment or whatever. But I mean, now a manager cannot manage an organization to Agile you got to let them you got to let them free and Stephen did that.
Sander Dur 19:40
But there’s there’s a need for change if to really to be profound change right there must be some desire, some understanding of the wife. What was that point where Stephen felt that change was your directness was it? The person broken down into tears. What was the point where fear All right, I need to take a step back here.
James Coplien 20:04
I think it was when the team started chiming in and coming in with with concrete. We can’t do this or concrete, this is happening. And it’s because of you saying this. So I think that part of the problem is, you know, we well, particularly for this company in Germany, right, you still have the German hierarchy. It’s worse in Japan, it’s impossible in China, it, it’s really, really hard to give upward feedback. It’s hard to change the top from the bottom. And I wonder, I used to wonder if if it’s going to be a matter of the current generation dying out before the the younger generation can take over because he just you can’t change the current generation. But I mean, there’s we’ve been through, we’ve been through a couple generations of this already, that should have happened by now already. Right.
Sander Dur 20:58
Yeah, I agree with that, even though I was talking to Jasper Alblas earlier today. And it was discussing with him, my therapist mentioned, for instance, my parents, my parents are 73. Now 72, and they are of the silent generation where feedback was less accepted. And it’s always more and more of a macho kind of thing, you suck up your feelings, and you do whatever you’re told. Now, now we’re in a completely different generation where people go up to the streets to protest and speak their minds and speak how they feel. So there’s a there’s a really big difference in just two or three generations. But that really has to make it stick. And that’s really prone to the culture that you’re living in as well. And I think that is what really makes it hard to for the for that dirty transition. How do you feel about that?
James Coplien 21:48
Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, there’s so many social forces at play. I mean, it’s a much smaller world, we have much shorter feedback loops. And there’s much, I mean, there’s petabytes of information available. The problem is, is that the same mechanisms that make good information and good feedback, flow also makes bad information and bad feedback flow. So I, I’d be willing to more strongly entertain your argument. If organizations and if commerce, and if culture, were globally open, and global goal seeking, but I think, in addition to the communication being shorter, we’re also in a very much a meat generation. So rather than people fighting for the social goods, which they did in the 1960s, and people were out on the streets, protesting and so forth, the current people are, are covering their own ass, and you know, looking for their own individuality and their own family, rather than the good of society. And you see this in in well, in politics, for example, and the, the way that politicians will sell their their platform is it’s good for the individual family and the individual economy, rather than you know, waving the flag and talking about the the good of the country or the good of humankind. The Green Movement is a little bit of a counter footnote to that, but it’s kind of an exception. And I think that if, if indeed people were focused on the greater good, we wouldn’t need we we’d be long past the need for a green movement by now that technology is available. It’s just there are no pressuring economic forces for individuals feel the pain. So I think there’s this lack of again, it’s a focus on the greater good for adding value. And people are afraid to step out and take a risk of doing something that will take value away for them even if it means more value for the greater good.
Sander Dur 24:09
Makes sense coming back to the to the large consultancy firms, and as well as evolutionary steps. Now, large consultancy firms and I’m talking about 1000s of people here. They’re not really, really easy to change themselves as well. Do you feel do you think the the really large consultancy firms are a dying breed?
James Coplien 24:33
Well, I think the large consultancy firms aren’t any more of a problem not now than they were 30 or 40 years ago. It’s a small and middle sized ones that I that I worry more about because they tend to more easily find pas into the venues that have leveraged they’re more likely to be speakers at conferences. I mean, you don’t go and looking you don’t go to Accenture. To find a keynote speaker for an agile conference, you just don’t, they’re not industry leaders. So the industry leaders are at the small consulting firms or even individual consultants. So like me, because they’re the ones who are a little bit more willing to say things off the beaten path. Because, you know, they don’t have a constituency that they have to worry about pissing off. Um, there have been some notable examples in the past, like, like Grady Booch. Even he was still pretty careful, even though he worked for rational, which was another one of these big, big companies, which you know, what happened to them? So maybe you’re right about them becoming a dying breed worse, rational these days?
Sander Dur 25:44
I have no clue. But
James Coplien 25:47
yeah. Um, so I mean, there are some exceptions where there’ll be a spokesperson, but even Grady was extremely person was extremely careful. It’s just that he very rarely spotted bullshit. Yeah, but yeah, sure, right. I mean, there’s that there’s the big dumb consultancy firms. I’m much more concerned about the the the middle tier ones, because they’re the ones who are, how shall I say? Who defining the social agenda who are defining the memes? And that’s what concerns me.
Sander Dur 26:24
How do you feel are do you think this is going to go forward or should be going forward? Because this has little to do with actual value, rather than creating a picture that you want to fulfill?
James Coplien 26:35
Well, the first thing is to recognize that there’s a problem. And a dear friend of mine in Austria named Mike Lieber called me two days ago, and said, Yeah, Houston, we got a problem. And it’s this, okay, yes, this, this whole thing about, things are just getting worse and worse and worse. And we know we can do better. And so we put our heads together. And we’ve identified a couple of other people, one of whom was Dutch, by the way. And we’re gonna put our heads together and say, Alright, what do we do here? So I don’t know, maybe, maybe there’s another manifesto, maybe we just, we be we go. We go kind of underground, and we start making some, some videos, that we that are high quality videos that we get out there, you know, for free, to, to help set the record straight, you know, with with with some kind of media movement. I don’t know, there’s, there’s a bunch of ideas floating around. But what I feel is we’ve come to the realization that there’s a problem. And I need to take a long walk in the woods, and have a good think about this. But I think it’s a lot broader than just software. I’ll maintain that. What’s at stake here is all of science. And my fear over the past two years, is that science has really taken a beating. And the reason is COVID. So you know, the vaccines came out, and everyone said, Oh, science will will save us the vaccines keep us from from getting sick. If you have the vaccine, you can’t transmit the the illness. Here are some scientific analyses that show what an unvaccinated population would do in the UK. All of these are bullshit. The people who made the vaccines never said that’ll keep you from getting the disease. They never said it’ll keep you from being contagious. All of these were things that in the name of science, society made up and the journalists took off. And so science has said this, and then the policymakers in the government took off and said, Well, we’re going to act accordingly. And they require mass and require vaccinations and all of this. So, yeah, vaccinations are important for at risk population, you know, for for the elderly, for those with marginal health, and so on and so forth. But I mean, the scientific evidence for for vaccinating the rest of the population just isn’t there. Now, just now, like, like, I mean, now, I mean, like, this week, you’re styling, you’re starting finally, to see letters to the editor and journal articles, and journals saying, hey, wait a minute. What we’re seeing now in the numbers is contrary to what the policymakers and the so called scientists have been telling us for two years, what’s going on here. So I think there’s a great awakening going on. Now. My concern is, I mean, maybe happened it says that the pendulum of change is not a pendulum it does not swing from side to side, it slams from side to side. My concern is that the pendulum might slam the other way. And and science will go black i I’m honestly not worried about agile getting a black eye, the stakes are too high. It should have gotten the block a long time ago. But I do think there can be some kind of awakening there. And as there has been an awakening in the medical world, about the fact that we we’ve been sold a bill of goods here the past two years by the government in the press, not the scientists, scientists.
Sander Dur 30:49
They are if you imagine how incredibly frustrating it must be to be a scientist at this point where you’ve been studying your whole life, you’ve done your PhD, your your I don’t know what kind of research you’ve been doing. And then these journalists and Facebook lawyers come up and say this is bullshit, or give a completely different methods to the things that you’re trying to conceive or to, to perceive and to bring across exactly what like what you were saying. I mean, in this country, in the beginning, it was indeed, the message was, this is going to make the severity of consequences of COVID. less harsh when you take the vaccine, it’s not going to stop people from getting infected, it’s not going to stop people from getting ill is going to make the consequences of being ill less is going to reduce the likelihood of you ending up in hospital or worse in icy, or people die. Exactly right. Luckily, that has been the case, people still seem to distill out of the message that you’re not going to get sick, you’re not going to be spreading stuff, you’re you’re not going to be able to still be infectious. What could we do to reduce that? Because that’s empiricism as well, right? It’s the whole way of dealing with such a pandemic.
James Coplien 32:07
So you asked me if I knew how frustrating it must feel. In full disclosure, you know who one of my clients is?
Sander Dur 32:16
I’m betting Pfizer or Moderna. Exactly.
Actually, I have a very, very, very distant cousin who’s a vice president at Moderna. But I don’t even think he knows we’re related. So I mean, you guys are scientists, they’re not politicians, right. And they’re doing their best as far as I can see, ya know, I mean, they’ve gotten their hand slapped for doing some some naughty things in the past. I mean, they’re, they’re not, they’re not just Babes in Arms. But I mean, this time around. I mean, they just, they’re, they’re doing their best and the policymakers are making hash of this. Now, I also feel that this is true for agile. The, the the nice thing, the nice thing about the the medical industry is that we have nice metrics, like body count, and full beds. We got the metrics in software. Oh, yes. Well, software is also easy to measure. It’s just that the measurements don’t mean anything.
Sander Dur 33:20
Yeah, right. That’s,
James Coplien 33:23
that’s the problem.
Sander Dur 33:25
Exactly. People are not seeing the consequences with software development as as visually and tangibly when it compared to when people are dying or hospitalized. So deliver severity to respond to those metrics is unless I feel
James Coplien 33:42
now there’s a whole bunch of things that work together. And you can’t point to any one of them as are what cause but this is an immensely interesting system. And it kind of works like this. So the problem is, is that software is perceived like medicine, as having extremely high value. So if you go in the US, I mean, they can charge an arm and a leg, because they’re going to save your life. I’d love to know about this case about this. This guy who he was called Mr. Pharma, or something like that, who took like a $17 thing of medicine and overnight, increase the price to several 100 euros to increase this was
Sander Dur 34:23
for the because it was for the HIV medicine if I was just to get a name again,
James Coplien 34:30
it Yeah, it’s something it’s not an HIV medicine, per se, but most of the people who took it were HIV patients who were taking it for for some other particular reason. But yeah, it was basically for the HIV crowd. And yeah, I mean, he got thrown in prison right because he just increase the price. The software is a lot the same way is that we charge unreasonably high fees for the software we build There’s no reason we need to charge the amount of money we charge for the software we build. I mean, one of the most successful video games was done what by by one guy? Where’s he? He’s in Sweden and Finland. I can’t remember what’s the video game here. It’s it’s kind of a, it’s a role playing game with kind of a virtual land. We can, you know, make your own cities and so on and so forth. Oh, Minecraft one guy, huh?
Sander Dur 35:30
You mean Minecraft?
James Coplien 35:31
It isn’t Minecraft. Maybe it’s Minecraft. But it was one guy who made that. I mean, it drove him nuts, because he was making so much money that it drove him crazy. The pressure was too high. So he kind of he kind of stopped it for a while, I think he’s back. But we have places you know, where we have 1000s of individuals making software, which is 1,000th as complex. And why do we do this? Why does it dog look its genitals?
Sander Dur 36:02
What a great comparison.
James Coplien 36:04
Because it can. Right? And so you build this stuff? And because you can sell it for a lot of money. Ooh, now you got a lot of money. What are you gonna do with the money? Will the manager say, Oh, wow, this is really valuable and makes a lot of money, we must need a lot of people. So they hire a lot of people and you get this, this the self fulfilling death spiral that creates an ever larger industry. So I think that all the software that we produce, as an industry could be done with 1/10 or 100th of the of the of the people at 10 times the speed and much higher quality. What do slows way down? Hmm,
Sander Dur 36:47
yeah, exactly that what is it slowing down? What should we take away? To get there?
James Coplien 36:53
So it’s, it’s hard? Because I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I like what my old boss said is that, you know, software is his charity for the middle class. It’s right, it’s what’s the word I’m looking for? Welfare software as welfare for the female class, it keeps, it keeps a lot of people employed. And, and gives a lot of people income that they that ordinarily they wouldn’t have income, they’d be on the streets or something like that. So I think to fix this is momentous social change, which means a social or at the level of the whole economy, a devaluation of software, and a revaluation on things of real value, like like nature, and education and humane living environments, and childcare and mental health. And, and all of these kinds of things. I don’t know who the market is that this podcast will go to, I think we here in Denmark, understand this very, very well, I suspect the Netherlands is very, very similar in terms of social infrastructure and support for, for social causes. The United States is clueless. And I mean, to a first approximation, that’s where the bulk of the world’s software is coming from. And so I think we’re looking at that level of change to the value proposition in the economy and to reformulating things. So we start building software with small crack teams of great programmers, rather than, you know, just taking someone off the street and, and putting them through a two day scrum course and a six month certification course on Java and saying, Well, okay, you’re not a career programmer. Oh, my gosh, it takes seven years in Denmark to learn how to be a plumber to put a damn toilet in my house. How much training does it take before you can write Java code that will that will control the flight of an airplane with hundreds of lives at stake?
Sander Dur 39:20
Short term has a lot to do with the short term thinking that we were discussing earlier. In the board you’re seeing with the expectancy of people to go into a two day course and now you’re the expert. I think that’s a very dangerous thing as well as people driving the wrong agendas. The the name that we were looking forward to, by the way popped to mind was Martin Shkreli. Who changed that. The price overnight of the medicine of that. I don’t know what the exact medicine was, but pushing that agenda of those stakeholders the only the only reason in deep white, he changed the price was to please the stakeholders to get more return on investment for stakeholders. needed, the price went from $3 to 314. Which is, yeah, it’s good that he’s in prison, he’s criminal. He has no remorse for it. But that’s really pushing that agenda. And that has to do. I think that’s stopping that momentous change as well is the understanding of what’s important. And I think that we, as a current, especially the western society, are too lazy. At this point, we do everything to make our lives less active, and to have the lease of fitness, physical activity that we need to perform to achieve our goals. But how could we possibly change that?
James Coplien 40:46
Yeah, you’re right. And that’s, that’s the level of change that I’m afraid that we’re talking about in order to, to, to solve this problem. Again, it starts with the value proposition. And then it comes down to the fact that software is a false economy, that, you know, the amount of money is disproportionate to the amount of work that’s being done. I mean, farmers in some sense, it’s an honest economy, if I’m going to sell vegetables, and you know, I grow my own vegetables and solve them. In some sense, it’s, it’s fair, because the amount of work I put in is going to give me enough work to support my family and, you know, feed my children and pay for my house and things like this. You look at software people, it’s enough to buy castles or maybe to buy three houses or something like that. So I think it’s just crazy.
Sander Dur 41:45
It is it is. And, yeah, I think one of the first things that my trainers when I was doing my first course, my first two day course, before was expected to be an expert. mentioned to me was we’re going to teach you common sense, but somewhere we lost common sense, right. Yeah, I think that’s that’s the hardest thing to really, to really give back. And that’s what materializes with the way that people perceive the message from pharmaceutical companies like you’re not going to get sick now. And that’s, that’s not what we said. It reduces the the likelihood of you getting sick, but it’s really a big change. And it requires people like you to really push that to be bold in rather than sticking to the popular opinion.
James Coplien 42:35
Yeah, but but it is complex. I mean, the good thing about the the COVID come up and about the dysfunction is that I really do think, you know, the government folks are doing their best and they are concerned about the broader society. I think I mean, he even though that certain politicians in the UK will still sit around and drink wine without masks and social social distancing, while forcing everyone else to do it. But that to the contrary notwithstanding, I think the politicians are, are, again, they’re uninformed. But given the information they have, they’re trying to, you know, they’re trying to protect all of society. And even even with common sense, you need that because that isn’t common sense. Or if it is common sense. Common sense is so uncommon, I think you need the social vision that we need to do what’s what’s going to be good for the world. And so this gets into more of an ecological view, a systems thinking view of view, where we’re breaking down walls between institutions. And, and thinking about, you know, how we can work together, rather than my company out doing yours, or me as a consultant, outdoing you in the market, or, and I see this individual thinking all the time. I’m a Certified Scrum trainer. And my gosh, you should see some of the competition among scrum trainers. I mean, it’s even to the point where the scum certification entity had to send out a mail to the trainer’s about antitrust, saying, you know, you guys can’t be dividing up the market and agreeing among yourselves that you’re going to take this part of the market and I’m going to take this part of the market and do price fixing. I mean, my gosh, I mean, if if you need to tell people and give people rules to do that, and not presume on their goodwill to do the right thing. It’s game over.
Sander Dur 44:46
That’s terrible. And breaking that the individualism as well as capitalism, which is a huge, huge problem as well. There’s going to be a massive challenge. Also coming back to what you were saying about mandating masks while the person is My dear friend Johnson was having parties in his backyard. It’s the same person who is now pleading for dropping facemask everywhere because the numbers are going down. So it’s fun to see how that all intertwine.
James Coplien 45:12
I haven’t heard that. Really?
Sander Dur 45:14
Yeah, I just I just read it the two minutes before this recording,
James Coplien 45:18
no, no, no dropping every day, why? It’ll make him because we’re now
Sander Dur 45:22
going into more. Because you’re now going more into a and endemic state rather than a pandemic. So, because of the army Omicron Vereine being less, less terrible and less less harsh, we can now start dropping all these mitigations and it’s the same for Spain, by the way, but it’s so contrary contradictive that he’s in the one day he’s partying with in his backyard with way too many people, there’s a backlash, and suddenly a different agenda has been pushed. So that’s sketchy.
James Coplien 45:54
That’s that’s that’s, that’s precious. I hadn’t heard that. Well, there you go. I mean, in general, again, in general, I do think the government people are doing their best, given the information they have. I do think they’re being unbelievably irresponsible about being informed. And now we’re back to our world again. Because if you look, I mean, look at the talking heads, and I won’t mention names, I’m really, really tempted to on Twitter or on LinkedIn, or whatever. I mean, there’s one in particular who says, you know, estimation is is crazy. Estimation doesn’t work. And I’ve been arguing with this with him for a couple of years. Because, you know, for me, my team’s the estimation is great, and has a lot of side benefits as well. And I finally figured out why he finally posted something on LinkedIn that says, Well, when I estimate user stories, I said, Wait, stop. You don’t estimate user stories. Those are requirements. What do you mean, you estimate requirements, you estimate the effort for the solution, you don’t estimate requirements? No wonder your estimates aren’t working. And so and this guy’s like, you know, he’s often cited as a world authority on agile, he kind of back into agile, when he found out he wasn’t making enough money off of architecture. He gets invited to a lot of conferences, and he just says these preposterous, you know, things. And people gravitate to him because he can differentiate himself in the marketplace, because he’s saying with force, things that no one else is saying. And that tend to feed on people’s people’s experience that will No, I tried this, and it doesn’t work. And this is where the common sense argument gets into trouble because people will do what they do out of common sense. And a lot of the deep stuff is not common sense. And this is why I tend to shy away from agile because Agile is all the shallow stupid stuff. The deep stuff that you find, for example, in Scrum, and I’m not I’m not here to sell Scrum. There’s a lot of other things that are that are just as good. But are a sample I like to to give is people, people in software, like to use fireflies. Do you know fireflies? Yeah. So what’s the purpose the five why’s
Sander Dur 48:20
and what they’re perceiving or what they’re trying to get across is to figure out what the root causes and what what to do next.
James Coplien 48:28
So does a problem in an adaptive complex system have a root? Cause? Oh, that’s a great question. What’s the what? Cause? What’s the root cause of the weather today?
Sander Dur 48:42
depends who you ask this
James Coplien 48:43
is, this is bullshit. No, there is something called fireflies. And it comes out comes out of the Toyota Production System or at least so using it a lot. So I have a problem. Well, why? Because of this, well, why because of this one. And you keep asking why and it’s not five. But you keep asking why? Until there’s a loop in the question and answer cycle that is you come back to one of the questions where you’ve already done before you fix the problem by breaking that loop. That’s the essence of a complex adaptive system. You don’t find a route that’s an American thing. How do you why would you want to find the hook so you know who to fire so you know who to dot their salary for?
Sander Dur 49:39
I never looked at the site and I’m gonna I’m gonna be thinking about this
James Coplien 49:43
all but there’s, there’s dozens of things like this, that the Agile talking has, they’re talking about. Tons and tons of things. And I mean, you know, this is try to get this stuff out of my training, you know, to try to to disband people from these these stupid things. Stupid models. Another big part of the problem is, I mean, a lot of Scrum came out of the auto industry. And and so you know, software never grew up, it never got its own identity. And as far as look to something else, I mean, computer science looked a science, I wanted to be a science, well forget that software engineering look to engineering. Look, I’m an engineer. I’m an electrical engineer by training. And I know the software engineering is not engineering. Alright. And computer science is not a science. I mean, there is a little bit of computer science, but it’s irrelevant. I haven’t had to solve the halting problem in a long time. But rather, they always look to somewhere else, they were looking to the auto industry. So we have the oil crisis in the US. And some consultants came over from Japan, basically, to avoid antitrust to avoid being accused of having a monopoly and to kind of kind of share with their friends. So they came to Detroit, and they told them some stuff, right. So first of all, there was a problem with cultural relativism is that, you know, the Japanese and the Americans had had problem communicating. But in fact, the, the Japanese consciously withheld some stuff, and in effect gave misinformation. And I mean, the root cause analysis was one of these. The whole notion about about Kaizen by moving impediments, is another. You don’t get flow by removing rocks from the bit from the bottom of the river, you get flow by increasing the amount of water in the river.
Sander Dur 51:43
And dipping depending on the walls as well, of the riverbed.
James Coplien 51:48
There we go. Invest, you invest in the walls, you don’t you don’t just go around and moving rocks, but and then a couple of people at Harvard made a big study on this called loosen Romac. And he wrote a book called The Machine that Changed the world. And lean was born. And they kind of destroyed the core of all the value that came out of the Toyota Production System. And everyone who’s followed lean, including most people who follow Scrum. Now, by the way, Jeff Sutherland knows the difference, he gets this. And he knows that this whole lean thing is a lie. So I mean, this isn’t scrums fault. But again, it’s people who, you know, by association, are now looking to the superficial western view of what’s going on in Japan and saying, oh, we need to do that, too. That’s causing tons and tons and tons of of miss practice. So I mean, I spend most of my time in Japan, that’s, that’s where I do most of my business these days. So I’m there with them, learning from them directly. And then from me, and going deep into their culture. Now you want to talk culture and the need for cultural change. Wow, I mean, you know, to be able to, to adapt the perspectives of Japanese culture, that that’s a whole nother ballgame.
Sander Dur 53:13
Maybe we can talk about this in another podcast, because looking at the time as well. It’s funny to see with myself, if I hear you talking like this, especially with so much passion. It’s it’s funny to see with myself how conditioned I get by, for instance, by LinkedIn or posts or courses and just take things for granted not seeing a different perspective. So I really appreciate you opening my eyes to different perspectives in this as well. That’s what I appreciate with your posts. For instance, on LinkedIn, they go to into the mass opinion as well. That’s what I really appreciate. Now for people who want to learn more about you and want to learn more about your, your style, your experience, where can people find you? Where can people interact with you?
James Coplien 54:01
I’m pretty easy to find on LinkedIn or Twitter. My email is JCoplien JC o p l i e n at Gmail. But I’m pretty easy to find. And, you know, I’m certainly what in would invite I wouldn’t even call it respectful dialogue. I mean, I love passionate dialogue. And that’s how I learned that that’s in my autonomy, everything I know, I’m
Sander Dur 54:35
done, you got to be respectful for the passion, which would be a respectful discussion in itself. James, thank you very much for being here today. Yeah, go ahead.
James Coplien 54:46
All right. Great. No, thanks. Thanks for inviting me. This has been fun.
Sander Dur 54:52
And definitely. Thank you very much again. Enjoy your day.
James Coplien 54:57
All right, you too. Thanks.
Sander Dur 55:00
Was that awesome or wasn’t it I hope you guys appreciate the passion and enthusiasm just as much as I did. And I’m pretty sure we’ll be talking to James in the future as well. Now again, thank you guys for being here for being our guest for listening again. I hope you guys are gonna join the discord community as well that we can build world domination together. link included in the show notes as well as more information about James and where you can find him where you can interact with him. I’m looking forward to talking to you guys on the discord community. See you guys there.
State of agility
The Bosch transformation
The uncommonality of common sense
Where to find James