Dr. Alistair Cockburn

alistair teaching

Dr. Cockburn is the world expert on agile methodologies and use cases, internationally recogized for his expertise in project management and object-oriented design.


  • Co-author of the Agile Manifesto.
  • Voted in 2007 one of the "All-Time Top 150 i-Technology Heroes."
  • Named in 2020 as one of the "42 Greatest Software Professionals of All Times."


alistair teaching

He is the author of two industry-changing books:


  • Writing Effective Use Cases, having sold hundreds of thousands of copies, serves as the foundation text in both universities and industry.




A Brief History


In 1993, after two years of interviewing teams around the world on "What makes a successful project?", he wrote for the IBM Consulting Group an early version of what we now call an agile methodology. He and IBM used that methodology successfully in 1994 on a 18-month, $15M, fixed-price, fixed scope Smalltalk project, with Alistair as lead consultant and technical coordinator.


In 1998 he helped the Central Bank of Norway successfully deliver a difficult mainframe project that merged all the bank-to-bank transactions in the country of Norway. He also designed the Crystal family of methodologies while at the Central Bank of Norway.


In 2001, he organized the historic meeting in Snowbird, Utah, in which he and 16 other people from around the world wrote the Agile Manifesto. That manifesto revolutionized the field of software development, and then product management and eventually project management and organizational development in general. The "agile" approach - once considered radical - is now recommended in all industries from startups to government defense contracts, and even to government departments themselves, and social impact projects.


He published books in 1997 (Surviving Object-Oriented Projects), 2000 (Writing Effective Use Cases), 2001 (Agile Software Development), 2003 (his PhD dissertation, "People and Methodologies in Software Development), 2004 (Patterns for Effective Use Cases), 2005 (Crystal Clear), 2006 (Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, 2nd ed.).


In 2015, Dr. Cockburn synthesized his advice to just four words: Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect, Improve - what he calls the Heart of Agile. These four words make any initiative more effective and more enjoyable to work on. Dr. Cockburn and his associates at the Heart of Agile Academy apply all the techniques they learn to different project situations.


With his background, Dr. Cockburn is one of the few people in the world who can authoritatively relate agile development to the need for executive control, balancing fiduciary responsibility with the need to stay responsive to a changing world. He stays grounded by consulting, teaching and working with project practitioners in all active roles, particularly project managers, product owners, scrum masters, coaches and programmers. This real-problem contact keeps him in tune with the changing work situations.



Some of Dr. Cockburn's Notable Memes

  • This photo, the "wild hair" picture, is the most widely recognized bio picture, serving as his LinkedIn profile and photo for as many conference lectures as will permit :).

  • Information Radiators is one of Dr. Cockburn's most used phrases, coined during a visit to a company in Chicago in 2000. There have been contests for the best information radiators.

  • "A user story is a promise for a conversation", is a phrase he framed in 1998 when visiting the first Extreme Programming project in Detroit. Since expanded by Ron Jeffries to Card, Conversation, Confirmation.

  • The Cockburn Scale describes the various sorts of projects you might find yourself on, to highlight that different strategies and methodologies are needed at different time.

  • Hexagonal Architecture is a software architecture used to protect domain logic from external technologies and simplify testing.

Please write to me about how else I might be able to help:

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"Heart of Agile" in-person for Everyone

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