Chicken and Pig Make Breakfast - A Scrum Team Story

After mentioning Scrum yesterday I thought you'd like to know what constitutes a useful and effective Scrum team - it's pigs.

This version of the explanatory story comes from The Agile Jedi:
A Chicken and a Pig lived on a farm. The farmer was very good to them and they both wanted to do something good for him.

One day the chicken approached the pig and said, "I have a great idea for something we can do for the farmer! Would you like to help?"

The pig, quite intrigued by this, said, "of course! What is it that you propose?"

The chicken knew how much the farmer enjoyed a good healthy breakfast. He also knew how little time the farmer had to make a good breakfast. "I think the farmer would be very happy if we made him breakfast."

The pig thought about this. While not as close to the farmer, he too knew of the farmer's love for a good breakfast. "I'd be happy to help you make breakfast for the farmer! What do you suggest we make?"

The chicken, understanding that he had little else to offer suggested, "I could provide some eggs."

The pig knew the farmer might want more, "That's a fine start. What else should we make?"

The chicken looked around...scratched his head...then said, "ham? The farmer loves ham and eggs!"

The pig, very mindful of what this implied, said, "that's fine, but while you're making a contribution I'm making a real commitment!"

Chickens and Pigs
On Agile projects the term Pig has come to describe all the developers, designers and testers who commit to the actual work. The term Chicken is applied to everyone else who make intellectual contributions but do not commit to any work.

And so, when you look around at the people in your team you can now ask if you have all pigs required (actually doing something) or is full of chickens (interested but not contributing that much).

Chickens can include:
  • Stakeholders not benefiting from a direct outcome* delivered by the project
  • Consultants
    I have to be real and aware where I sit within any piece of work, if I am a "chicken" then I shouldn't be a part of the team and remove myself
  • "middlemen"
  • Business Analysts (mostly)
  • anyone that is there because of "political reasons"
  • Project Managers (mostly)
  • anyone called "something Architect"

But remember, it's not about getting rid of the chickens but being aware that their input and value is not as high as the pigs. Also, look at your team and think of all those that should be there but aren't - the guys in IT Operations that have to install your software, the users that have to push the buttons and even the third-party software vendors that will have to integrate their products with your new flash thingy - they are all pigs!

Of course the big question is - what are you, a chicken or a pig?

* outcome = one or more of the following: increased revenue, decreased costs, increased services. Outcomes are NOT deliverables.

Comments

  1. This is insightful Mike - thanks. We have been looking for a new platform for our operations at work over the last month and we have the attitude of a customer (and a customer is always right, right?) asking questions like "What can you do for me?" - as if we just sit there and everything happens around us.

    Unfortunately as an organisation we are pigs, the vendors are the chickens and we are the ones likely to cook our own goose unless we wake up to our real role in the process.

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  2. Pleasure.

    I suspect anyone "outside" any organisation is automatically seen as a "chicken" whether they are a key team member or not. Shame.

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  3. This is a good (and oft-cited) story. The trick is making those chickens understand why it is that their contribution, while valued (usually) is not a critical element for project delivery.
    Do you have any resources for justifying the business impacts of the different roles? I.e. when our project manager-ish person demands to know why her demands are not always being met, how do you politely explain her function in an Agile environment?

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