We are not chickens, nor are we pigs!

We are not chickens, nor are we pigs!

I frequently see Scrum teams continuing to use “Chickens and Pigs” to describe someone’s relationship to the team. Despite the potential negative connotations, I often read new articles and documentation still using this terminology – and there doesn’t seem to be much sign of this slowing down…

Now, for some, it may surprise you to know that the origin of the “Chicken and Pig” terminology was deliberately removed from the Scrum Guide way back in 2011 – yet people continue to use it. So, what do these animal names relate to in the real world of product development?

Participants

Not pigs!

This is your Agile (product or feature / “Scrum”) team – the people who will collaboratively work towards the team’s goal. Your team may occasionally include a number specialists, consultants and subject matter experts for portions of your product’s delivery (many scaled Agile frameworks acknowledge these as “secondary roles“). If you participate, you’re a participant – simple.

Observers

Not chickens!

This is anyone your team is likely to consult or inform. They may be stakeholders, accountable for the successful delivery of your product, but they are not responsible for implementing it (in the DAD framework, it specifically uses “stakeholder” to refer to someone materially impacted by the success of the product). They could also be the PMO, finance or some other function providing wider governance beyond the team’s “what and how” responsibility. All these observers may have influence over the product development, but they aren’t (actively) participating.

Interactions

If you’re going to attend a daily stand-up, it should be to participate, not just observe. Stating “I’m a chicken!” when it’s your turn to give an update just isn’t helpful. However, always remember that Agile requires collaboration to achieve its goals – so don’t attend if you’re going to try to dictate your agenda (if you have the authority, communicate your priorities via the Product Owner instead, for them to add to the team’s backlog where appropriate).

Don’t derail the process. Let the team be responsible for the level of detail it needs to be to get things done. Trust them to do their job, while they trust you to do yours.

Clear Responsibility

If we are dismissive of any possible offence or hurt feelings from those involved (poor little Jimmy doesn’t like being labelled as a dirty, ignorant pig), then what is the problem with referring to people as chicken and pigs?

To some, it may sound unprofessional, while to others it may be Zeitgeist. Personally, I don’t like overloading common, well understood words with non-intuitive meanings (and we’re already pushing our luck with “Agile”).
Most importantly, one thing Agile is frequently accused of is obfuscating common sense. That is exactly what these terms were doing – replacing words understood outside of the software development and product management context and creating an ambiguous, industry specific usage. That’s two legs baaaad, we’re not farm animals!

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