The other day I sat in on a product sprint demo that was comprised of product leaders, stakeholders, and some other interested parties who were in neither camp. They weren’t the pigs who are committed to getting the project done and they weren’t the chickens who are the stakeholders.
Vic Fees’s post “Scrum for Chickens” helps anyone who doesn’t understand agile… understand it. He lays out the classic barnyard metaphor describing the pigs as committed to the project and the chickens as only “involved”…
The metaphor of Pigs and Chickens is intended to create and keep order for the Pigs involved in the day-to-day grind of the project. Turning all of the other stakeholders into Chickens (regardless of their rank or influence) is at least partially about removing pecking-order politics from the process of software development (where it does not help). In a healthy Scrum environment, a Chicken of high influence can wield his power with the Product Owner if he chooses, but not directly with the Team. The work of the Pigs requires solitude, focus, and time; Chicken politics are a distraction at best and a source of frustration and erosion at worst.
But why do I bring this topic up and seemingly waste your time quoting another blog? I don’t do it because I want to promote Vic… his ego is too big as it is. Feeding it will only create a monster. I do it because the metaphor is incomplete and doesn’t adequately convey the critical importance of agile participants and non-participants learning how agile processes work and why its important to respect such processes.
Back in the meeting there were three groups of people…
- The pigs – represented by the Product Manager and development lead;
- The chickens – stakeholders from Customer Support, Deployment, Sales, etc.), and
- The others – a group of people who fell into two groups: those that could be argued to be distant stakeholders because they are interested parties not directly involved and those who were not stakeholders at all but were curious about the status of the project.
I am going to update the metaphor and call the “other” people cows.
Why cows? Well I considered goats because they can get into trouble chewing on everything, but I suspect that that would insult the people and that’s not my intention. I picked cows because they are large lumbering creatures who stampede and make a lot of noise when they get excited.
Each agile meeting has a purpose. Let’s look at two… First, you have the sprint planning meetings where you plan your sprint. Not complicated. It is the meeting where all the stakeholders advise the product manager about their priorities and the product manager lays out the next sprint. Second, you have a sprint demo where the product manager demos the latest stories to the stakeholders and approves stories for production. Both meetings have a specific focus which must be respected.
The problem comes up when people don’t know their roles, don’t know the process, and don’t take the time to learn. This can happen with all participants, but it can be a particular pain with the cows. If they get too excited and stampede, then the meeting gets thrown off track just like our meeting the other day.
So, I ask anyone who comes to a product meeting – and is not a pig or a chicken who knows their role in that meeting – that you not become a stampeding cow, but instead be a calm cow who chews his grass and listens peacefully to the barnyard sounds. 😉 If you have questions, save them for after the meeting and talk with the top pig – the product manager. This will ensure a well run barnyard where the pigs and chickens can get their jobs done.
**DISCLAIMER: This post is “tongue and cheek” and not intended to offend. The purpose is to point out that for agile to work well, people need to learn the process and their roles.