Sunday, April 29, 2018

The story of the chicken and the Pig | Supreme Agile

An agile team contains different stakeholders such as the development team, scrum master, and the product owner. Each one of the stakeholders that I just mentioned has an essential role to play in the creation of an effective successful team.

To be able to maximize their role as active contributors, these stakeholders need to know when it’s their turn to participate, listing and contribute to the overall feedback cycles that the team need to generate as part of their continuing growth.

To point out the difference between stakeholders that has a larger "Commitment" and those which just involve in different activities in agile, we can use the old story of the "Chicken and the Pig" that will provide a different angle about the commitments of the different stakeholders in agile teams.

So, the story goes like this: One day the chicken decides that the two should start a restaurant. The pig is intrigued by the idea and says, “That sounds great. I’m an entrepreneurial type of hog. I’m sick of working for the farmer.

But what are we going to call the restaurant?” The chicken thinks. Then she scratches and pecks at the dirt and suggests, “Ham and Eggs!” To which the pig replies, “No thanks, I’d be committed. You’d only be involved.”

You should think about this story when you start thinking about your agile team, and ask the basic question of "Who is the chicken and who is the Pig?"

A Chicken is a stakeholder that does not have a direct responsibility for the teamwork but still benefits from the pig's work. Chickens are listeners that do not contribute to the day to day effort to getting things done (They don’t participate in team activities).

Pigs roles are the core team members that are truly committed to the process, they participate in the day to day activities during the agile software development process and which have a direct responsibility on the deliverables.

Let's take the daily standup as an example, which stakeholder is the pig? And which one is the chicken? In the case of the daily standup, the product owner is an "Observer" that does not expect to contribute to the meeting. They listen to the team while they share their progress and ensure that the team is working on the highest value stories (While the team owns the responsibility to perform the meeting, follow its goals and to keep its agenda).

Another example is the product backlog, although the entire team is responsible to maintain and keep the product backlog in a great shape, the product owner is the one that has the larger responsibility to ensure that the product backlog is prioritized and ready for the team development cycles. So, in that case, the product owner will be categorized as the "Pig" and the rest of the team as "Chickens".

The scrum master as the ZooKeeper
Now, in some organizations, the daily scrum meetings will attract different stakeholders (categorized as "Chickens") that will want to watch the daily standup which is a good way for them to check the team progress.

In that case, the scrum master should communicate to these "Chickens" that they shouldn’t participate and contribute (Unless they specifically asked) in the standup. Now, although these stakeholders can be senior management, manager of other teams and even customers, for this meeting they are all "Chickens".

Depending on the type of activity and the culture of the organization, your activities might be overwhelmed by chickens.  If that's the case, it’s the scrum master role to ensure that the chickens don’t take over your pig team (Remember that they have the higher commitment and therefore their words should get the higher priority).  

In some cases, the chickens are the highest rank in the organization (Directors, VP's Etc.) that will not take their status as "Chickens" which increase the challenge of the scrum master to keeping them from "Hijacking" the meeting. If you familiar with the different roles of scrum, you have the knowledge that says that the scrum master role is to protect the team and their ability to work in a safe environment.

For the scrum master, there are some basic ways to handle this situation:
  1. Sitting down with them and the team which will physically block their ability to access the team (In some cases it’s the only thing that can work).
  2. Free the time for the team to answer their questions once the meeting is finished (This will show respect and will make it easier for them to save their questions to the end of the meeting).
  3. Talking with these stakeholders and explain the expectations and why they are not allowed to interfere during the meeting.
Remember that the main focus is on the team, the scrum master should ensure that the team can focus on the meeting agenda by reducing all noises that come from the chickens.

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