Pigs and chickens in Scrum
The story of the pig and the chicken has several variations, but it usually goes something like this: A chicken and a pig are hanging out on the farm (as pigs and chickens often do) trying to decide between the two of them what they can make for breakfast. The chicken suggests, “what about ham and eggs?” The pig then replies, “no way… you’d only be involved, but I’d be committed!” The joke here, of course, is that to make eggs a chicken does not need to give up its life, but to make ham it necessarily involves the sacrifice of the pig – total commitment.
In the Scrum development framework this fable is used to describe the roles of team members and stakeholders involved on the project. All roles fall under one of the two categories; chicken or pig. The pigs are the team members whose “bacon is on the line” – they are the team members committed to building and releasing software. The members of the Scrum team are the pigs – the ScrumMaster, the Product Owner, and the team members. The chickens are those people for whom the software is being built: The stakeholders, including customers, vendors, or partners, and the managers associated with the project – for example, functional managers and executives.
All pigs are required to attend daily Scrum stand-up meetings, and they’re the ones who do all the talking. At these meetings each pig gets a chance to report on three things – what he or she did yesterday, what he or she is going to do today, and what impediments he or she may be facing. Meanwhile, the chickens are not allowed to talk – they’re welcome to come and join the stand-up, but they may not actively participate. In this manner stand-up meetings are quick (limited to 15 minutes, but frequently less); team members have a chance to quickly discuss their statuses on the project and then get right back to work.
In my current position as program manager at a large software company I often participate in Scrum team meetings playing the role of chicken. I never speak at these meetings unless I’m asked a direct question, which happens extremely rarely (although admittedly during one meeting I managed to get in a quick “happy birthday!” for one of the team members). It works well; the members of the Scrum team know which participants at the meetings are the chickens and which are the pigs, and there is never any hesitation as the chickens in the group are passed over during the stand-up so that the next pig can get in his or her say. It’s a process that works well!