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A Splendid Mirror

Oh the irony of a Pig and Chicken paradigm.


If you know of the Scrum parable of the pig and chicken.  Then you may find this story humorous.   I'm working with a group trying to teach them just enough Scrum to form a project team.  Trying to facilitate just enough team formation to allow them to self organize.  We planed a 3 day workshop, to be immediately followed by sprint one.  It went well.  Although some troubling patterns were apparent, we summoned up the courage to keep moving forward.

Fast forward to Sprint Two's planning session.  Only three of the seven team members were at the planning session, one had to leave for an hour during the session.  The product owner did not appear, the scrum master had a higher priority meeting.  Summing more courage to venture into the unknown the 3 team members and the two coaches (we pair coach teams) ventured into the unknown. We discussed the obvious impediment in the room.  Created a working mitigation plan for the missing product owner and we planned the sprint as best we could without any guidance from the missing leadership.  The team asked for help in raising this impediment.

I sent an email to the team's director - the sponsor of the project, and included the whole team in the email.  An example of raising an impediment, a teachable moment.  Just the objective observation of what was happening, and how it was impacting the team.  Along with some subjective opinion of the risk.

"I'm very concerned with the number and frequency of team members absences from team events and Scrum process meetings.  I've not encountered a successful Scrum team that can operate with this low a level of team commitment to the project."

The private reply was: "Thanks for the email. Who else on the team are chickens?"

Now this question took me quite a while to process.  Oh-boy, wouldn't a face-to-face conversation be so much better.  Have I fallen into poor behaviors?  Behaviors that are in contrast to my principles.

I do not use the pig and chicken joke to teach the distention between team commitment and and stakeholder interest in my practice.  However, it is a well known piece of the Scrum vernacular.  Now, we must sort out this misunderstand of the term "chicken" within the Scrum context.  Who on the team is a chicken?  The obvious answer is no one on the team is a chicken, the team is made up of pigs.  Yet the sponsor, who rightly considers himself just an interested party (a chicken) appears to be searching for a well defined set of roles that will allow him to know who on the team is required for the team's meetings.  And he does this using the exact parable which was used to explain the definition of the term 'scrum team'.

Oh irony - what a splendid mirror you make.

In our 3 day workshop we spent quite a bit of time talking about how words have various meanings to different people.  One word that we used to illustrate this was the word "team."  We did various exercises to define words, to start sharing a common understanding of the words and phrases we use in our work day.  We obviously have more work to do.

What does it mean to be on a team?
Will a group of part-time participants become a high-performing team?
How does one best accomplish achieving low priority commitments?

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