leanpizza.net - tasty Agile… one slice at a time – by Olivier Lafontan

Large Organisations,Scrum Roles

September 7, 2011

Count your chickens!

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Only 3 roles are really defined in Scrum:

  • Product Owner
  • Team
  • Scrum Master

Their responsibility is well defined, codified, and everyone who has been lucky enough to be given one of these roles can find inspiration and support in various books and online resources such as blogs or discussion forums. Great…

But what about the chickens in the rest of the company? Are these people useless? Do we need them? Have they got anything at all to bring to the table of successful project delivery? Should they just look at Scrum teams as football players on a bus on their way to an important game?

Chickens in Scrum are seen as people who might have an interest in what the team does, they are welcome to observe what is happening, and they are welcome to attend some of the team’s ceremonies. As the fable says, they are interested but not committed.

Me personally, I like my chickens a bit more engaged: I like it when one of the CXOs turns up and actually says something during our Scrum, or when they highjack a bit of a show and tell or planning session. I like it when users do the same, I like it when someone from another team does the same… yep, I like it when people we call chickens actually have a “rapport” with the team and show enough interest in what we do that they want to come and say something to them, often! And come on: how often do you get chickens that actually “act” interested????

Of course these interactions need to be managed, and anarchy can rapidly take over if they are not facilitated and harnessed. I believe this is a responsibility of Scrum Masters that we don’t talk about much but which should be developed. It is important because our chickens have information and feedback that no other people on the team has. We want them to be our allies and not enemies. They can make our lives difficult if they don’t feel a bit of love from us. And we will feel left over and sometimes forgotten if we don’t get a bit of love from them… There is only one way to get this working: talk to them, and get them to talk to you.

Scrum exists in a larger human system, and in most companies, there are more chickens than pigs. Make sure you count them, find the chickens that will help you and your project, find the ones that won’t, work out a relationship that works for you and for them, and don’t keep them at bay at all cost or it will backfire.

And don’t believe fables too much, nobody really is after your bacon.

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  1. Hi Olivier,

    I think it depends where you are with Scrum at the current organisation. The more mature the process is, the less Chickens you might find which directly are “responsible” for the project success.

    And it also depends on the maturity of the Scrum Master – keeping a CEO at bay when he jumps on a topic…well – the sprint won’t seem untouchable.

    On the other hand I think you are right. The more involved the chickens are, sometimes they can then understand the impediments better the team is facing and maybe the even start to own the problems instead of delegating them -> servant leadership.

    Ah – one thing, if the chickens extend the daily scrum by asking questions which are of interest to a subset of the team, it can get quite annoying for the rest of the team. So propably it makes sense to insist on one of the functions of the daily standup and maybe just include a chicken in the three questions on behalf of the blockers he is supposed to manage at the moment.


    Comment by Dennis — September 27, 2011 @ 11:41 pm
  2. Thanks Dennis, and yes, there is this thin line between getting something positive from them and just letting them “pollute” the dynamic of the team.

    If there is a strong feeling that the said chickens could be beneficial for the team, but they don’t really behave, I would even advise to have them come to the retrospective, and for the Scrum Master to ensure that the subject of their involvement and behaviour is discussed and some actions are agreed, with them in the room. They will feel compelled to do something about it, and if they don’t, it’s probably because they actually don’t really care helping the team.

    Comment by Oli — September 30, 2011 @ 4:33 pm
  3. One additional though on ” The more mature the process is, the less Chickens you might find which directly are “responsible” for the project success.” that is because chicken become developers, scrum masters or product owners.

    Comment by Dennis — October 9, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

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