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Beyond Agile Software Development

Eggs With Your Bacon Sandwich? Systems Thinking Stand-ups

One of the things in Scrum I’ve always struggled to come to terms with is the concept of Chickens and Pigs. For those of you in the dark this relates to who is involved in the stand-ups err..Daily Scrums.

It relates back to an anecdote about a Chicken and Pig working out how they setup a restaurant. The pig suggests the chicken give eggs and the chicken suggests the pig give bacon. The pig then complains that the chicken would be involved but he would be committed. So pigs are the only people that can contribute during stand-ups and other meetings. Pigs are generally the development team – some teams won’t even include the PO as they don’t actually make the commitment to complete the work in a Sprint.

And yes the chicken and pig terminology can really put people off scrum – especially stakeholders who struggle with the metaphor and tend to feel it excludes them.

This means stakeholders outside of the PO and the development team don’t provide any input at stand-ups – stakeholders like sales, marketing, senior management, finance, etc. Whilst this is great for the development team as it keeps the discussion ring fenced it also means that valuable input the other stakeholders might have isn’t injected into the discussion.

The stand-up should be an opportunity for the team to optimise the work they do and the way they work. By not giving a voice to all stakeholders the team potentially misses out on valuable information that could alter the way they work and what they work on.

With all the teams I’ve worked with in the last 6 months I’ve had all the stakeholders answer the 3 questions and it’s been a revelation to everyone involved. Initially the stakeholders don’t really know what to say but pretty quickly they have all sorts of gems to contribute and even take responsibility for getting issues resolved. Additionally they feel more involved with the team and the relationship of trust grew quicker and became stronger than other teams that didn’t involve the stakeholders.

Some teams voiced a concern that the stand-ups would take too long. Some of the teams that use this now found it made almost no difference as the stakeholders got through their part pretty quickly. Other teams decided to spend longer in the stand-ups with the stakeholders because they felt the valuable information and discussion they had and the trust that it built with the stakeholders was invaluable in allowing them to be even more productive.

I highly recommend teams that haven’t tried this to give it a go for a few weeks and see if you don’t notice a difference. Let me know how you get on.

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