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Pig and Chicken Revisited

28 October 2013

Haim Deutsch
Agile Spirit Ltd. (Former Agile Planet)

Who doesn't know the fable, or who hasn't encountered at least one Mike Vizdos cartoon? I'm always telling the "Pig and Chicken" story during my trainings. I have two different goals for doing this. The first one is to use this great story to transmit to my trainees/coachees the importance of knowing at any time whether you are involved or committed.

The second goal is the subject of this article.

I suppose that my readers have heard the grey squirrel burger story. This is a great story, because we can learn a lot from multiple aspects of it. We have three protagonists in this story: the student, the client, and the regional manager. Who is the pig and who is the chicken? Actually, I am much less concerned with the chicken, because everyone tends to think he is the pig.

Let's think about this:
  • The client is obviously a pig, because he is fat and pink, and because he is the one who could pass away. This is a deep commitment.
  • The student is obviously a pig. The proof: He is fired. So he is committed.
  • The regional manager is a pig for sure; after all, he risks a multimillion-dollar injunction. What a commitment!
And now the real question:

If everyone is of the pig persuasion, in what way do we profit from the pig-and-chicken analogy? If everyone is committed, everyone has the responsibility of making a decision. And we're back to the old days!

On the other hand, we feel that something is not clear here. We know, deep inside ourselves, that not everybody is a pig. The client, the student, and the manager will each argue that he is the sole pig, but to be honest, we know that the only pig here is the client.

So what do we do?

My point is that the real strength of the grey squirrel burger story is to show how our mind plays with us, and how, no matter what happens or what you do or don't do, you will be able to convince yourself that you are the Pig (with a capital P). That is, the pig-and-chicken question is in fact a moral question. As a first reaction, you are a pig. On second thought, what are you really? For lovers of Terry Pratchett books, we need second sight and third sight to honestly introspect and understand who we really are.

The algorithm is pretty simple:
  1. You know that you are the pig.
  2. Look at yourself thinking, "I know that I am the pig."
  3. Ask yourself the question: "Why do I think that I am the pig? What personal profit do I get thinking that I am the pig?"
  4. What could it cost me egotistically to think that I am not the pig?
Who said that working in high tech takes us far from philosophical, existentialist questions?

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Article Rating

Current rating: 2.7 (3 ratings)


Phillip Stiby, CSM, 10/28/2013 3:50:55 AM
What's the difference between commitment and committed?

Quick English lesson
Commitment is a noun and committed is a verb... a verb as described to my children is a doing word, whilst a noun is what someone or thing is like.

So remember the Pig is committed, having commitment does not count.

I feel the chicken and pig story has been taken out of context, so lets put it into a scrum context.

At the start of a sprint the scrum team take items off the product backlog to form a sprint backlog, and they (the scrum team) agree what they can or can not deliver in the sprint. Once agreed the team are committed to delivering the sprint back log.

So during a sprint the scrum team are the pigs, so with this analogy we appreciate the product owner and scrum master are in fact chickens. So the daily stand up which is by the Pigs for the Pigs is about ensuring they reach there sprint goals.

Chickens may be required to answer questions or as in the scrum master to take actions to remove impediments from the team.

Other than that I do like the Terry Pratchett reference.

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