Before I tell my story, I will review the naming conventions used in this article:
- PO: Product owner
- SM: ScrumMaster
- Core team: Developers, QAs, and anyone else who works on the sprint backlog
- Scrum team: PO + SM + core team
When I was first introduced to Scrum in 2010, I was told the fable about the chicken and the pig. It goes something like this:
A pig and a chicken meet one day and start talking about starting a business together. The chicken says: "Hey pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!"
The pig replies, "I don't know. What should we call it?"
The chicken responds, "How about Ham-n-Eggs?"
The pig thinks for a moment and says, "No thanks. I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved."
Back then I was told that while the PO was the chicken, the ScrumMaster and the core team would be the pigs. As such, only the core team and the ScrumMaster would be "allowed" to speak during Daily Scrum meetings and even attend the sprint retrospective meeting.
Today, I firmly believe that this interpretation (the PO being a chicken) is a huge mistake, because leaving the PO out of any Scrum ceremony is basically losing brainpower and discarding a different perspective of the sprints and the team. If you think about it, we are actually hurting the team in the sense that we are creating a gap between team members (in this case, the PO and the rest of the Scrum team). How can we expect to be a successful team (or even a high-performance team) when we have issues among us? I even venture to say that a team that treats the PO like a chicken is probably a team that will never leave stage two of Bruce Tuckman's stages of group development.
Every time I hear the team's reasons for kicking the PO out of sprint ceremonies (or to forbid him or her from speaking during Daily Scrums), I know that those are the exact reasons why I believe that the PO should be there (or speak in the Daily Scrums) in the first place:
- Does the rest of the team have an issue with the PO? Let's discuss it openly and fix it.
- Does the PO overtake Daily Scrums? Let's educate him and keep him/her in the meetings.
- Is the core team displeased with the PO's performance? Let's make it visible and help the PO improve.
Imagine for a second that the problem was not the PO but a developer or a tester. Would that person be forbidden from speaking during Daily Scrums? Or would he or she be kicked out of sprint retrospectives? It doesn't make any sense, does it -- so why should the PO be treated differently than any other member of the Scrum team?
To me the PO is not a chicken. At least I haven't seen any with feathers (I haven't seen one with a pig tail either, but you get the idea). Chickens are stakeholders, managers, and other people who are indeed only involved. They work in different work streams and, as such, they aren't committed at all. They typically don't have any work assigned in the sprint backlog.
The PO is committed to the Scrum team's success as much as the ScrumMaster or the core team. Although all of them have different responsibilities (or a different focus, if you like), they all have their success tied to the Scrum team's success. This is exactly what makes them all involved and hence pigs
. For these reasons, I believe that the three roles prescribed in the Scrum Guide are all pigs; none of them is a chicken.
Tuckman, Bruce W. "Developmental sequence in small groups," Psychological Bulletin
. Vol. 63, no. 6, June 1965, pp. 384-99.