Is "Chicken and Pigs" Counter-Productive?

March 9, 2007 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I just completed our first public offering of our Agile Estimation and Analysis for Developers and Product Champions and had some interesting insights. As in all of our lean-agile courses, I talk about the structure within which the teams work. This is very often as important as the way the teams work. For example, most companies (especially IT ones) have people working on too many projects at once. This causes thrashing to occur at both the individual level.

If we can improve the blend/number of projects being worked on we can markedly improve the performance of the team.

When agile methods (specifically, XP and Scrum) started being popular 6-8 years ago, the idea of protecting the team seemed to be a large part of it. This was good as far as I could tell, especially for small teams trying to get something done. However, as we've (Net Objectives) moved into the enterprise, particularly in IT organizations, protecting the team from management is not the problem in the same way. While I understand the chicken and pig metaphor for the daily standup, it seems to put more space between dev teams and management - and this may be counter-productive.

Lean thinking (on which Scrum is based) tells us to add business value quickly (Womack and Jones' fast, flexible, flow). Scrum allows this to happen. But development teams are often slowed down by the business decisions that have too many projects going on at any one time. While Scrum allows for shorter, smaller, faster projects to be completed, and therefore enables improving this situation, it doesn't directly give us guidance on how to improve the utilization of all teams across the enterprise. This is not a complaint about Scrum, it is merely an observation of the scope of Scrum vs Lean.

My point is, as Scrum becomes more popular and as more and more larger (Enterprise wide) organizations adopt it, a management and team working together philosophy must be adopted. I am not referring to just how business gets value added by the team (Scrum is very good at that) but how business can facilitate the organization within which the team works. Merely separating responsibilities is not enough.

So, back to my question - have people found the chicken and pigs metaphor to be counter-productive in that it creates a further division in our minds between management and team? In other words, shouldn't we be working with management not on just how can we add value to our customers (which, btw, in an IT organization are part of the business) by on how management can help the dev team by providing a better blend of projects to work on? The metaphor appears, to me, to kind of support an attitude that we are inherently different and therefore can't cooperate at a greater level.

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



        

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