Sick? Stay Home! -- Cartoon -- January 8, 2007

Welcome to a new week at

This week we take a serious look at how being part of an Agile team can sometimes be a bad thing.

In the normal course of working for a living, people get sick. And usually, they come in and tough it out (this may be an Americanism… sorry… it means even if you feel like a wet sock twirled around a razor blade sliding into a pile of cigarette ashes, you come to work anyway [hope that makes things clear!]).

The Chicken above could easily be a Pig too.  One of the reasons we selected a Chicken was to make another point — besides being sick as a Pig (or sick as a Dog), this Chicken starts to think that said Chicken can do things better than all the Pigs combined. I — unfortunately — have seen this happen.

So, if you are a Pig on an Agile team, I will not say stay home. Sorry. This is not a free pass.

What I will advise is that, as cold and flu season starts to rear its ugly head soon, the team have a discussion (maybe during a Retrospective — you are having those, right?) about your Team Norms and how the team wants to deal with it. Talk about it, and agree on it, BEFORE it actually occurs.

It will.

Every team is different. Remember this.

This “sick thing” is something that teams forget, or worse yet, do not even bring up. Is it important?

Think about it this way.

You are in a room together with 7-9 people (or 15-25 for those “large” teams out there HEAVY SIGH) for most of the day five days a week. People come in contact with other people outside of work. Kids bring home sicknesses to parents and pass them off to parents. Parents, some Pigs on your team, bring the sickness into the room with you. I am not picking on parents (I am one!), but know this is an easy thing for people to see.

Now… remember that old [waterfall] thought of… “What if our key person gets hit by a pie truck?”

Pie truck for this example = “Sick”.

This happened to me back during the OJ Trials.

Well, I was not hit by a pie truck, but had pneumonia that was bad enough for the doc to tell me to stay home for two weeks or go to the hospital.

I toughed it out until it was bad enough to actually go to the doctor (it probably would not have been so bad if I actually did something about it earlier).

But I was on a waterfall team that got screwed because I was out for just over two weeks.

And — worse than the drugs I had to take, or that fact that the OJ Trial was the only freaking thing on TV 24*7 — I got total pressure about it from all sides at work. Remember… I was a “key person” on the team and this royally screwed up the Gantt Charts.

Sigh. This was also during a project when one of the guys working with us (may he rest in peace) left work with his feet first on a gurney one day. Imagine the effect on the Gantt chart then?!!?

Apply it to an Agile Team member…. “What if our key Pig gets hit by a pie truck?”

Here is one of the key differentiators to tell if you are on a truly Agile Team. Do you recognize the benefits of becoming Generalizing Specialists and have you worked to do this within your Agile team?

I know. I know.

“But Mike… [insert any excuse here]…”

Bla bla bla.

Yes. People are important. This is one reason (among many) that people on the team should become generalizing specialists. Again… something to talk about in your next Retrospective.


I know. It is hard.Suck it up and do it (smile). Not become sick.Become more Agile. Learn about what other people on your team “do” for a living. It may even make you more marketable.


Play out this scenario…

You come to the Agile Team room (even if the room has the Clorox Wipes) sick one day. In about seven to ten days, half your team gets it. In another seven to ten days, the rest of the team gets it. At the end of two week, if everyone kept coming in sick to the room, you’d have nobody left.Velocity for the Sprint is shot.

Is this an extreme example?

Of course.

I am tryinnnnnnng to make a point.

Get it?

So, what do you think the Chicken in the cartoon above is thinking about where this will go?

Gotta run…

Please send comments, questions, criticisms, ideas, or whatever here.

You can also enter The Scrum Community to discuss this cartoon and other Scrum topics. Thank you!

Originally Published:
January 8, 2007

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