Chicken Soup. Scrum Style.

This week Tony and I are finally reintroducing the weekly cartoon blogs after a bit of a hiatus. Sorry for the long wait; however, you should start seeing these on a weekly basis once again! I am going to try to take a different tact going forward — let’s see how it goes. I am going to present YOU with a scenario. And I want YOU to add comments as to how you would handle the scenario using Scrum. I will add comments to your comments to get a conversation going. Make sense?

If you have any ideas please contact me and we can talk about exploring them via a comic strip or even you writing a guest blog entry!

Here is the scenario:

You are running a Scrum Team in an organization that contains a large contingent of Waterfall Projects and surviving somehow in a command-and-control environment.

Maybe you even have multiple teams running at this point.

You are following the “Combo Approach” of rolling this out, and you have support of the team and a person at the highest level within the organization, so that when impediments are hit they can be cleared if you ask.

All of the sudden, there is a reorganization.

The Chickens have moved around.

Your Scrum Team inherits some very new Chickens with little experience using Scrum and are pretty tight when it comes to command-and-control management styles.

One of the new Chickens walks into the Scrum Team room and asks for status reports to start up again. In writing using the template this Chicken has always used to get control of projects.

Starting today.

You look at this Chicken in amazement.

You ask, “Why?”

This project seems to be out of control in the view of this Chicken.

“We also need to start having daily one hour status meetings from everyone in this group… Fifteen minutes is not enough. I (The Chicken) will run the meeting and set the agenda. It may have to be two times a day.”

The Chicken wants a “all hands” meeting at the end of the day today for a few hours.

The Chicken is thinking about instituting mandatory sixty hour work weeks.

The words “Microsoft Project” are thrown around.

The Chicken also wants to put the teams back into offices because their stature in the company is high — the team members have all been with the company for a long time and want their own offices back (according to the Chicken).

The Chicken wants to have an all day post moderm to determine the root cause of the problems with this team because the boss of the Chicken wants the Chicken to be in charge.


What do YOU do?

- As a Team Member?
- As a ScrumMaster?
- As a Product Owner?
- As “The Chicken”?

Comment on your responses.

Let’s get the conversation going!


  1. Llewellyn Falco says:

    as team member:
    start looking for a job that doesn’t suck.

    as scrum master:
    couple of things here. One, hopefully you have been tracking velocity. This will help you both in making an argument towards scrum, and help show that the new direction is reducing velocity.
    if possible i would also look for support from others in the organization, no one is an island, there has to be someone the chicken respects.

  2. Results mean alot, and if things are going well, you have “meaningful” results to show the new chickens.

    I think you have to be prepared to explain “the plan”. To bridge the gap between scrum and command and control, I am finding that there has to be a high level plan with the big chunk features on it –some familiar ground for the chickens and PMOs.

  3. As a Team member I would get together with the rest of my team to explain to the Chicken that we dont want our offices and we are more productive than we’ve been in a while without hours of meetings.
    As a ScrumMaster I would get together with the person at the highest level within the organization, that was supporting me and got moved around, to explain to the Chicken how Scrum works.
    As a Product Owner I would get the client to speak with the Chicken and prove that they are happy with the way things are going.
    As a Chicken I would fire everyone :)

  4. Wow… great question!!

    In the unenviable position of ScrumMaster, I think you would first have to figure out who is on your side? Are the current team members in agreement, or would they side with the new Chicken? In other words, would they leave you hanging out to dry if you stood up to the chicken (how ironic…). What about the Product Owner? What about upper management?

    As ScumMaster, I would argue with the chicken over the value of having these daily one-hour (or more) meetings with the whole team? If he/she doesn’t budge, make the compromise to first meet ScrumMaster-to-Chicken for these one-hour meetings. This is an impediment and, like all impediments, is the ScrumMaster’s responsibility to remove so the team can deliver software.

    If the Chicken wants everyone there, argue that, as ScrumMaster, you have a good level of understanding of what is going on in the project based on feedback from the daily stand-ups and feel you can provide answers to his/her questions. And, for those that you cannot, you will get back to them within the day (since it’s also a daily meeting, after all).

  5. As a Team Member?
    I would ask that the existing processes continue as we have delivered successfuly using the Scrum processes. I would then direct the SM and PO to address as an impediment if this is ignored
    - As a ScrumMaster?
    I would arrange some training/mentoring for all the new chickens to highlight the benefits of the ‘agile way’prior to changing anything. If there is resistance to this then it will be escalated to the ‘highest person in the organisation’ to help smooth over until the team settles down.
    - As a Product Owner?
    I would back up the SM and team and outline the successes to date, particularly the high level of visibility, transparency and delivery from the team. I would also ensure that they know that as PO I do not perceive there to be problems and I am happy with the way the team is running.
    - As “The Chicken”?
    I would be suprised by the level of resistance to the way of ‘command and control’ and I would either
    a) listen to what the team has to say and take theor advice 9at least for 1 or 2 sprints) so that i can judge for myself.
    b) give my ‘resistance is futile’ speec and assimilate them all to the way of ccomman and control’
    c) leave and go to a more enlightened company

  6. Tricky one this.

    Theoretically, since you have the ability to raise this with senior people, and since this is obviously one of those cases, you should politely point out to the chicken that things aren’t done like that for a reason and then speak to the senior people when your advice is ignored – this should apply no matter what your role is. Theoretically.

    In practise:
    – As a ScrumMaster, I would suggest that you would need to take back control of the project in the eyes of the new chicken. Scrum needs to be taught perhaps, but at the very least, the chicken needs to be made aware that this is how this project is supposed to function.
    - As a team member, I’d raise this with the ScrumMaster.
    - I almost added “as a product owner” to the previous bullet but am not too sure of this.

    If I was the chicken, I’d be too busy worrying about the failure of this current project to be doing much else :-)


  7. From my perspective the person who needs to step up and deal with the chicken is the Product Owner.

    The PO nees to point out to the new chicken that business objectives are being met and that (presumably) the team is delivering desired results on a regular basis which is making me (the customer rep) happy.

    As the ScrumMaster I’d work with the PO to figure out what we need to present to the new chicken (and the new chicken’s boss) to demonstrate the value we are delivering.

    As the chicken I’d never take the steps outlined in the first place.

    As a team member I would make sure that the PO and SM know that the team will support them openly. I would also talk with the other team members to make sure that they would support the SM and PO in a positive way and make sure that everyone was doing what they could to influence the chicken.

  8. Tom Mellor says:

    One infers from Mike’s vignette de merde that Chicken is a manager (otherwise the team would likely have sent him COD to Siberia – with apologies to Siberians.)

    The Team can grovel and yell “va te faire mettre” at Chicken, but if he is a manager and has power, the team will probably be understandably careful what they say to him or risk even more bad things happening.

    Olga is on the right track – Product Owner, with help from ScrumMaster, is the key to stopping this insanity. If the Product Owner is really the single wringable neck regarding taking on risk and drving success of the project, then he or she will feel compelled to stop Chicken for self-preservation reasons. ScrumMaster and Product Owner must collaborate to overcome this really bad noise, and call on that peson “at the highest level of the organization as necessary.

    A potentially good advance mitigating strategy: always be on the lookout for these chickens in the organization and show or provide them with a way (maybe even a 12 step process) to understand Scrum before they become a real threat. And seek support and alliances from people high in the organization who get it and can pressure chickens from above.

  9. Lots of potential answers.

    However, the first thing I would do is stop looking down on this guy (calling him a Chicken immediately puts you into a combative frame of mind – ‘I am better than him’) who you think is out to ‘Kill’ Scrum. He is probably just uninformed and finds things out of his comfort zone (i.e. things he knows) threatening.

    As any kind of manager / master / whatever, being able to appreciate where the other guy is coming from and then working on a strategy to educate him to the benefits of what you are currently doing should prevent you from alienating him and also getting him to appreciate that your different framework / method is really getting results.

    After all, if Scrum really is delivering you should be able to put the evidence before him that is convincing. If you don’t have that evidence then you probably need to get it.

  10. (As a Team Member) – Let’s be realistic, I want that office AND I want to stay in the team room. Let the chicken give me my own space, but I’m still going to collaborate in the team room – just not all day long. I don’t really like to have people watching while I make my fantasy bass fishing picks.

    (As a ScrumMaster) – Polish the resume, this is going to be a rough ride. As stated by others, I’m going to use the velocity data to show that we have been improving since moving away from the environment espoused by the new Chicken.

    I will offer the daily stand up as a more valuable alternative to the status reports / daily meetings. I will explain the drag imposed by forcing a specific C&C structure. If I’m convincing, I’ll get the chicken to try my way … if not, I’ll end up experimenting with the new chicken’s approach. When we have data that shows the new chicken’s approach is less productive, I see a decision point that impacts my future employment (that’s why I polished up the resume).

    (As a Product Owner) – I start talking about things I’m willing to pay for and how this is a set of gold plating – read my lips “not billed to MY project”. I’m willing to go to the mat for this one, I’ve tasted efficiency and productivity and I crave it like an addict craves heroin … GET ME MY FIX! (and none of that Status Report Meth crap).

    (As the “new” Chicken) – Who knows? I sound like quite a punk.

  11. Wow.

    Thanks for ALL the comments and feedback. Reading through it reminds me that we have an awesome community of people with some great answers and suggestions from their own backgrounds!

    Please please please feel free to email me about becoming a guest blogger in the future and/or keep the comments flowing.

    Thank you!

    - mike vizdos

  12. as scrum master i would try to run interference on any of this intent of this chicken so it never even got to the team because it would be a huge disruption. However, as we know these types of chickens usually have more “Umph” in the organization than a meager scrummaster so i might try to suggest to that chicken that as scrummaster I will come to their meeting with the product owner and via the sprint backlog keep them up to date with everything they need to know about the team and the project or that they are more than welcome to visit our team room with all the large information radiators that we have. HAHAH.

    As a team member, i would suggest everything i said above to the scrum master and the chicken.

    I’ve played the roles above… now i’m going to comment on what i would do in the other situations as if i’m those roles.

    As the product owner, I would let them know how they are more than welcome to come to sprint planning meetings as an observer, to come to scrum meetings as an observer, and maybe i would even add this troublesome chicken to a steering committee that guides me in making backlog decisions because obviously they aren’t satisfied with how things are run so we make them a wringable neck along side me.

    As the chicken, i’m clearly in unfamiliar turf so i’m just trying to find my legs or possibly i think this is chaos and i’m trying to ‘fix it’ so i am going to gather as much information i can to figure out a ‘solution’. What i’m looking for is something to calm me down and show me that everyone knows what they are doing and that i can focus on something ‘value added’ to the team. I’m going to want to find my purpose in collaborating with the team.

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