ImplementingScrum – UnScripted – Confusing Daily Scrums -- UnScripted -- February 10, 2009

Good day.

This is another version of the “UnScripted” blog entry on the site

Today I’d actually like to post a question from one of my readers that I’d like to get feedback from you — the community — via answers in the comments of this blog.  I’ll plan on doing a follow-up to this but as usual, I want to show the community we can all learn from each other…

I have an opinion.   Of course!


Hello Mike,

I took your class last year and I am a CSM now. I have not had the chance to be Scrum Master on a project yet, but it is in the near future.

Currently I am on a project that has 2 week sprints and on a team of 8.

The question came up yesterday during our Retrospective that during out last sprint there were a lot of chickens on the scrum calls.

How do we handle this?

I know that if you don’t have any tasks to complete or you have completed your tasks you should be reporting yourself as “chicken”, but with stakeholders on the call everyday hearing 2 people report tasks and the rest of the team reporting “chicken” every day for almost 2 weeks…doesn’t that appear to the stakeholders that only 2 people are working?

IS there another way to still follow the Pig/Chicken rule without appearing to the stakeholders that there are a lot of people not working?

Please advise.

This was a discussion that was placed on the action item list due to too many conflicts between team members.

Have you seen this before?

How was it handled in other teams/projects?

Comments Please!

- mike vizdos


  1. First, congratulations on having stakeholder participation in your daily meetings! Sometime you will have to describe how that came about. We are still working to get more “chicken” participation to keep additional status requests to a minimum.

    Next, I have not heard the practice of declaring oneself to be a “chicken” because of having nothing to say. I can understand the efficiency of the meeting is enhanced when team members simply declare that they have nothing more to say. But, I don’t think “pigs” on a given sprint should ever become anything but participating team members as long as that sprint is still in process. The sprint goal is a team commitment and until it is reached, it is there responsibility of the entire team. Even if you have nothing to report, you are still a “pig” on the team.

    Team members having nothing to report several days in a row is a Scrum smell. If the stories and tasks are sized and estimated correctly, team members having nothing to do should be an anomaly.

    Are the stories too small and the team padding their estimates?

    Are the tasks too large and therefore take too long? Any task more than one day long is suspect and probably should be broken out so that reports of progress can be visible.

    If a developer has nothing to do, they should be helping others with their tasks. What prevents them from doing this? Can you change that?

    The three questions are not optional for “pigs.” Everyone should have done something yesterday and have plans to do something today. Why is this not happening? Can this be changed?

    Perhaps we simply don’t know enough about your situation to understand how having nothing to report could become so common. If I were a stakeholder, I too would wonder why so many on the team are apparently not working on anything!

  2. Ummm… So the question is, how do we fool the stakeholders into thinking more people are working than actually are? How about you don’t?

    If you have a team of 8, and 6 of them are chickens, then something is very broken. Rather than focusing energy on how to hide it from the shareholders, how about you focus that energy on removing the obstacles and converting some chickens to pigs!

  3. Holy Cow! What happened? Alan and Chris covered most of my initial response to this question. I confess, I never heard of a “scrum call” where people declare themselves a pig or chicken. That metaphor was intended to describe the level of commitment a particular role has to the project. If your people are “declaring” themselves differently daily (in or out), then you don’t really have a team. Let me try a different metaphor… I can’t wake up and tell my wife “today I’m not your husband, I’m just your boyfriend.” Perhaps I haven’t been keeping up, because this is a new concept for me. I’m not at all surprised that they have “too many conflicts.”

    “… completed your tasks.”??? Something else is broken too. Again, I think Alan Dayley’s and Chris M’s responses were exactly on target, but rereading the question, makes me very suspicious of the corporate and management’s commitment too. There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. I believe this is a situation that probably requires reevaluating the use of Scrum and certainly requires a new or retrained Scrum Master. I hope that’s not to harsh.

    This is a great site Mike; I don’t come hear nearly often enough.

  4. One time we invited this business analyst who wrote PRD’s for our team to come to our scrum meetings. every day he would come in and say “I have nothing for this meeting”

    One day he asked “do i really need to keep coming to this meeting” so i asked him “are you a pig or a chicken”.

    after explaining the difference, he stated quite happily that he was a chicken because he didn’t have anything to do with tasks for the team. he had his own things to work on.

    I said fair enough, you’re then free to come to our scrums and listen if you want but you shouldn’t have to feel like you need to come.

    I don’t know if that helps or not :)

  5. I have another story.

    We have 5-6 scrum teams and every morning every one from each team comes into 1 conference room for our standup. The teams all have names, and each team name is called and the team is to report what they worked on yesterday, will work on today and if they need help with anything (roadbocks/impediments if you will).

    Now, frankly we don’t care what each team does before this meeting with eachother to sync up, they’re at liberty to do whatever they want.

    I assume because you have so many chickens in 1 scrum meeting that you maybe have a lot of other scrums going on elsewhere? maybe you need a scrum of scrums like what i just described so that so many chickens don’t have to go to so many scrum meetings?

  6. i want to know more about implementing scrum in my project ,how can i assessed it that Scrum is suitable for my project and it will add value to it.

  7. “I know that if you don’t have any tasks to complete or you have completed your tasks you should be reporting yourself as “chicken””

    That’s the part that’s bugging everyone, including me. It sounds like your team may be a bit over-specialized. It’s a team, so you all take collective responsibility for the product. If you’re done, but your teammate isn’t, you help that person finish, even if you don’t have the necessary skillset.

    I’ve been on over-specialized teams before. For example, a graphic designer or information architect is probably going to be finished early in the process because their designs are required for other people to move forward with implementation. And our designers didn’t have the necessary development skillsets to be able to take on tasks and help build the product. So we gave them other things to do, like testing, or creating designs for the next iteration, or even telling them to go learn to code a little so they can be more helpful in the next sprint.

    Next time, make sure your team schedules tasks in such a way that you’re maximizing the use of everyone’s time. Otherwise you’ll be paying people to do nothing. If that’s not possible, then a new task for management would be to hire more people to help take care of the bottlenecks in the creation of your product.

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