Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scrum is like Angry Birds

So I got two more Angry Bird stuffed animals this Christmas because I have an infatuation for them, I think the noise is like a baby laugh, it’s one of those things that you can’t help smiling to, which is why the non-noise making ones bore me. I started thinking, while smoking the dinner ham this weekend, how Angry Birds is much like Agile and the Scrum process in so many ways.

The Agile chicken and pig story basically goes like this: A pig and a chicken are walking down the road, The chicken says, “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”. Pig replies, “Hmm, maybe, what would 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!”

This fable helps provide an analogy to define the two main members of any type of project team but specifically in the Agile Scrum management system.

The pigs are totally committed to the project and accountable for its outcome. They have built the wood/glass/stone castles to protect and shelter themselves and store their riches in. Mike Cohn refers to pigs as “Having their bacon on the line.”. Pigs are the people who “do” the work (Not to say chickens don’t do any work).

The chickens (Angry Birds) who consult on the project and are informed of its progress. A chicken is someone who has something to gain by the pigs performing but in the end do not contribute day to day to getting things done.

You could make the same analogies of Angry Birds. This may be why this game has taken off so well. It makes sense in the day-to-day life of most people who do work. The pigs in Angry birds have done the work already. They have built the houses or are building their houses and work really hard to build tougher and tougher houses. Now obviously the chickens are not trying to tear down the houses in Agile but they are benefitting from the work of the pigs (points in this case). The pigs even get cooked (angry bird bombs) in some cases.

It’s not really a stretch to see the similarities, which is why if you look at the angry birds history it kind of makes sense. The company that created angry birds started with 3 technology students from the Helsinki University of Technology, now called Aalto University School of Science and Technology. They have a strong history in the development industry and their company still uses Agile for all their mobile development today. The originally formed company actually created the first mobile multi-player game in the industry. So it makes sense that they would have developed a game that interacted in a manner they are familiar with.

Now, there are some pigs right now saying, “based on this information why do we need chickens, if they just get in the way and tear things down”. Remember the story again, the chicken came up with the idea in the first place. You have to have chickens, without them there is no need for pigs. Chickens are those ancillary roles that have infrequent involvement in the scrum process but nonetheless, must be accounted for. Chickens are the Stakeholders (customers or vendors for instance) that enable project and who will benefit from the pigs work (Angry Bird points) and the managers (includes Project Managers) who get/keep the environment ready for development. Pigs are your Product Owners (represent the voice of the customer) and are accountable for ensuring the delivers business value. The product owner writes user stories, prioritizes them and adds them to the backlog. The team (developers), and the scrum master who is responsible for removing impediments. The scrum master SHOULD not be the leader but act as a buffer between the team and the distractions of outside day-to-day activities.

Nobody can be a pig and a chicken (Pigkin), here is where Angry Birds really comes into play to help define and separate roles. You can’t build the house and be the one that tears it down. It really provides no benefit to a project to be both a chicken and a pig and in fact may tear it down. Pigkins are one of the hardest lessons for any scrum team to overcome.

Well, I have ranted enough for this week, but if you have any doubts or confusions about the scrum team roles and why they are important, please feel free to come by my desk and squeeze the pig then squeeze the angry bird. It will become very clear, just based on the noises these guys make … I’ll leave the rest for you to decide.

No comments: