Attitude Check: Are You a Pig or Chicken?

Our chief software architect, Aref Memarian, recently shared “Essential Scrum” with me.  If you’re looking for a great review of scrum from someone who has obvious hands-on experience, I’d definitely recommend it.

While reviewing the various roles involved in agile development, the author describes two types of people: Pigs, and Chickens.  Imagine this scenario:

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, “Well, perhaps, but 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 analogy is based upon the Pig providing bacon, an act which requires total commitment to provide (i.e., death), in contrast to a Chicken who provides eggs — a task requiring participant but not his life.

In other words, in a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, the difference between a Pig and Chicken is that the Chicken is involved, but the Pig is fully committed!

In most organizations, you’ll probably need a combination of Pigs and Chickens involved on any particular project. You want your Pigs to be committed, which means they should have autonomy and freedom, in exchange for being held completely accountable and responsible for the project’s success. Your Chickens can provide input and support as required.

Now, what if you apply this concept beyond a particular project, and apply it to an organization as a whole?  For example:

  • If you’re a leader, what’s your mix of Pigs and Chickens?  Do you want more of one and less of another?  (And think: Which are you?)
  • If you’re in a non-leadership position, what’s your perspective? Are you a Pig, committed and accountable for your organization’s success, or a Chicken — involved, but only to a limit?

Is there anything wrong with being a Chicken?

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About David Rosendahl
Husband, father, co-founder of MindFireInc, two-time Inc500 software company. I love building things.

5 Responses to Attitude Check: Are You a Pig or Chicken?

  1. From an org perspective, I want all pigs–full engagement and personal responsibility for mission fulfillment from all staff. I can get chicken-level input from the outside.

    • Hey Jeff! That makes sense.

      Do you think that Pigs are born Pigs — or that you can cultivate/nurture a Chicken into a Pig?

      I sometimes wonder if a Pig can become a Chicken — for example, perhaps depending on the organization they’re in and how well the organization aligns with that person’s personal objectives/interest/goals, their engagement level may change.

      Know what I mean?

      • Great question? I think it’s easier to “cultivate” a pig into a chicken than it is to cultivate a chicken into a pig because leadership is hard, and poor leadership is more the norm than good leadership.
        I agree that personal and org mission alignment is a primary factor. If someone is only working for the money (i.e. comfort, security, happiness) because that’s what they think will bring them joy, it’s difficult to convince them otherwise until they experience the lack of other-oriented fulfillment for themselves.
        This is from an org perspective. What do you think from a project perspective?

        • Hey Jeff. I hear you. I posed this question to some team members yesterday, and one of them made a comment that someone can start as a Pig (in a company or on a project), and if they’re not fulfilled in what they do because the company doesn’t treat them well (or some other perceived injustice), they’ll slide into a Chicken mind-set.

          I made a mental note to check with him and see how he’s feeling 🙂

  2. Pingback: Mind Hack: Increase Your Ability To Foresee The Future By 30% « Akathisia: A Life In Motion — David Rosendahl

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