Agile Pigs and Chickens

Ever wondered if you’re on a farm or rugby pitch rather than delivering an agile testing programme? Our testing consultant James Brodie talks you through some of the strange terminology that has made its way into the software-testing arena, helping you identify your pig from your chicken!

Before I begin, it is always good to start with a joke (although I can’t take any credit for it).

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.”

The subtext behind the joke is that there are two types of roles within business. Pigs, who are totally committed to the project and accountable for its outcome, and Chickens, who consult on the project and are informed of its progress.

I’ll heed you a warning now though. Beware of the Rooster. I would liken the Rooster to the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. This is someone who struts around giving uninformed and unhelpful suggestions. I think we have all come across someone like that before!

The roles within Agile delivery will typically fall into one of those two categories, the pig and the chicken. While reading this article, see if you can place the different roles into one of the two categories.

So let’s get down to the basics.

The scrum.

No this isn’t a rugby match there isn’t an oval ball in sight. This is a daily stand up meeting - no sitting allowed! In this meeting, key members of team detail the tasks they have completed from the previous day, what they are going to do today, and whether there are any blockers, which will prevent the person from completing their task. I find if you have a small ball or beanbag, you can hand the item to a person when it is their time to talk. This will keep the energy up in the room and it also means everyone in the scrum has to contribute and can’t hide behind a task.

The scrum meeting should be kept to a maximum of twenty minutes (dependent on the size of the team), which will force people to keep their updates short and concise.

Within the sprint (a regular, repeatable work cycle which can also be known as an iteration) there are a number of key roles, which are vital to its smooth running.

Product Owner (PO)

– They ultimately wield the authority for determining the value, priority and details of the work done within the sprint. They are the representative of the business and have a deep understanding of the business expectations and requirements.

Scrum Master (SM)

– They are the facilitator for the work within the sprint. They ensure that the team is fully functional and productive. They manage any blockers that may arise within the team, and crucially they shield the team from any external distractions!

The Team

– The team is cross-functional and is typically made of between six to nine people. These include testers, business analysts and developers. They should be able to self organise and will look to proactively take items from the sprint board. They will then report their progress as part of the scrum team meetings.

Sprint Board

– This is the effectively a storyboard (usually physical although there are digital alternatives) which is used to feature information created by and for the scrum team.

One other role that should be mentioned which isn’t necessarily part of the sprint is the customer. The customer is the person(s) who is ultimately paying for the piece of work to be completed. They are also the person(s) representing the end user and will ultimately decide whether the deliverables are fit for purpose.

So as we come to the end of the article, have you been able to decide who is the Pig and who is the Chicken?

Well the whole sprint team is ultimately committed and so can be defined as the Pigs. The Product Owner and Scrum Master are probably the most committed of all the pigs. The Chicken? Well that would be the customer. They are the person who receives the finished product. They can input information into the sprint but ultimately it is not their neck on the line.

I hope you have found this useful and I will discuss other Agile terms in my next article.

James Brodie is a software testing consultant with over sixteen years experience, who has led engagements within a number of different sectors including Retail, Financial Services, Gaming and New Media.