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David has enjoyed success using agile and lean techniques at several companies near Washington DC and San Francisco. He joined his first startup in 1999, and helped scale it to a 13 million dollar acquisition in 2006. He now brings entrepreneurial thinking into large organizations so that disruptive innovation can emerge. David is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 30 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Our Divisive Scrum Terminology Needs to be Deprecated

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I’ve finally come to the realization that the terminology is divisive and needs to be deprecated.

Take the chicken & pig story used in many introductory paragraphs to Scrum:

A chicken and a pig are together when the chicken says, “Let’s start a restaurant!”.
The pig thinks it over and says, “What would we call this restaurant?”
The chicken says, “Ham n’ Eggs!”
The pig says, “No thanks, I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

I shudder to think of the newly trained ScrumMasters or Product Owners that return from their courses to label their fellow coworkers as chickens or pigs. How is that in any way going to help foster adoption? You can try to dismiss the scenario, and I’ve listened to CST’s reason through how their trainees could never be that dense. I’ve heard the argument “Well we only use it as an introduction…” however I’m growing tired of us introducing the framework using a joke.

It is as if we’ve taken a 4 line parody and turned it into a world view. I honestly cannot understand why it has stuck with us for so long and it is time to let it go, as the labels do nothing to help promote our cause.

Another Scrum phrase I still see thrown about in a derogatory manner is the infamous Single Wringable Neck, or One Throat to Choke.

Being a Product Owner is a tough job, but as Mike Cohn wrote last December the Product Owners are not solely responsible for the success of a project.

Scrum teams succeed or fail as a, well, a team.

If the Product Owner is confused about the role or not living up to expectations, it is the ScrumMaster who should be helping them along the way. If the ScrumMaster is failing at coaching up the Product Owner on the framework, then wouldn’t the ScrumMaster be to blame? But wait, since the team has appointed the ScrumMaster, would they not have failed by choosing one who is incompetent?

We’ll just run in circles pointing fingers because there is no easy answer, and using the Product Owner as the scape goat does nothing to help resolve the situation.

I’m as guilty as any at poking fun at Scrum terminology, there comes a time when we need to grow up and recognize that it is no longer where we need to be as a community. It is becoming a hindrance to adoption as the Scrum framework rises in popularity.

By striking these terms and phrases from our professional vocabulary, it is a small step towards breaking down adoption barriers and promoting Scrum as a positive force in the community.

Published at DZone with permission of David Bland, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Michael Munsey replied on Wed, 2010/07/07 - 2:40pm

In politics, the chickens are the people who vote, and the pigs are the people who share the tax burden.  The voters who have no tax burden often have very different motives than those who do.

Emma Watson replied on Fri, 2012/03/30 - 6:02am

I agree. In fact, Scrum, ScrumMaster (why no space!) etc sound a bit gimmicky which can actually hinder getting buy in.

I particularly dislike 'Backlog' since that has some really negative connotations, particularly since we should be looking at it more as a set of options than a clogged pipe of stuff we're trying to clear.


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