The Chicken and the Pig

Posted: August 15, 2010 in General
Tags: , , ,

Pig and a Chicken are walking down a road. The chicken looks at the pig and says, “Hey, why don’t we open a restaurant?” The pig looks back at the chicken and says, “Good idea, what do you want to call it?” The chicken thinks about it and says, “Why don’t we call it ‘Ham and Eggs’?” “I don’t think so,” says the pig, “I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

There are several variants as to how the Chicken and the Pig meet and the level of the relationship between the two.
However, in every variant, the Chicken suggests that the two involve themselves in a scheme involving ham (or bacon) and eggs (some suggest a breakfast, others suggest a restaurant). In reply, the Pig always notes that, for the Chicken, only a contribution is required (as a chicken can simply lay an egg and then resume normal activities), while for the Pig a “total commitment” (or total sacrifice) is needed (as in order to make ham or bacon, the pig must be slaughtered).

This fable is commonly referenced to illustrate two types of project members: 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. By extension, a rooster, or gamecock, can be defined as a person who struts around offering uninformed, unhelpful opinions.

A successful project needs both chickens and pigs (roosters are seen as unproductive). However, given the sacrifice required of being a pig—forswearing other projects and opportunities—they can be difficult to collect. Thus, the construction of a successful project-team must ensure that the project has sufficient “pigs” and that they are empowered to drive the project in return for committing to and taking accountability for it.

The analogy has been criticized for being inappropriate. “Pig” team members are not sacrificed (literally or figuratively) in order to produce the product, and are typically not at financial or other material risk. “Chicken” team members, while perhaps not working on the code directly, are often as critical or more critical to the project than the people writing the software directly.

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