Rob Dolin's Blog

Thoughts on technology, politics, non-profits, and their intersections; and food

Pigs, Chickens, and Volunteer Committees

In an agile development model or “scrum” model, there are two types of participants: Pigs and Chickens.  The terms come from a joke where a pig and a chicken talk about opening a restaurant that serves ham and eggs.  Clearly, the pig will be making a much more significant investment than the chicken.

In agile development, pigs are getting work done and collaborate to unblock each other.  Chickens participate, observe, and sometimes offer advice outside of the formal daily “scrum” meeting where the pigs coordinate their work.

I’ve been thinking about how scrum’s “pigs” and “chickens” would be a useful model to disambiguate roles in volunteer committees. 

An example of successful differentiation was a “focus group” I was invited to on Thursday evening.  A group of “pigs” including staff and board members for a non-profit hosted a group of “chickens” to provide feedback and ideas about a change in the organization’s structure.

When you’re asking for a volunteer to join your “committee” are you asking them to be a “pig” and pitch-in and do work, and you’ll make sure they have the support to be unblocked and successful; or are you asking them to be a “chicken” and provide their advice and oversight. 

Here’s an example of a challenge that can occur when expectations don’t align:  I volunteer with a group where mostly “pigs” meet monthly to coordinate work and some “chickens” have expressed displeasure at not being invited to meetings.  Initially, this is great, it would be wonderful to have more engaged “pigs” but if you’re going to attend a meeting of “pigs” and participate (rather than just observe) you should be prepared to be a “pig” yourself.  If you’re going to offer unsolicited suggestions about what should be done, you should be ready to pitch-in and help make it happen.


Filed under: Online Communities, Technology

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