Scrum Bestiary – The Fox

Monday, August 11, 2008 – 3:00 AM

Click to find out more about foxesAnother addition to the Scrum Bestiary. So we all know about Scrum’s pigs and chickens and a while back I wrote about seagulls and cows. What about foxes?

Foxes are bad news, plain and simple. Foxes are usually part of the business but your team will only see them when they turn up and try and steal. They’ll steal people and even physical resources, like computers and office space, for other projects that they perceive to be more important. Often they’re doing this for the best of reasons. They really believe that the project they’re attempting to give resources to is more important and they’re actually helping the situation.

Unfortunately the fox isn’t helping the team who committed to delivering work and are now forced to complete it with with less. Not a happy situation.

Foxes say things like:

“I want the team to work on this new stuff. I don’t care what they committed to we need it now.”

“We need this room/computer for another project.”

“That was last week. This week this other project is our absolute top priority.”

The fox is so sneaky that sometimes it doesn’t always ask for what it wants directly. They’ll sneak around coaches, Scrum Masters and senior people on the team and ask individuals to do them a favor for the afternoon. You only learn about this after the fact. Here’s what you might here in a stand up meeting the day after a fox has been to work.

“I didn’t get anything done on the iteration yesterday. I was working on a key demo for the marketing team.”

“We’ll finish this new feature for the CTO today… Err, no it’s not on the backlog.”

“I couldn’t finish because the server has been reassigned to another project.”

What to do with the fox. Well… there’s a reason farmers own shotguns. By stealing from your team the fox is simply creating impediments. If you have authority, or have the ear of someone who does, you need to tell the fox to stop stealing from your team.

If you don’t then the fox needs to understand their impact on the team. This may cause the fox to stop stealing and sneaking around and at least make explicit swapping decisions with the team. If foxes are part of iteration planning and de-prioritizing items on the backlog and adding their new items then at least the team is in better shape. It can commit and deliver without being undermined by the fox.

This is my personal contribution to the Bestiary and the last you’re going to hear on this one. Analogies have a habit of wearing thin and this is starting to feel that way. It’s been fun while it lasted but let’s not overdo it.