Scrum Bestiary – The Rubber Duck

Monday, August 25, 2008 – 3:00 AM

The yellow guy. A final addition to the Scrum Bestiary. Yes, I know I promised that we were done but no sooner had I said that than Bob, one of the p&p developers, said “But what about…”. It’s the weekend so something a little off the wall is OK.

We all know about Scrum’s pigs and chickens and a while back I wrote about seagulls, cows and foxes. What about the rubber duck?

The first thing you’ll notice about the rubber duck is that it’s not a real animal and if you found one in a farmyard it would look a bit out of place. If the rubber duck could talk it would tell you that it wasn’t entirely happy with it’s new home in the agile farmyard. In fact its down right upset to be there. It sure didn’t volunteer for this whole agile team thing, inanimate objects have a hard time volunteering for things. Rubber duck probably got assigned to the team because it was in the wrong place at the wrong time – some manager decided that the duck’s skills were vital to the projects success. Next thing duck is being forced to attend team meetings. What next? Group hugs?

Rubber ducks say things like:

“Standup meetings are a waste of time, I want to go back to my office.”

“I can’t estimate my work, my manager does that.”

“I don’t have time to help the junior programmers, they can write my unit tests.”

Worse still the duck may live up to their stereotype and say nothing at all. Maybe they’re scared of getting fired or deal with situations like this in a passive-aggressive way. Rubber duck says nothing but quietly undermines team moral from within.

“…”, the sound of dissent.

What to do with the rubber duck? Well it turns out that, like a duck out of water, the little yellow guy is unhappy and will tear your team apart. Maybe it’s not their fault but they are an impediment to the team that needs to be removed. There are two tactics here. Talk to the duck and help them to understand the value of the team’s approach to software development. Get them to “disagree and commit”, they disagree but are prepared to wholeheartedly commit for the good of their peers – the team. If that isn’t going to happen then the duck needs to leave the team and find somewhere else to swim, either inside another group, an obscure architecture group perhaps, or swim even further afield.

And yes, this really positively is the last addition to the Bestiary!

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