I’ve heard this story first time from Yatin Gajjar, senior Sun Microsystems engineer in 2007 when I’ve visited their Palo Alto offices. We were talking about our very young startup at that time, and the story of pig and chicken was brought up. I never new the origins until I’ve found that the metaphor has been applied to agile development and scrum. Of course it makes perfect sense.
In the context of startups, having a strong core team is paramount. You cannot build anything just on your own. It is always a team. It is never an individual. The team that will push the development, company and community building activities forward, against the obstacles and difficulties. Pop culture glorifies individuals, because it makes it easy and we like the narrative about them. Teams are messy. Team dynamics is never something easy to talk about, never clean and tidy. But, there is this need for strong, core team where everyone can carry their own weight. This is something I’ve understood pretty early on. However, what I have discovered just recently is my inability to quickly distinguish between chickens and pigs. And this is extremely important skill to have if you are a founder. I guess it comes from experience and trying things out with multiple people on a number of occasions. It takes good people skills to be able to tell quickly who is who. It also relates to you as a founder. If you are not committed, you will end up doing what you do as a hobby, and you will never reach the critical escape velocity to take your venture off the ground. So be honest with yourself – are you a pig or a chicken in your startup adventure?
The bottom line is:
- you have to be a pig; be honest with yourself
- you have to find other, like-minded pigs, to help you pull it off; at least one; one is good
- you have to avoid chickens, at least initially; chickens are not good core team material; they will be invaluable later on