Involvement Versus Commitment: Understanding the Cautionary Tale of The Chicken and the Pig

The following business fable is useful to understand the difference between those who are participating (involved) in a project and those who are committed to a project.

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”
Pig replies: “Hm, maybe, what would we call it?”
The Chicken responds: “How about ‘Ham-n-Eggs’?”
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”


Explanation from Wikipedia:
“The business fable of The Chicken and the Pig is about commitment to a project or cause. When producing a dish made of ham or bacon and eggs, the pig provides the ham or bacon which requires his or her sacrifice and the chicken provides the eggs which are not difficult to produce. Thus the pig is really committed in that dish while the chicken is only involved, yet both are needed to produce the dish.”

Note the last part of the excerpt above, “both are needed to produce the dish.”  This fable is not stating that the pigs can be successful without the chickens but rather that the pigs have a higher commitment level than the chickens.

When working on a team it’s important to understand which people are playing the role of a chicken and which are playing the role of a pig.  This is critical for not just people leading a team, but the team as a whole, to understand this concept and identify roles.

Certain guidelines of team function can be established using this information.  For example, it may be established that during a stand-up status meeting pigs can talk but chickens can not. This helps limit the discussion and talking to only those who are committed allowing a team to achieve timeboxing appropriately (i.e. 15 minutes). As a team leader don’t be afraid to discuss with your team the concepts of involvement versus commitment and attempting to identify people’s roles both in the team and outside of the team.