Three confounding characters in the Software Development #zoo #agile

Someone asked me how I come up with topics for my blog posts. I responded by saying that most of them just kinda appear by something I read or see. Today’s post was one that just appeared out of the blue in a new way. I drove past the zoo.

As I drove past the view, I was thinking about the different animals and the personalities they have. Then I thought about the three characters I find on Software Development that sometimes vex me. Now these are not specific to Software Development projects. You may even see these characters out in the wild on Twitter.

The Three confounding characters

1) The Parrot

Natural Habitat: The Parrot can be frequently seen on most projects. The Parrot is most at home in meetings and group discussions.

Behavior: The Parrot can typically be seen in meetings echoing what others have mentioned to be issues for the project or mentioning tasks that still need to be done. The issue with the Parrots are that they are usually unable to provide suggestions or recommendations on how these stated issues can be resolved or addressed causing frustration with other team members. They also hesitate to take on tasks that still need to be done. Ironically they are viewed positively by clients as they continue to mention issues that affect the clients. But ultimately they contribute little to the resolution of the issues or tasks.

2) The Owl

Natural Habitat: The Owl can be seen on most projects. The Owl typically dislikes meetings and instead prefers to make nests and have one on one conversations.

Behavior: The Owl typically displays territorial behavior. The Owls like to have tasks and roles clearly defined and are on the watch for any tasks or work that cross these boundaries. If problems arise on the project, the Owl is typically the first to place blame and ask ‘Who?’. Who is responsible?, Who didn’t do this correctly?, Who designed this?

3) The Zookeeper

Natural Habitat: The Zookeeper can either be found on projects or in the wild on Twitter. 

Behavior: Sometimes the Zookeeper can exist on projects, but usually Zookeepers flourish on Twitter. Zookeeper’s behavior typically revolve around placing people and ideas in the cages they alone define. New ideas and innovations that do not fit existing cages cause Zookeepers great angst. Zookeepers typically spend a lot of effort either ensuring that ideas and tasks fit into their preferred structure or criticizing and discrediting ideas and innovations so that they don’t need to be accounted for. 


Thankfully there is a pattern that can help with these three confounding characters. Agile. By having a true cross-functional team, these characters are integrated more into the team and many of the behaviours are muted. All team members are expected to contribute to solutions, have collective ownership, and embrace ideas and innovations from everyone.

Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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