Schedule chicken

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Schedule chicken is a concept described in project management and software development circles.[1] The condition occurs when two or more working groups claim they can deliver features at an unrealistically early date, because each assumes the other teams are stretching the predictions. This pretense continually moves forward past one project checkpoint to the next until feature integration begins or just before the functionality is actually due.

The practice of schedule chicken[2] often results in contagious schedules slips due to the inner team dependencies and is difficult to identify and resolve, as it is in the best interest of each team not to be the first bearer of bad news. The psychological drivers underlining the "Schedule Chicken" behavior are related to the Hawk-Dove or Snowdrift model of conflict used by players in game theory.

The term derives from the game of chicken played between drivers, as depicted in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, in which two drivers race their hot-rods towards a cliff edge. The first driver to jump out of the car is labeled a "chicken," while the one closest to the edge wins bragging rights.


  1. ^ Rising, L: The Patterns Handbook: Techniques, Strategies, and Applications, page 169. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  2. ^ Beck, K and Fowler, M: Planning Extreme Programming, page 33. Safari Tech Books, 2000.

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