How to protect your organization from Zombie Scrum?

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Last updated on
28th Apr, 2022
15th May, 2017
How to protect your organization from Zombie Scrum?

Crawling and hiding behind the Scrum boards and scribbling on them with the whiteboard markers, the Scrum ghosts are here. They are the waggish, mindless herds of testers and developers, who are sobbing for the change around all sort of silly Scrum activities. Identifying teams who behave this way is needed and acting according to that is essential. Knowing the reason could probably save others from this evolution outbreak.

What is a Zombie Scrum?

At the very first sight, a Zombie Scrum will exactly mimic a normal scrum. The only indecipherable difference is, it lacks the beating heart of a working software. Normally the Scrum teams do all events revolving around scrum, but rarely get the result of a sprint. They don’t care to improve their situation as even the stakeholders are not interested in remembering their existence.

Let’s discuss the symptoms, causes and the treatment for a Zombie Scrum.

Symptoms of Zombie Scrum

  • Absence of beating heart

The Zombie Scrum teams may exhibit all kinds of Scrum motions but there is no working software. Lack of this “beating heart” makes the team less ambitious and limits their activities. There is no proper goal for the Zombie Team. Zombie Scrum doesn’t care about the working of software, assembling feedbacks and generating insights.

  • Lack of connection with outside world

A Zombie Scrum always prefers to hide away from others and maintain a familiar surrounding. If a product fails to reach customer expectation, the Zombie Scrum would simply justify their point saying- “I am only here to code”. They do not consider what’s taking place in both upstream and downstream of the value chain.

  • No visible reaction to success and failure

The absence of connection with the outside world often leads to this symptom. Zombie Scrum has no reaction as to whether the sprint was a success or a failure. They will probably move out by showing numb resignation. The morale of the team is very low, almost like a lifeless body. Items in the Sprint Backlog gets carried to the next Sprint and the iterations are present.

  • Deprivation of Improvement

There is no drive for improvement in the Zombie Scrum. At the Sprint Review or during its planning the product owner is hardly available. The Zombie Scrum teams are highly unstable and there is no Scrum Master present for the scrum team to improve. Lack of team experience with regards to past success rate makes the team sob.

When and why do Zombie Scrums develop?

  • Bit too Homegrown

When a team decides to do the ‘daily scrum’ on a bi-weekly basis, only the partial scrum is adopted. This results in loss of benefits and the team will have to struggle a lot.

  • Lack of Urgency

One of the potential reasons which results in a lack of urgency is that there is no real understanding of value. Due to this, the Scrum teams struggle hard to set and achieve their goals.

  • Mismatch with Agile values

Zombie Scrum is the result of mismatching agile principles. A Zombie Scrum considers the whole process of Scrum for its own sake. They always believe that a working software is a  nice thing to have and it’s not necessary for them to keep the sprint live till the end.

  • Scrum Cherry picking

It is basically a partial and a careless adoption of the Scrum. Some examples of cherry picking are- Cancelling the Sprint review and Sprint retrospective, extending the Sprint for a couple of days etc.

  • Implying Contracts

Processing acquired knowledge and adopting the insights are supported by a value-driven contract. In Agile, the customer expects the proper budget, time and quality of the product. But for a product built in Zombie Scrum atmosphere, the result is not satisfactory.

Treating Zombie Scrum

  • Be a Zombie-Whisperer

Having a good start talk with the Zombie Scrum is essential. Identifying the potential constraints and finding the proper solutions will lead to a healthy Scrum.

  • Welcoming Healthy Scrum

Taking the management and teams on a Scrum safari in other companies will show them how healthy Scrum functions in an organization. It also helps them to bring the Agile coaches together to understand and implement Scrum in a better way.

  • Changing ways to do it

Changing the way to implement Scrum can make a lot of difference. Starting from reviewing the Sprint goal on a daily basis, using proper roadmaps to context review meeting and finally a transformational approach to all the problems,  is the best way to implement Scrum.

  • Including the Scrum Community

Larger the community, greater will be the adoption of the Scrum. You won’t be the only person fighting against the Zombie Scrum. Visiting the Scrum meetups and local Agile, using or Facebook to follow fellow Agile coaches and Scrum Masters etc can help a lot.

  • Avoiding Agile Contracting Principles

It starts from accomplishing one Sprint at a time. Try not to sell or buy the entire Scrum team. While working with a fixed team, you will always know the velocity of each sprint. So you have to wisely choose while selling or buying Sprints.

  • Fixing the Smell-O-Meter

Offering transparency is like smelling everyone’s experience in an organization. An awareness of bad smell and good smell is necessary, as the bad smell will always serve as a trail to detect Zombie Scrum.

By knowing the reasons behind the emergence of Zombie Scrum and ways to deal with it, you could probably reduce their population. So be courageous and act before there is an outbreak of Zombie Scrum.



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