By now, Agile is synonymous with change and improvement. Teams are practising it to be better, create according to customer needs and to deliver faster. However, is taking on the methodology of improvement enough? Or are you still facing a risk of failing?

Christiaan Verwijs has a definite answer to this question, and that is Zombie Scrum. Extensively discussed in this article it talks about teams that adopt the technology and seem to practice it successfully, but in reality, are all but Scrum zombies failing to unleash the full power of Scrum and hurting themselves in the process.

Does your team fall into this category? Here are the symptoms to check!

#1 No Beating Heart

On the surface all Scrum teams work to the same beat of Sprints – each one is planned, executed and finished delivering value at the end. As such, it is the beating heart of the operation that drives the team forward and makes improvements happen. But what if this is only the facade?

If you have a Zombie Scrum team on your hands, the Sprint effectiveness only seems real. Once you look a little deeper, the differences are apparent – there is no value delivered after each iteration, the product is often nonfunctional, and Sprint review is not an actual demo. Still, rather screenshots and PowerPoint presentations on what should/has been done. Instead of a beating heart, these teams go through the motions without any effect.

#2 No Contact With The Outside World

Ideally, the Scrum team works to deliver value and to get feedback from their environment. It helps the team grow and improve the product to get the desired effect. Zombies are quite different.

Still stuck in the linear way of project management, they focus on their part of the job and while imagining themselves as only a small part of a significant process, avoid responsibility at all costs. This means that a team with zombie fever is much more likely to avoid interactions with other teams in the company, shift blame and organize sprint reviews without any stakeholders present.

#3 No Emotional Response To Sprint Outcome

Stemming from the isolation comes another essential part of Agile – reacting to the results. A good team will celebrate wins and analyze losses to see what can and should be done differently in the future. Contrary to that, Zombies do not care about the Sprint outcome.
Whether it is a success or a failure they face, they move onto the next Sprint without any reaction. Whichever outcome it is they face, makes little to no difference to the team. This is often due to a never there Product Owner and isolation from other people in the project. Zombies do their job and don’t even bother with results.

#4 No Drive To Improve

Lastly, all of the Agile is based on improving and adding value. It is the end goal and the main reason why people practice the method.

However, a team that is just going through the motions and is stuck with a hardly present product owner and Scrum master, often fall into the cycle of not caring. There is no joy, no motive, and it seems no need to improve or change anything, rather than just completing tasks and not giving it an extra thought. It is a path that not only doesn’t yield results but also creates a false image of Agile not being productive at what it is created to do.

Recognize your team in any of these traits? There is still time to change the way you practice Scrum and improve for the better!