Most of the organizations are using Agile methodology as their software development model. Scrum is the most widely used approach nowadays.

What is Zombie Scrum:

Zombie scrum seems to be a normal scrum, but it lacks the core ethics that give the working software a beating heart.

Symptoms of Zombie Scrum:

  • No beating heard: Scrum team may attend all scrum ceremonies, but at the end not able to release any shippable software. DOR (Definition of Ready) and DOD (Definition of Done) is not defined in the beginning. The completed functionality is treated as nice-to-have and can be finished in later sprints.
  • Hide team from stakeholders: Scrum zombies prefer to hide away from people and keep to their familiar surroundings. They neither care what’s upstream nor what’s downstream in the value chain. The product failed to meet customer expectations? I’m only here to code! Zombie Scrum teams see themselves as a cog in the wheel, unable and unwilling to change anything and have a real impact.
  • No emotional response to success or failure: Zombie Scrum teams show no response to a failed or successful Sprint. Where other teams curse or rejoice, they simply keep their empty stare of numb resignation. Team morale is very low. Items from the Sprint Backlog get carried over to the next Sprint without question. Because why not? There’s always a next Sprint and the iterations are artificial anyway.
  • No Drive to Improve: Teams are highly unstable, as members continuously get loaned out to other teams in need of their (specialized) skills. Stories are moved to the next sprint and the team does not care.

The Causes of Zombie Scrum

  • The Cargo Cult: Team and organization that starts working with Scrum without the help of external trainers and coaches, implement the scrum as homegrown Scrum. It is good somehow but the unintentionally the scrum is partially implemented.
  • Competing Values: Zombie Scrum is essentially the result of a systemic mismatch with Agile values. We know that the business lingo is strong with this one, but the point we’re trying to make is that Healthy Scrum easily decays into Zombie Scrum when people in the organization hold beliefs about software development that collide with what drives Agile software development.


Belief On Belief in Zombie Scrum Belief in Healthy Scrum
Mindset A project mindset. The team usually thinks every sprint can result in new version, only the final version delivers real value. A product mindset. Every sprint should result in a new version to maximizing learning and value.
Purpose of Scrum Scrum is a process that must be followed. Scrum allows us to ‘fail fast’ because of the steady stream of working software.
Working Software Working software is nice to have; we’re not going live at the end of the sprint Working software is essential, even we don’t go live at the end of the sprint, we learn from it.
Definition of Done Done is what the team can do at this moment and has always done. Done means what we can do at this moment, but we should always push onward.
Urgency There is always the next sprint, sprints are artificial timeboxes. Sprint is the longest allowed time period between feedback opportunities.
Change Scope Scrum is just the development process. Scrum touches all stakeholders of the organization.
What is Work Writing code is work, everything is just a waste of time. Writing code is an important part of s/w development, but building good s/w requires frequent interaction with the team, stakeholder, etc.
Responsibilities with in the team People feel responsible for their own work. People feel responsible for what the team delivers.
Distribution of Responsibilities Individuals are made responsible (and reward) for particular areas. The team is made responsible (and reward) for particular areas.
Sense of Control We have little or no control over what we do. We have control over how we work as a team and beyond.
Customer Focus Customers don’t know what they want so we decided on them. Customer input is essential for building good software.
Span of Control A scrum team should focus on writing working code. A scrum team should focus on analyzing requirements, writing code, testing it and preferably even supporting it.
  • No Urgency: The lack of urgency is also prevalent in an unwillingness to change how the organization operates. Zombie Scrum treats Scrum as ‘a process for software development’, thereby limiting the application to only the ‘IT department’. But Healthy Scrum aims much higher and tries to pull users and customers deeper into the development process. This necessarily touches many aspects of the organization, from sales to marketing and from operations to support.