How to Find Other Zombie Scrum Survivors?

Johannes Schartau
Apr 26, 2018 · 5 min read

The sad truth about Zombie Scrum is that you will simultaneously be very alone and very dependent on other people. You simply won’t be able to make any lasting impact on your own. In order to make progress your best bet is to be smart about whom you include and in what way you can do it.

Social Network Webbing is a Liberating Structure that can be of tremendous help in this regard. At first glance it can look deceptively simple but in our experience it is one of the most powerful tools to battle Zombie Scrum.

In the following blog post we will outline how it can be used in a Zombie Scrum environment to include other people and widen your sphere of influence.

Social Network Webbing

Social Network Webbing helps a group map informal connections and decide how to strengthen the network to achieve a purpose. Zombie Scrum organizations often have a strict formal structure that doesn’t yield easily. Leveraging the informal structure can help make a huge shift.

We do this by focusing on three main areas:

  • The core group

Key Groups

Before you even begin Social Network Mapping you might want to think about building your core group of Zombie Scrum Survivors. Who else is fed up? Who wants to change things? Who seems to “get it”? Who would be be willing and able to spend time on influencing the system and bringing joy and life back to it?

When you have assembled your squad, you are ready to start with the first step of Social Network Mapping: identifying the key groups to approach. You should have less than ten of these as the map often gets too big and confusing otherwise. Key groups in an organization can include middle management, executives, development teams, HR, PMO and others.

Assign each of these an individual post-it color or symbol. This helps identify which group a person on the map belongs to. When you have done that you can create the map’s legend by placing the color-coded post-its with the group names in one corner of the map.

The Core Group

Start building the actual map by writing the name of the core group members on post-its and putting them in the middle of a large (large!) sheet of paper, whiteboard or wall. This will be the center of the network.

As a group ask yourself which people in your organization could boost or hinder your progress on your way towards freeing the system of Zombie Scrum. These should be people you have direct access to. In other words you wouldn’t need to go through another person first in order to talk to them. You could walk right up to them and they would know who you are and listen to what you have to say.

People in this part of the network often include middle management, people in other departments, Agile Coaches and — our personal recommendation — those extremely skeptical developers that wield an enormous amount of unofficial power.

Write down specific names, not roles. Use the color code that corresponds to the respective group.

The Periphery

Now that you have mapped your core group and the immediate network it’s time to go a step further and look at the periphery. The question here is “Who else would we need to include in our work to effectively fight Zombie Scrum?” One word of advice: dream big! The people in the periphery are usually ones you don’t have direct access to. Someone would need to introduce you first or they have no idea who you are.

People in this part of the network often include top executives, people working in other locations, ex-employees and external coaches and trainers.

Leveraging the Network

In itself, this map isn’t worth much. The magic happens when you really start using it. We recommend regularly getting your core group together, looking at the map and asking:

  • Whom have we approached recently?

When you devise a strategy and directly approach people, your goal should be to raise awareness of Zombie Scrum first. How does it affect the person you’ll be talking to? How does it affect the company? Why should this individual care? Before you propose any solutions make sure you and the others share a problem.

Some examples could be:

“I’ll set up a meeting with Hank from the PMO today. We should work on some points that help him understand how our current project structure is at odds with the explicit company goal of decreasing the time to market.”

“I’m going to see Judy the CIO at the Christmas party next week. She was the one who wanted us to use Scrum. I’ll talk to her about the fact that we are still unable to ship a fully integrated increment during a two week Sprint and that we believe changing our outdated CI environment would really make a difference.”

Make an Impact!

Social Network Webbing might sound trivial. But trust us, it’s one of the most powerful tools for curing Zombie Scrum. Making more people aware of the problem and including them in finding a solution can make big changes happen. It’s much better to do this in a structured and organized way than to just talk to a few people from time to time. Together you can find a way to make the heart of Scrum beat again!

Diagnose Your Scrum Team

Are you curious to learn if your organization and team are infected by Zombie Scrum? Why don’t you give the Zombie Scrum Symptoms Checker a try? It’s completely free and anonymous and offers your team a profile that helps you identify the areas for improvement.

Sign up here to stay informed and provide feedback on our writing.

The Liberators

The Liberators: Unleashing Organisational Superpowers

Johannes Schartau

Written by

Johannes is co-founder of the Zombie Scrum Resistance and co-author of the upcoming Zombie Scrum Survival Guide. He works for Holisticon in Hamburg, Germany.

The Liberators

The Liberators: Unleashing Organisational Superpowers

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