What is a ‘Scrum Nazi?’

My colleage Tarang Patel brought this term to my attention, and I find it fascinating. What, exactly, is a ‘Scrum Nazi?’

Not having heard the term in daily use, I can only speculate, but I infer that a Scrum Nazi is a fanatic who demands rigid adherence not only to a particular Scrum process, but to an ideology of Scrum that permits no disagreement regarding its superiority over all other project-management philosophies.

Every ideology has its fanatics, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this is true of Scrum, but I find something ironic about a rigid orthodoxy based around a lightweight framework that deliberately under-specifies how software development is to be managed.

I’ve never met a true Scrum Nazi in person, but a discussion with some people at one company some time ago made clear to me that a “Scrum uber alles” mindset does exist.

These folks, many of whom had a strong background in Scrum, were in the process of setting up a new office. They had put together a set of requirements for the office, and a to-do list for various tasks that needed to be accomplished to complete the move.

The odd thing, to me, is that they discussed planning the office move as a Scrum exercise, complete with user stories, epics, and release plans.

Why is this odd? It’s odd because Scrum is designed for cyclic development, wherein teams provide useful increments of new functionality (which have immediate value) for a product at short, frequent intervals. The schedule for Scrum projects is fixed, but the scope is allowed to change in order to meet the schedule.

In contrast, there is no product as such for an office move. Also, the work has a fixed scope that must be achieved, and is neither cyclic nor incremental in any useful sense. Finally, the schedule, while important, has more “give” in it than does the scope.

In short, an office move is an inherently waterfall-style project, not a Scrum-style project.

I mentioned these points to the folks at this company, in as mild a fashion as I could. While everyone was polite and civilized, it became clear that there were no points of agreement to be reached.

My attitude towards project management is that one should use the approach that makes the most sense, rather than apply the same approach to all projects. I suspect that the Scrum ideologues (surely a nicer term than Nazis) feel as they do because Scrum is the only technique they’ve seen used, successfully, on software projects, and have often seen waterfall approaches fail. To me, this is an example of learning the wrong lessons, in a way that leads to a case of, “If you only have a hammer, all problems look like nails.”

I love Scrum, and believe in it deeply for managing most software projects. However, I wouldn’t plan an office move, or a fancy dinner party, with Scrum.

I’d like to hear about your experiences with Scrum ideologues, and mis-matches between project characteristics and project-management philosophies that you’ve seen. Are these things common? I suspect the answer is “Yes,” but would like to know.

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5 Comments on “What is a ‘Scrum Nazi?’”

  1. deepscrum Says:

    This post led to a very interesting debate on the LinkedIn Agile group (at http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&gid=81780&discussionID=7579469&sik=1254276385678&commentID=6965526&goback=.ana_81780_1254276385678_3_1#commentID_6965526).

    I won’t repeat the pros and cons here, but do recommend that anyone who is interested visit that thread.

  2. JimmyBean Says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

    • deepscrum Says:

      Thanks, Jim! I appreciate it. I want to do some unusual things with this blog over time, so I hope you will continue to find things of interest here.

  3. Mike DePaoli Says:

    It is probably pretty easy to get labled as a “Idealogue” or “Nazi” when you are passionate or envangelizing a topic 🙂

    I remember when Object-Oriented technology was beginning to make it’s entrance into the technonogy realm. I was accused of being an OO-Zealot a couple times 🙂

    I agree with you that balance is key, picking the right tool for the job.

    Recently I was driving a change initiative that involved implementing Srum and all was going well until there was a reorg in management and the executive sponsor of the effort was lost.

    The new management coming in did not understand agile and was sure that their was of implementing software was good enough (read they felt they had been successful with it).

    I experienced going from being seen as a change catalyst and coach to more of an Agile Idealogue… same team, same project, just different senior management. It’s interesting how quickly contexts and perceptions can change.

    If you’re going to do Scrum, there are certain things you can not change in the framework as they are foundational pillars and make it Scrum. If you do alter the framework in such a way then it’s not Scrum, which is fine but organizations need to accept this otherwise they drag around a big “Scrum-Butt” and risk failure in their Agile experiment.

    In my situation, in a well established project I wouldn’t bend to the desire of the very few new to the project to ‘adapt’ the process. This got me labled as being in-flexible but a label I was willing to wear for the team because of the success of the project 🙂

    -Mike
    P.S. I like the content of your blog

    • Kevin Thompson Says:

      Thanks, Mike. I agree that you need to do the Scrum practices, or you can’t say you are doing Scrum. My point (which I think you grasped) was more about people who are rigid about details that should be flexible.

      I know what you mean about going from well-respected to dis-respected when the environment changes. Not a happy situation.


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