The Nokia Test with Scrum is Done, Gone, Kaput!

Ouch. Harsh words. If you’ve been following the Nokia-Microsoft deal as well as the upcoming layoffs from Nokia, you’ll see that the future is uncertain for the mobile phone company.

If you’re a proponent of Scrum, and have been around the block for a while, you’ve probably also heard about the Nokia Test, or, the test for whether your company or team is doing Scrum well in two parts: Iterative Development and Scrum (Nokia’s version).

What happens when the standard falters? What happens when the supposed leaders show their true colors? Or is it not so much that Scrum failed, but that there were deeper issues at Nokia that led to failure?

Brad Murphy, Founder & CEO of Gear Stream, is telling the community to wake up:

“Today I want to call out the Scrum community who continues to promote the bankrupt idea that managing and building software oriented products and services will automatically be somehow “saved” or “revolutionized” by fostering the adoption of Scrum.” – Brad Murphy

Ouch. So wait a minute Brad, you sound like you’re taking a bite out of Scrum here.

Brad goes on to say that:

“If ever there was a poster child for Scrum it’s Nokia.  For several years Nokia (among other companies) has passionately promoted and adopted Scrum across larges parts of its product development organization. It was so ardent in its adoption that it even used the “the Nokia Test” developed by practitioners at NSN (Nokia Siemens Network)…The belief among the Scrum/Agile zealots was simple… if you’re not practicing all the tenets of Scrum you can’t be successful..  Funny how history has a way of undermining those so certain of the future.”

Regardless of how you spin it, I believe that it would be worth taking a look at the deeper underpinnings of Nokia. There is more at work than just what the outside sees, right?

“The Nokia Test?  I hope you’re not expecting to graduate just because you passed.”

The Nokia Test may be up for re-election… or not. Maybe it’s time, not to re-look at what the Nokia Test is, but rather look at the leadership and organizational aspects of your company. I would take a guess and say that it is not so much that Scrum failed, but that leadership failed.

[HT: Gear Stream]

16 Replies to “The Nokia Test with Scrum is Done, Gone, Kaput!”

  1. My company has been providing agile consulting, coaching and training for over three years in thre UK, Finland, China, India and the US. I have had overall responsibility for the RADTAC team supporting the Symbian system software group that is impacted by the Nokia / Microsoft deal.

    This is work that I and my Nokia colleagues have presented at several Scrum Gatherings and Agile conferences. The slides are available all over the web.

    The fact is this group has never used the ‘Nokia Test’ (we have far better ways of measuring Agile / Scrum adoption) and indeed it isn’t widely used in Nokia at all. It is just one of those things that the Agile Community as a whole has latched onto without really understanding.

    It has been a fascinating journey working with Nokia, which still continues. Within the Symbian group we have helped them reap significant benefits from pragmatic application of Scrum within a highly complex Enterprise Agile environment. With over 150 Agile teams all contributing to the Symbian operating system the scale of the challenge is unparalleled anywhere in the world and it is to my knowledge the largest application of Agile to a single software product ever attempted. Irrespective of whether you believe that greater zeal with regard to ‘pure’ Agile/Scrum would have had more or less success the fact is that it is indeed the bigger historical, organisational and commercial factors that are at play here.

    1. Wow. Great insight. The “Nokia Test” was somehow adopted by the community without a full understanding of it? Mmm maybe like how the waterfall process was adopted yet not full understood back when…

  2. I’ve just noticed an error in the first sentence of my post above. It should have said:

    “My company has been providing Nokia with agile consulting, coaching and training for over three years in the UK, Finland, China, India and the US.”

    1. Good points here. It’s interesting to think about non-the-less. Nokia is Nokia. Which Nokia has failed is up for grabs maybe, but Nokia is still known for the “Nokia Test”

      1. But Peter – Nokia isn’t Nokia. The test as David points out came from Nokia Siemens Networks. Which started life as a Joint Venture between Nokia and Siemens. The test has nothing to do with Nokia phones.

        There has been a very long thread about this one of the Scrum Mailing lists recently.

        I don’t like the test for a whole variety of reasons but used in its original context, as a tool for teams to decide whether they needed immediate help it works.

        Rather than rely on someone else’s diagnostic, invent your own.


        1. Yep. Thanks to the community, this has now been realized. I agree, to have a test be a blanket statement for whether an organization is “Scrum” or not is no bueno.
          Each organization should look at their own internal metrics for success!

    2. Nokia Networks, now part of Nokia Siemens Networks has always been advanced SW house than the phone side of Nokia. Simply because a telecommunications equipment is a HUGE software product (we talk millions lines of code) whereas phones traditionally have has much less SW (smartphones of course changing the came).

  3. Interesting and “scaring” topic.

    But ever keep in mind that some good outcomes can passing through this: eg. extreme programing vs Daimler @ Chrysler

    But I can agree that some people are disappointed with Nokia Test by itself: attention, we have metrics in agile!!!

    Nokia test is interesting as a tool to measure agile maturity. But like every tools, it’s just a tool.

  4. Hi Peter,

    I hope you saw my blog article correction surrounding the Nokia Test attribution regarding NSN vs Nokia the parent company. I also hope folks saw my follow-up post as well.—Agile-Debate.html

    Sadly, the negative comments I’ve received about the article (which were outnumbered 4 to 1 by positive comments) all took shots at me personally and were completely absent any interest in engaging in constructive debate… nor were they interested in seeking to understand my POV… In being so defensive they unwittingly lend more weight to my call for examining the manner in which Scrum is “sold” to clients today.

  5. Who said Nokia passed the Nokia test?

    The main purpose of such a *simple* test is to differentiate between Scrumbuts and working Scrum teams. Passing the test doesn’t tell you anything about how good your team is comparably to other teams passing the same test, on the other side the overall percentage of teams failing allows a few conclusion. Brad Murphy creates in his blog posting a strawman argument consisting of misinformation what the “Agile community” said and why Scrum is to blame for Nokia’s failure. Watching a creationism video about evolution shows typically the same level of misunderstandings and flawed conclusions.

    The interesting questions for me is: how does Nokia’s statistical data look like? Hard evidence counts…. 🙂

Leave a Reply