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Brain eating Zombie PMs

There are 3 things that spark my attention faster than anything.

1. Coffee
2. Zombies
3. {…}

Damn ADD robbed me of my thought!

But I digress.

This morning, I read a blog post by Elizabeth Harrin titled Zombie Project Management. It reminded me of a series I read by Geoff Crane titled 9 Destructive Project Management Behaviors, which you can get for free by following the link. I really enjoyed her post and I hope you go over to her website and check it out.

Elizabeth wrote

So, what is Zombie PM? Does this sound like someone you know?

  • They do exactly what they are told without challenging anything
  • They don’t come up with original ideas
  • They don’t suggest ways to improve the project management processes
  • They don’t follow up on actions – they simply assume they will get done
  • They update and issue the plan in a format that most of the team can’t read or understand
  • They work on projects that deliver no business value
  • They go through the motions of being a project manager but without any critical thinking applied

To answer Elizabeth’s question, yes, I see these zombies every day.
These zombies contribute to what is defined as the Iron Law of Bureaucracy. It states, in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. One example in project management, would be PMs who work hard and look for ways to deliver value to the customer, versus PMs who work to protect any defined process (including those with no value). The Iron Law states that in ALL cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

These zombies don’t eat brains, they eat time and resources in the name of project management! So, sooner or later, zombies will take over your project. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

About Derek Huether

I'm an Enterprise Agile Coach at LeadingAgile. I have a goal to take the hand waving out of Agile, Kanban, & Scrum. I’m a strange combination of a little OCD, a little ADHD, a lot of grit, and a lot of drive. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

4 Responses to “Brain eating Zombie PMs”

  1. September 18, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Of all the roadblocks I’ve encountered, it’s the zombies that vex me most. My first notion of the moniker came from the 2008 book “Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior,” by Tom DeMarco et al. In the book, they mention template zombies, or those PMs who believe that “form” takes precedence, and have stopped thinking about content or meaning.

    Honestly, if anyone has any ideas about how to zap life and the power to think back into these zombies, please let me know. I can do it over time, but a defibrillator technique would be way better.

    • Anonymous
      September 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm

      Michele, I remember one of these Template Zombies! He was my former director. I created a series of PMO templates, per his request. Soon after, I was approached by a product manager who asked why she had to use ALL of the templates for EVERY thing she did. I responded that she didn’t. I added that she should use a template when it made sense. Her response was she was instructed by the director to use every template, regardless if it made sense, to establish “good” process.

      Ummmm. No. If it doesn’t make sense and it adds no value, it’s not good process. But, then again, we don’t think brains taste good either.

  2. February 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I saw zombie’s in the room yesterday. Thanks for fuel for the fight.

    • Anonymous
      February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Robb, if you bring fuel then you better bring fire. Zombies don’t like fire.

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