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Zombie Projects

Zombie ProjectOh, you know that project.  That project that just won’t die.  It is all that is unholy in the world of project management.

Where did this project come from?  Who would sponsor such an abomination?  How the hell do we kill it?!

Do you ask yourself those question when that project rears its ugly head?

Now, we all know them when we see them. They don’t seem to have a sponsor.  They don’t seem to have a goal.  They certainly don’t deliver value.  They just putter along (old-school slow zombie not new-school run fast zombie) eating up time, money, and the occasional brain.

What is sad is your project may turn into a zombie project at any time.  You must be strong and vigilant.  I know you were friends.  But, if one of your colleagues or your project become one of the undead, you need to cut your losses and run.  You need to do the right thing and kill it.  Yes, kill it!  It will be the best thing for everyone involved, especially all those people and projects that are not members of the undead.

I recently read an intriguing post by Dr. Samuel Prasad.  He wrote out an analytical approach to identifying if your project needs to be killed.  He lists KPIs frequently used by many companies and successful project managers to identify if a project is healthy or in the danger (zombie) zone.

Bill Jenson, author of Hacking Work, said it’s good but his gut knows it way earlier.  Some out there don’t need an analytical approach.  They just know it when a project needs to be killed.

So, do you know a zombie project that should be put out of its misery?  Before you get all judgmental on me and say every project has a right to exist, think about one thing.  That money and those people being dedicated to support that zombie project could be redirected to your project, hopefully increasing your chances for success.

Thank you to Brian Bozzuto of Big Visible for inspiring me to write this post.

Like the image?  Find it at Pictofigo

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)

7 Responses to “Zombie Projects”

  1. October 15, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Derek

    Good post, as usual…

    Its sure is clearer that a project needs to be killed, but Newton’s second law of motion prevents people from taking that decision. When numbers are available and are presented (as starkly as possible), that is when executives seem to take action. So, while gut is the trigger, metrics/KPIs can be the bullet.

    • Anonymous
      October 15, 2010 at 3:56 pm

      Wow, I love that quote “while gut is the trigger, metrics/KPIs can be the bullet”. Sridhar, thanks for that. I may have to ask your permission to use that again.

  2. Elizabeth
    October 15, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Great post, great picture! Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Pictofigo, I will definitely be using their graphics. And can’t wait to read more about zombies…

  3. October 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    very good links about how to identify such projects, thank you very much.
    do you think these techniques could be applicable to product management?

    • Anonymous
      October 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

      I do think these techniques could be applied to product management. I would expect every project or product would have its own unique set of Key performance indicators (KPIs). Once those are identified, it should become easier to identify if it should live or die. The hard part is if you didn’t identify the KPIs up front.

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