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!

The Hateful Cycle of Apathy Hits a Nerve

Have you ever stuck your neck out and get no support?  Did the trust among that team start to break down? I've seen it happen first hand and Geoff Crane wrote an awesome post over at Papercut Edge about it.  He called it the too-common cycle of apathy. The post hit a nerve with me. At my previous engagement, the Engineering Department was used to being railroaded by management. Promises were always made on their behalf and they found themselves working long hours and weekends. If they didn't make the goals, those who made the promises would never take ownership. If goals were miraculously accomplished, the same person(s) would jump into the spotlight. After I was brought on board, I didn't have a problem looking a Director or CIO right in the eye and telling them I disagreed with them. Sometimes they backed down and sometimes they didn't. But everyone at that company knew I was honest and would speak up if I didn't agree with something. Everyone knew I was looking out for my people, my department, and my company. I believe positive change rolls up hill, just as sh*t rolls down.  Though I'm no longer with that team, I have no regrets for backing them up and providing support when they needed it most. Those who bullied so many are no longer there either.  Though there was an attempt to silence my voice by decapitating my team, others in the organization saw through the ruse.

I think sticking your neck out is worth the risk. If I think you're right, I'll support you.  By doing that, I build trust with my teams. With trust, my teams will do anything for me. With that, anything is possible. What can I say, everyone is happy but the party you had to confront in the first place. Yep, it's certainly worth it.

Thank you Geoff for getting me fired up.  Now go check out his site!

image courtesy of Papercut Edge