What is a zombie project? How do you know one when you see one? (you might even smell them before you’ve seen it)
1) It conforms to Sagey’s law of dysfunctional project reporting
2) People have tried to kill it previously, but it just keeps coming!
3) It has sucked the brains of some of your best people
4) It has been lurking in your change pipeline for too long distracting resource from other projects with its mindless flailing
5) It has eaten project managers (this isn’t necessarily always a bad thing)
6) It has just made no perceptible, meaningful progress and yet is consuming people, money and focus
7) It has delivered no tangible value to your org or your customers since its inception
A Zombie project looks like a normal project from a distance, it will shuffle along consuming brains making similar noises to other projects. Its only when you get close that you realise that those noises that you thought was distant talk is the mindless mumblings of the un-dead.
How do I avoid a Zombie Project?
Easy, there are only a couple of questions to ask yourself:
1) Is everyone clear on the objective(s) of the change?
2) Are you really sure everyone is clear on the objective(s) of the change?
3) Sure your are sure??
4) Does the change have a realistic amount of resource to achieve its objective?
To help answer this question answer this one first, was project resource assigned to the project before the scope and definition and the vision and initial requirements were defined? (if the answer is yes to this question then the answer is no to the first question). Change without the appropriate oxygen with which to exist will quickly become a zombie project.
5) Are the team members happy? This is a really f-ing simple question that is really f-ing simple to answer, it involves strange skills such as listening, empathy and talking to people
6) (important but less important than number 5) Are the stakeholders happy?
Answer ‘nope’ to any of the 6 questions above and the chances are if you don’t already have a zombie project you may well have one soon. Check for bite marks, drooling, distance stares and any mention of ‘brrraaaiiinzzzz’ in the project documentation.
Oh and if you do find one, do yourself a favour and shoot it in the head. it might resemble a project but its humanity departed long ago.