E6S-097Bonus Zombie Proj-ocalypse Remastered - Happy Halloween!

Intro:  Welcome to the E6S-Methods podcast with Jacob and Aaron, your source for expert training, coaching, consulting, and leadership in Lean, Six Sigma, and continuous improvement methods. In this episode number 97 Bonus, What moves slow, smells bad, and people run away from it screaming.. The Zombie Project.  Where y=Zombie^(x), beware the Zombie Proj-ocalypse.  Here we go.

Zombie projects can poison your portfolio                                                                            

***Zombie Proj-ocalypse: y = Zombie^(x)***                                                            

Objection 1:  It is no different if a project is out there without resources, vs. getting killed completely.

Counter 1: Projects that languish without official closure still suck energy from the company, even if only popping up in peoples’ “someday maybe” list.  Make a decision. Kill it for good one way or another.

Objection 2:  We need to keep that project open, just in case.  It's good for the long-term, but no immediate.

Objection 3:  That project is stuck in improve, backlogged resourcing, and they will get to it when its priority number comes up.                                                                               

Counter 2&3: Lower priority projects will always take the back seat to whatever the next years’ buzz projects will be.  If they are low priority this year, they will likely always be.  Make them a priority or kill them.


I            What makes it a Zombie Project? It is “living dead.”  Consumes resources but never provides benefit.  A parasite that robs other projects in the portfolio of resources.

II         How to recognize the symptoms of a zombie project. Moves slow-“Smells Bad.” People run away from it screaming. 

a.        slow moving; actions not being completed, Resources getting pulled away;

i.      IT project pipelines aging for over a year, full of “to-be-prioritized” projects

1.      IT Implementation of a Product Sun-setting Project

2.      Literally hundreds of projects in queue at “Improve” phase (per company) in many companies, waiting for an IT solution.

b.      The same or similar project had been done a couple times before in the same area (not a replication)                                   

i.      PTAP actions not complete, new process owner not accountable     

1.      Stage-gate (re)deployment – 2X

2.      Gold Accounting Project – 3X

3.      Product Rationalization – 5X

III      The root causes of a zombie project. Several possible:

a.       It's not actually very important.  There is limited support for the project.  Doesn't support the strategy, others' metrics, or they don't believe the improvement is possible.

b.      The true root causes of the previous project problems were never found or corrected; poor execution of a control plan.

c.       Project was sponsored to make up for or clean up after inadequate process management.

d.      Project manager not persistent enough. 

i.      Railroaded by stakeholders

ii.      Not seeking out and following the data

iii.      Not challenging the “old ways”

IV      What to do if you have a zombie project.                

a.      Cut its head off by: Finally getting to the root cause, system cause and political cause, and correcting it forever, or killing the project before it goes too far.

b.      Or cut it into smaller immediately achievable bits. Smaller scoped tasks                  

V         How to avoid your project from turning into a Zombie

a.      Multi-Generational Plan approach.

i.      Find quick wins. –

ii.      Interem manual processes instead of waiting for final product

b.      Avoid relying on resources outside your influence to control the timing and priority of your “improve” phases implementation, where possible. 

VI      Other Resources

a.      http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-truth-about-zombie-projects/ The truth about zombie projects - Michael Krigsman

b.      http://motivate2b.com/3-steps-to-wow-projects/ Thomas Juli

c.       http://thecriticalpath.info/2010/10/15/zombie-projects/ DEREK HUETHER