Zombie Project Explained | How to Find and Kill the Zombie Projects?

For being a proper project manager, one should know about the project framework which includes a particular start, a middle task and the end. But unfortunately, many of the projects don't work like that. According to the survey , there's only 30 per cent of the organization who believe in delivering the project on time.

Zombie Project

In this article, we'll look at what does zombie project means and how to prevent them to obtain proper project management. So, let's have a quick look at the details without burning much time.

What does zombie project mean?

Now, you might wonder why we include a zombie word in the project management dictionary! Here is your quick answer. A zombie project is the type of project which keeps on expanding again and again or may never ends.

Let's face it- You are allocated a particular time limit for a specific project, and you tend to expand it again and again then you might be looking at a zombie project.

There's no need to be a project manager who keeps the project going on and on by accepting each scope changes. Even you don't have to pick up all the operational work or the request for new improvements, additions or anything. However, if you have a habit of working in this way, then you should be an operation team leader.

How would you find the zombie project?

At some point in your project management career, you would feel like the project is never-ending, but why does this happen? It is due to project and operation work coexist.

But operational projects are not at all similar to zombie projects. Tasks are called zombie projects because:

• They have poor management

• Have a lack of governance

• Not having proper oversight

• Lack of managing the proper structure of the project

What leads the project to the zombie one?

Few questions are essential to ask to yourself before starting any project. Such as why should you do the project like this? Why are you working on this project? Would this project be beneficial to your organization?

This fundamental questioning is very crucial, or else it would increase the chances of a zombie project. This types of project should be eliminated or else could be turned into something useful. If running such projects are of no use, then close it down as it would just suck up the valuable resources which could be used in other projects.

A case study on killing a zombie project

If you put yourself in one of the zombie projects, then don't worry, you are not only the one. One of the enterprise agile coach and trainer named Derek Huether said that he was used to be at the position of an advisor to a U.S. government PMO.

He mentioned that there was a traditional Project Management Officer (PMO) equipped with certified professionals. They used to have a budget specialist, earned value specialist, schedule specialist, as well as a contract specialist. But a particular project never tends to end.

Later, he realized that this project could take years to plan and implement. On the other hand, PMO was managing software applications, including operation and development. So, what is the reason behind this never-ending project, and why can it never come to delivering anything useful. All this happened because it was a zombie (never-ending) project.

In this way, he decided to call all of the zombie projects off and use its resources for something valuable. He advice to never be the part of such zombie movie and if you already then divide and conquer it as soon as possible.

How to kill zombie projects?

Following are considered the most successful ways to kill zombie projects: 

1. Adopt simple as well as transparent criteria

If you tend to be in the zombie project then at some point you have to shut it down. However, shutting down the project can be very emotional as you have invested a lot in it. But one thing is vital to keep in mind here is that before the process begins, share a shortlist of criteria which would help participants for viewing the process as rational.

Talking about the three most fundamental questions for getting an idea about the project:

• Would you able to meet your financial objectives?

• Is there a real market requirement?

• Would you be able to fulfil a specific requirement better than current as well as a potential competitor?

By asking the above questions to yourself and the team members, you would be able to set a particular guideline. However, the final decision would always require a specific subjective judgement.

2. Communication

Communication has always remained a key to the following success. But how would it happen in this case? You and your team have to discuss risks which are essential to consider for achieving success. Moreover, innovation happens most naturally.

But innovation comes with risk aspects, and you should have proper communication skills to make your team agree about certain risks. In this way, the risk would be converted into success by having adequate management.

3. Provide closure

Closure of any project is a very crucial step to have. If the project is not getting closure for an extended period, then it would be considered as the high time to kill it. Never wait for the project closure for longer duration as it would take up tons of resources. Such resources could help you with other projects.

Moreover, there’s also a term called zombie project manager. They have a particular management style in which:

• They won't come up with original ideas

• Don't believe in actions; they would instead assume that they would get it done

• They tend to issue a particular plan in which team can't understand

• Won’t come up with ways for improving the projects

Thus, above was everything regarding zombie projects and how to kills them. It is important to kill it if you want to save your resources, money and energy.

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Zombie Project Explained | How to Find and Kill the Zombie Projects?
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