Zombie Projects

Recognize the Zombie

At some point, we’ve all been a part of a zombie project. You know – a stalled initiative that just won’t die?Zombie Projects

Typically the schedule is so far behind and the activity duration estimates too out of whack to be of any use. Maybe the budget’s been used up – or was nonexistent in the first place. Perhaps there’s little to no executive support…

Does this sound familiar? If so, you have a zombie on your hands. And in most cases, the right thing to do with a zombie project is kill it – as they drain organizational enthusiasm and productivity.

Killing the Zombies

Sometimes these zombies are tough to officially kill*. There may be sunk costs (money already spent on the project) involved. There could be political fallout. Was this project a pet of yours, or a coworker, or a supervisor?

Keep in mind -- killing the zombie doesn’t mean killing the initiative. Quite the opposite, actually. Killing a zombie project allows the initiative to have a new life – an opportunity in which it can be initiatedplanned, and executed properly. Assuming the project goals still have organizational value, the project can be re-planned using traditional project management methodology.

So what are you waiting for – go ahead and kill those zombies! Officially close them out as unsuccessful initiatives. Release the project teams and resources. Be sure to do a Closing Report and document why each specific project was a failure. You don’t want to make the same mistakes the next time around!

*Ed. Note -- A co-worker who was proofreading this article for me pointed out to me that by definition, a "real" zombie is already dead, which of course presents its' own set of challenges.


I’m Jason Hecker and I serve as the Director of Special Projects at Learn iT! I imagine this blog post is as good of a place as any to once again formally announce my pick of my alma matter, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, to win the BCS College Football Championship in 2013. You read it here first.