Killing Zombie Projects

Killing Zombie Projects

This feel familiar?

Corporate has been talking about software migration for as long as you can remember…

Lots of comms.

Lots of mentions.

ZERO momentum.

That’s what I call a zombie project.

A zombie project is this idea or project or task or thing or expectation that just groans and grumbles and walks around the hallways of the office.

So what are the symptoms of a zombie project?


  1. It never really progresses – It just sits there. It’s kind of in stasis and doesn’t turn into anything. It’s concerning that it’s there, we’ve heard about it, but it doesn’t move or progress.
  2. It doesn’t want/need to be done – Someone had an idea a long time ago around creating a product that solves a problem for customers because we’ve heard (maybe) from one type of customer that they’re interested in this. So the team set out, did a brief, and did some work on it. And it has kind of been sitting there since then.
  3. It isn’t focused or directed towards an outcome – If we could get the project unstuck, what would it actually achieve for us? Not an outcome in terms of some generic feel-good thing. The outcome we’re talking about is something more measurable, something like our customers’ experience improves, or it results in revenue increase of $X. That’s what we’re looking for.
  4. The team knows it is a zombie project – If you ask most people what this project is, or if they know that it’s a zombie project, they would say, yes. They know it’s a problem, but they don’t know how to fix it. So you’ve got to sit back as a leader and go, “What things are on my to-do list or my team’s to-do list that might be tasks related to zombie projects? How do I get rid of them?”

How do you kill a zombie project?

As the leader, you have to make a plan of action for making a decision to either animate that thing (if we’re talking about life like Frankenstein) and actually get momentum to progress a project, or you have to kill it.

Because anything short of either of those will be more stress and more uncertainty.

Having uncertainty in places where we can control uncertainty, is madness! Why put yourself and your team in that position, and why create the stress that’s unnecessary.

The Wishing Well Effect…

The last bit of a zombie project, is what I call the “wishing well effect”…

BUT the Team Buffalo Podcast dives deeper into this topic more as well as other critical leadership topics such as attracting top talent and becoming a fearless leader. Check it out by clicking on the links.

I’d encourage you to go through your list of projects and ask yourself “are there zombie projects that I’ve allowed to circle around me and my team?”

There are easy ways to manage that and really effective ways to take back control. Do not let the zombies wander the hallways and stalk your team!

Keep being an amazing leader!

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