Zombie projects are failures that just won't die. These monstrosities stick around because they're a hassle to fix and no one is willing to muster the effort or courage needed to do the final deed.
Although it's not a new topic, a post today on the client k blog does advance our insight and understanding of these nasty beasts. Client k is interesting, because all her posts are written in free style verse (!); yes, it's weird, but actually does work.
Anyway, I'm reprinting the client k post in its entirety, because it's short and I don't want to break the rhythm:
I do NOT like zombie projects. When I hear of a project rising from the dead, I immediately become ‘busy’ with something else (like filing invoices or painting my toenails).
Zombie projects are rarely successful.
Because usually a project gets brought back to life due to no one having a ‘better’ idea. That’s not reason enough to see a project over the many obstacles a normal project has to overcome.
And a zombie project isn’t a normal project. It has many more obstacles. This project has already failed. No one likes to associate themselves with failure.
The second time around, most of the people who were so enthused the first time are now bitter and negative. The project team is fighting history. It is not a new never-been-done-before project. It is a tried-to-do-and-failed project.
Does this mean a zombie project won’t be successful? No. But the odds are not in its favor.
Want to be a hero in your organization? Step up and think through the issues associated with killing your local zombie. Consider the ramifications, develop a plan, gain consensus, refine your ideas, and then take action.
Stopping zombie projects is an essential skill that's hard to master, even though it may not not bring either fame or glory. But, remember this: anyone capable of killing a zombie (without causing lots of collateral damage) probably also has the ability to manage a complex project successfully.
[I'm glad client k used the term zombie project, since I don't recall anyone (else aside from me) employ that phrase. Hey PMI, you guys should adopt such terminology into the official Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Zombie picture from iStockphoto.]