Employing too many ideas people leads to Zombie Projects

Employing too many ideas people leads to Zombie Projects. Resuscitate the Zombies or kill them off.

Ideas people

If you pay people to have ideas they will produce ideas. Not necessarily good ones. Not necessarily ideas that are aligned with strategy direction. And not necessarily ideas that will benefit the organisation with increased users and/or revenue. But ideas, yes, you’ll have those in plenty.

I worked in a large organisation that used a 6 monthly commissioning system for projects. The Product Managers worked furiously to produce business cases for enhancements to their products. These went through a review process and some proposals were awarded funding. The funded Product Managers then led their development team to build the enhancements they proposed. The unfunded Product Managers, without teams, then spent the next 6-12 months dreaming up more ideas. And so the cycle continued.

Kill the Zombies

The unfunded Product Managers must have felt miserable. With no team they couldn’t get enhance their products or create the new products they’d dreamed up. And I, to this day, wonder why that organisation had so many Product Managers. The unfunded Product Managers were being paid to dream up ideas that would never be followed up. This screams waste. Waste of money and waste of potential.

Similar problems arise when User Experience and Design (UX&D) people or Business Analysts (BA) are underemployed. They will produce ideas that will go no where. This just creates noise and the organisation is better off without it.

Eat More Brains

Eat More Brains

Those people each represent a Zombie project. A project that is starved for resource.

Zombie project: low-value project starved for resource; unliving & undead. Kill the zombies! – Principles of Product Development Flow

Michael (Doc) Norton (@DocOnDev, 3 June 2015)

As Doc Norton suggests, organisation should kill off the Zombie projects. What that means in practice is to either assign the people to something more productive or get rid of them.

Resuscitate the Zombie

Of course there is a third option. Resuscitate the Zombie, meaning fund it. Although this is an option it wasn’t likely in the context I described as the proposals had a fairly good selection process and the unfunded projects were unfunded for a reason.