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Management consultants Scott Anthony, David Duncan Pontus and M.A. Siren coined the term ‘zombie projects’ earlier this year to refer to projects that fail to fulfil their potential, yet are not shelved by management. As a result, resources are drained unnecessarily in order to sustain such initiatives.

Here are four ways of preventing the occurrence of ‘zombie projects’ at your workplace: 

1. Establish project criteria. Before a project is sanctioned, clearly determine ‘why’ the project is being pursued, what business goals it will help achieve or what problems it will resolve. Ensure that no project kicks off based solely on assumptions of expected outcomes. Quantify targets (where possible) and outline the project’s milestones. Having a set criterion for deciding which projects are approved or rejected ensures that it is the project’s merits and not personal preferences that become the deciding factor when it comes to pursuing it.

2. Start small. Instead of going all-out when undertaking out-of-the-box projects, break them into smaller components and then work on them sequentially. This approach ensures that in case the project hits a roadblock or the forecast targets appear unachievable, work can be halted immediately and resources can be reallocated to more promising projects in the pipeline, thereby saving time, effort and money.

3. Foster innovation. It is important to foster an organisational culture that encourages innovation. This will motivate employees to continuously experiment, brainstorm and come up with lucrative project ideas on their own (as opposed to zombie projects) because they know that their work will be appreciated, recognised and rewarded.

4. Learning from ‘failure’. Remember, despite following SOPs to the letter, certain projects will fail to deliver the expected results. In such instances, it is important that a Project Diagnostic Committee is formed to identify what went wrong and whether the factors behind the failure could have been foreseen and then identify what can be learnt from the experience. This will improve the quality of decision-making leading to better results in future endeavours.

– Zeeshan Lakhpaty
The writer is a professional corporate trainer and speaker. zeeshan@peopleexcellence.biz