Project Management

Managing Project Zombies

According to zombie expert Francis Norman writing for PM Hut, project zombies are staff who are not motivated, are going through the motions, and will drag down the rest of the staff, turning them into a project zombie hoard. So you can either start boarding up the windows, or you can learn how to stop the threat  to your office now before it becomes a pandemic.

How the Hoards Amass

Here comes the newly initiated staff member. He is happy to be on the job. In fact, he is practically bursting with enthusiasm and sunshine. But then, over the course of weeks or months, you observe a disturbing trend. His eyes begin to droop and his movements become stiff as the eagerness slowly departs, leaving him a lifeless shell that only performs the necessary functions of the job before clocking out. He has become a drain on the project workforce. He has become – a project zombie.

This staff member could be anyone in the project organization. Perhaps they are the valuable employee who is forbidden to work outside of critical roles. They could be the one who is cornered with repetitive tasks. Maybe forces outside of work are sucking the life out of them. In any case, the PM must be ready to spot a project zombie before they have a chance to infect others with their lack of motivation.

Eliminating the Zombie Threat

If a manager spots a zombie lurking in the project environment, Norman recommends two options: revive or remove, with reviving as the preferred tactic. Of course, it is likely that the zombified individual still possesses some semblance of willpower deep within. To save that person, it may be possible to shake them up with new tasks and engagements by moving them to a different part of the project team. If the issues are personal, the employer should try to work with the individual to restructure their work environment or to make other changes that will accommodate the situation until it resolves.

Be warned: successful projects rely on committed project members who feel appreciated and challenged in their roles. Any deviation from this standard may breed project zombies.

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