Dr. Amantha Imber9 March 2022

Short on time? Go kill some Zombies

“I have more spare time at work than I know what to do with,” said no one ever.

More time – it’s that elusive thing that everyone seems to be hunting for at work. Sure, we can embrace the wonderful world of productivity and time management strategies, as I write and speak about frequently. But here is another suggestion: Go and kill some Zombies.

Zombies are products, services, meetings, reports, and processes – but specifically, the ones that are like the living dead. Innosight’s Scott D Anthony describes Zombies in Harvard Business Review as “projects that, for any number of reasons, fail to fulfil their promise and yet keep shuffling along, sucking up resources without any real hope of having a meaningful impact on the company’s strategy or revenue prospects.”

In the past few years, my team at Inventium has helped several clients kill their Zombies through running Zombie Weeks. A Zombie Week involves three key parts: A clear communication plan, a decision committee with appropriate authority to make decisions, and the Zombie submission process itself.

Having seen many Zombie Weeks in action (including running many for ourselves at Inventium), there are several things we have found to be fundamental to its success.

Use clear and objective criteria, and be transparent as possible with your decisions.

When we run Zombie Weeks at Inventium (whereby the whole team is asked to submit Zombies), the Zombie committee uses Google Sheets to record their decisions. The Sheet is shared with everyone and we can watch in real-time which Zombies are going to be killed. The clear and objective criteria avoids people taking any killings personally.

Communicate the “why”.

If people think you are killing things just for the sake of it, it’s not a great way to inspire motivation. However, if people can see you are trying to free up space to improve wellbeing and avoid people burning out from working long hours, that completely changes people’s perceptions of the value of killing Zombies.

Consider looking for Vampires too.

Vampires are projects they are sucking the life out of a company – but at their heart, there may still be some value to be retained. At Inventium, we not only look for Zombies, but we also look for Vampires. Instead of just killing them, people specify the Vampire and how it could be changed or resuscitated so it could start adding value.

Provide closure.

Finish your Zombie campaign with a symbolic event whereby Zombie artefacts are “killed”. And importantly, share the results of the campaign with the business.

If you have run a Zombie campaign – I’d love to hear how you went. And if you get inspired to do so after reading this piece, let me know how you go!

Good luck on your Zombie hunt.