What to do with projects that never get done.
We have all received an email from a supervisor with the first sentence, “Where are we with this?” It comes on a day when he/she finally has an opportunity to follow up on managing projects that should have never started in the first place. All the reasons you aren’t doing the project race through your mind as you read the passive aggressive email. The project has been sitting in your queue for months now, and you have no desire to finish it nor didn’t you want to start it in the first place. These types of projects are usually manifested in brainstorming meetings and are significant additions to your already large workload. They are dead projects that never away or move at a pace to ever get done; they are zombie projects. So why do we all find ourselves in this trap and how do we get out of it?
How did we awake the undead?
I am a passionate advocate against almost all meetings. Meetings are systematic opportunities to waste time on a large scale. If you are meeting if your team then the meeting should always have a has a quantifiable objective. If it doesn’t, then it’s a waste of time. The meetings I’m referring to are any professional gathering where the objective is to talk and discuss issues or activities happening outside the meeting room walls. They usually don’t have quantifiable goals and are leveraged as a way for people to get through the workday. None are more of a waste of time than a brainstorming meeting. These are professional gatherings to focus on an artistic or creative idea that goes nowhere. They sound good, but they are the inception of the zombie project; the zombie virus if you will.
Brainstorming meetings are opportunities to throw “stuff against the wall” to see what sticks. In fact, I bet you’ve heard your supervisor use that very term. The idea that sticks is the one the managers think is excellent while everyone else is rolling their eyes at the idea of the increased workload. You must brace yourself because despite what you may think if others want to proceed with the idea, you’re forced to as well.
How do I get out of it?
Don’t do the project in the first place
The simplest and most effected method of circumventing zombie projects is never to start the project in the first place. If something isn’t pressing enough to halt other activity to complete or isn’t a good enough idea to inspire everyone to dive in, then it’s not worth doing. Hopefully, your supervisor can see and understand this, the good ones do. If not, frame the reasons why it isn’t worth the time in a constructive and throughout memo or email. If that doesn’t work and your higher-ups are adamant about the project then drop everything, finish the project and live with the consequence.
Drop everything, finish the project and live with the consequences.
If the idea is worth doing, then it’s worth dropping everything and completing it. If the zombie project needs to get done than you should attack it with everything you have like a massive herd of brain-sucking undead approaching your location. You may miss other deadlines or mess up your workflow but if your supervisor sends the “where are we on this” email then it’s time to bang the thing out.
Good projects inspire or at the minimum are worth doing. If it’s not, let them die. Keeping bad projects around is a complete waste of time, money and morale. If not dealt with according, zombie projects will ultimately infect everyone leaving a department of the undead to walk the wasteland of exhausted project ideas.
I’m a writer and filmmaker from Santa Fe, NM. I write, run, and eat plants.