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  • Tim Christie

Zombies, Vampires and the Art of Corporate Development

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Zombies are ubiquitous in media these days, used to represent dystopia, horror and even comedy. But zombies in a corporate environment really serve a purpose of another over-represented horror villain: vampires. Because corporate zombies main consequence is sucking the lifeblood of time of your best staff.

Zombie projects are those that seem to never die. Sometimes it is that acquisition that never seems to get finally “decided”. Sometimes it is that semi-important investment that never gets made yet is raised at every team meeting. Sometimes it is that partnership that everyone agrees needs attention, but nobody ever addresses. Every company has them. But how do we, to mix the monster metaphors, drive a stake through the zombies and ensure that they don’t come back?

Corporate Development and the principles that underpin it can help. Here are four steps for killing your corporate zombies.

  1. Commit to the Process. Senior leaders must agree that there is a need to stop wasting time on projects that are probably not going to happen. The upside is much more time on key projects.

  2. Apply Facts. Assess the projects using rigorous facts. Corporate Development or another third-party reviewer can be relied upon to ask questions, use facts and provide a transparent non-judgmental review of current zombies.

  3. Rank the Projects. Ranking projects is easier said than done, but budgets whether financial or human capital are finite. If senior leaders truly believe that the list of projects must be done, then additional resources SHOULD be applied, at which point projects can be re-ranked.

  4. Agree on Outcomes. Low ranked projects need to be retired, without further discussion. Employees personal performance documents need to be updated without zombie projects in mandates.

Killing zombies isn't just fun in video games. After the initial stress of ranking and deciding, you will be amazed at the productivity improvements of the team, as focus on important projects becomes tighter with satisfaction rising all around.

At the end of the day, the ability of a professional, third-party resource (either to the team or organization) to guide the working group through an assessment can remove the venom of history and pet projects from discussion and accelerate the outcome.

Go kill those zombies!

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