Over the holidays I heard a story on Zombie Processes. It reminded me of the number of these I have come across in business. One of the luxuries of being a consultant is you get to ask “why do you do that” or better yet “what would happen if you didn’t do that anymore”. As businesses grow and scale we often pick up a number of new initiatives, or increase the subtasks, and never kill off old ones. We also inherit more and more “stuff” that people do that does not necessarily add value.
Zombies: A Zombie initiative/task is something that continues on because no one has done the favor of saying it is either over or complete. It can also be a task that exists that no longer needs to exist. Basically it is inefficient effort and time.
Do these exist in your organization? Absolutely and everywhere. The key is not trying to fix them all at once – this will get you nowhere. What makes the most sense is to identify your strategic goals and initiatives and start with the processes that support those goals.
Where do you start? Take a look at your critical initiatives across the organization. Ask yourself which ones are going to provide the most strategic value over the next 12 months. Pick 3 and define the value of those initiatives. Are they about increasing/decreasing time, revenue growth, cost cutting, elevating customer value? Figure out how improvements should be measured. Set up serious targets and a process to manage improvements. Roll up your sleeves and get rid of the Zombies. And while again this is self serving, it does not make it less true – hire a consultant. Have someone independent to the organization ask the questions. Especially if this is a new concept inside the organization. People don’t like change, they fear it will expose them or put them at risk. This can lead to the wrong motivation for process improvement.
Stuff: This can be projects, tasks, subtasks, processes, or simply job justification work.