Fast Company

In a Tight Spot? Destroy Sacred Zombie Cows!

At this point in our economic distress cycle, most have trimmed so much fat they are in danger of cutting muscle. Yet, the challenges continue. A good friend who works at the Fed reminded me yesterday at our sons' soccer game that the Great Depression was a multi-dip experience. Jeez, I thought, what's a guy to do?

David Gammel, an expert helping organizations succeed online, introduced me to sacred zombie cows.  A plain, vanilla sacred cow is, of course, anything that is immune from criticism. The term grew out of the Hindu religious esteem for cows.

But, David has gone where no metaphor has gone before, imbuing the holy domestic bovine with a new dimension appropriate to those cattle who walk among the living dead.

Gammel says, "Sacred zombie cows are programs that not only do not produce sufficient value, they are impossible to kill even when their inherent constituency no longer supports them or doesn’t exist any longer."

Why is David talking about sacred zombie cows now? "In this economic environment, you are free to create massive change. Boards will consider things that were anathema to them a mere six months ago.

"That program that was the darling of a beloved past president who has been retired for 10 years? No one will blink if you give it the axe. Use the disruption of today to get rid of some bad cows. Then redirect those resources into value producing activities aligned with current needs."

Cut Useless Expenditures Now
Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca Cola said recently, "Don't waste this crisis. Be thoughtful about your expenditures and be sure to focus only on what delivers value."

Look around and see what resources can be converted to higher return activity. Follow Gammels' advice and use this unique window of time to take out the brains of initiatives ordinarily immune from harm.  (According to the Zombie Survival & Defense wiki , zombies "can only be stopped by destruction of the cerebellum or the brain stem.")

After Pruning Resource Leaks, Build Capacity
For every sacred zombie cow that goes down, resources become available. Redirect your savings to achieve growth, returns, efficiencies, and increased performance.

Make It Personal
Are there activities that you spend time on because you have always done it that way? Now is the time to reevaluate your schedule, your commitments, your focus.  You may find pursuits and passtimes long overdue for some paring.  Use this as an opportunity to become lean in the best sense of the word.

No time is good for zombies.  They should be rooted out whenever they appear. But, when times make it easy, go after them with a vengence. Make your streets safe to walk again.  Your customers will thank you. Your members will thank you. Your employees will thank you. Your ROI will thank you.

-- Seth Kahan, VisionaryLeadership.com

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