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Book Review: Zombies Ate My Business by Jamie Gerdsen

Book Review: Zombies Ate My Business by Jamie Gerdsen

Book Review: Zombies Ate My Business by Jamie Gerdsen

For a business to grow and thrive it needs committed, engaged employees that are willing to help that the business grow. Unfortunately not all of your employees will be so fully engaged. Some of them, according to Jamie Gerdsen, will be ‘Zombies’.



In Zombies Ate My Business: How to Keep Your Traditional Business from Becoming One of the Undead, Gerdsen describes ‘Zombies’ as employees who have emotionally disengaged from your business.  They no longer helping your business grow but are a drain on your resources and are actually a blocker to growth.

The business itself may also become a ‘Zombie’ if it doesn’t learn to innovate and remain relevant in a changing and dynamic business environment.

‘Zombies’ amongst your employees and staff can vary from:
  • someone who only gives a small percentage of their time to their work tasks.
  • someone who takes their sick days as a leave entitlement.
  • someone who cares so little that they deliver poor quality products or services.
  • a manager that is content to allow performance to slip.
  • a CEO removing money and so leaving the business strapped for cash.


Do you have any of these behaviours or something similar in your business?
A key question that Gerdsen asks is ‘When do Zombies attack?’
 If you consider the normal business cycle a business usually has 4 phases:
  • startup
  • growth
  • maturity
  • decline


A good business uses the maturity stage as a basis for new growth into a new market or to develop an improved or new product. However a business with Zombies will find they  stall  leaving a poor performing business or even one in ruins.


Gerdsen suggests that there is an equally apparent personal lifecycle where individual performance also varies according to the stage of life.  As we move through our 20-30s we are engaged and excited, 30-40s we master our craft and perform well, 40-60 we increasingly become ‘retired on the job’, performing less well and leeching from the business.


This may be a useful model to think about individual performance, although it is a little ageist and there will always be individuals who do not fit into that model. Some of the older employees may continue to perform well ( I hope I am considered one) and remain committed to the business.  Some younger staff also may consider the commitment bargain to an organisation to be ‘all one way’ and may chose to not fully commit.  What the model does highlight, however is that there is a natural tendency towards older employees tending towards being ‘Zombies’ and looking more towards retirement more than their own productivity or business performance.


There are also people who have too much self interest or too little concern for the business, treating employment like a short term revenue stream rather than something to commit to long term.

Gerdsen suggests there are ways to overcome the impact of these ‘Zombies’ and to sustain or increase growth.  He suggests we focus on the delivery of customer needs by considering PEP:

P – People – Consider the people in your business and how well they are contributing to the business.
E – Experience – Improve the customer experience.
P – Products – What are the product and services that sell and what will you sell in the future?
Gerdsen also gives some ideas of how to remove the zombies from your business and to help rebalance the organisation. These are a useful set of procedures to help you improve business performance.


Littered with examples of ‘Zombies’ in several business settings and with tips on how to spot the non productive behaviour, Gerdsen offers a new view on some of the productivity leaks in your organisation. While the title may put some people off reading the book, there are some interesting points being made about human nature and the levels of commitment to work. To be unaware of these or not consider them important is to miss a dimension of your business that, if not currently causing you problems, will do so in the future. A book with a message to consider deeply.

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