Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies Vs. Product Management

He saved the Union... and slaughtered the Undead.
He saved the Union… and slaughtered the Undead.

Before we begin, a general warning about watching Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies: If you plan to take a shot every time CGI blood shoots across the screen or a random chicken ruins an escape attempt, by 45 minutes into this film you will be stumbling around like one of the undead yourself.

This mockbuster is actually pretty well done, and has some surprise twists. I’m going to reveal some of those twists and turns to make a point about sunsetting products you love. You have been warned!

Nobody can deliver a stirring speech about fighting zombies like Lincoln

An outbreak of Confederate zombism at Fort Pulaski forces President Lincoln (played by Bill Oberst, Jr.) to lead a group of Secret Service agents on a mission to contain the infection before it spreads across the divided country.

Along the way, Lincoln decapitates a ton of zombies and encounters many famous folks including Stonewall Jackson, Pat Garrett, and a very young Teddy Roosevelt. He also reunites with the former love of his life, a hooker with a heart of gold named Mary Owens.

Lincoln wins the battle, at a high cost

Lots of people die, and poor Mary is infected, too. Lincoln can’t bring himself to kill Mary, so he stores her in a secluded cabin and hires a doctor to find a cure.

During a routine visit, Zombie Mary bites Lincoln. Knowing he has a short time left before he turns into a zombie, Lincoln sends a letter to John Wilkes Booth… and the rest is history.

That bite got me to thinking about sunsetting products

Lincoln knows there’s no cure for zombism. Yet, he can’t bring himself to put Mary out of her misery. And it’s that bad call that eventually kills Lincoln himself.

How often do we encounter similar situations at work? Products that, objectively, should be killed… yet they shamble on with a life of their own because we believe in them. Because the team falls in love with them.

How often are we, as Product Managers, behaving just like Lincoln — hiding our hooker zombie girlfriends, hoping to find a cure, rather than making the hard choice to terminate or redirect resources?

The reasons to kill a product in ideation, in development, or post-launch are numerous

Here’s a handful…

  • Market changed, and the once-awesome product you’re developing no longer matters
  • Estimated time to develop was severely miscalculated (and not in a good way)
  • Cost to develop the product is significantly higher than originally anticipated

So what do we do?

If you’re reluctant to kill a product because you don’t have an alternative product idea, get out into the market and find a new problem to solve. (That’s kind of the job, right?)

If you’re reluctant to kill a product because you’re in love with it, remember Lincoln. Every product that hangs on beyond its shelflife represents loss of opportunity, loss of momentum, loss, loss, loss. And that’s if you’re lucky.

You could be giving your competitors an opportunity to gain market share and mindshare within your segment. Which could be the kiss of death.

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Bonus Content

Watch the official trailer for Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies:

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