In consulting, one of the problems that I see on a consistent basis is how people handle being on projects that they do not like. A consultant may dislike a project for many reasons. The project may not align with their career, they may not like the client or the project may be a Death March. As I take more leadership roles on projects, I decided to take some time to write a blog about some of the ways a consultant can manage when placed on a project that is not particularly interesting.
I have been a consultant since 2010 and I have been on a few projects that I didn’t particularly like, mainly because the technology wasn’t great, unrealistic expectations or it was 100% maintenance. One such project I was on, I had to travel 140 miles round trip to work on antiquated technology for about half a year. Typically, when I am placed on projects that are not great, I try to find a few qualities about the project can help me grow as a person and a consultant because I believe you can learn something from most projects.
If you are on a project that is boring, working with great people can be a great way to stay positive and do a great job. I was once assigned to a project that featured technology that was outdated. Worst of all, this particular assignment required me to travel 140 miles round trip for half a year. The technology was underwhelming but the silver lining for this project was that the people were great. I got the opportunity to work closely with one of the smartest consultants I have ever met in the industry and we are still good friends long after the project has ended.
The first assignment that I got the opportunity to lead was also one of my least favorite projects from a technology perspective. The project had a tight deadline, I worked many hours and the technology was outdated but I got my first opportunity to lead a project from a technical perspective. The lessons I learned on this project have been invaluable in my career and I believe serves as an example of how you can gain knowledge on even the worst projects. This opportunity gave me some insight on how to manage people, how to lead by example and experience the pressure of being responsible for the delivery of a project.
In my blog So you want to be an IT Consultant?, I stated that one of the duties of being a consultant is always being aware of new sales opportunities. Many unfavorable projects feature old technology, poorly written software or outdated software processes. When placed on these types of projects, it has been my experience that there are opportunities to talk to your client about improving the technology and this could possibly lead to new opportunities for you, your firm and most importantly, helping your client.
Be the Hero
As a consultant, you may be placed on projects that have lots of negativity surrounding it and there could be many reasons why the project is viewed in this manner. Many successful people have made their living coming into seemingly impossible situations and miraculously turning the entire project around. When placed on these types of projects, I try to take the opportunity to bring a positive attitude and look for ways to boost morale and implement incremental changes that have a positive effect on the project.
In concluding, one of the absolute worst things a consultant can do when placed on a boring project is to complain. When you complain, you become part of the problem, not the solution and at some point, you will cause harm to your reputation and you are not helping your client. I have definitely been on projects that I didn’t like and I have made mistakes such as complaining and from my experience, it has zero positive impact on the project or career growth. There will be projects that you join that are just so bad that they cannot be saved but I remain a believer that most projects offer at least a few positive benefits.