A Graduation Note from a Seasoned Consultant

 I have been a professional consultant for over a decade.

Each project is different; some are small enough to complete independently, some require a team, and some require multiple teams and span the globe. Some contracts force you to expand your skill set, and teach you something practical, while some require teaching others what you have known and practiced for years.

Each project is also defined by the local and corporate culture, and each will involve a dynamic created by the personalities of the client/consultant relationship, an entity that is new to everyone involved.

Yes, each project differs from the last, which is one of the aspects of the profession that keeps me interested and engaged. The learning curve is boundless and the potential for professional and academic growth unparalleled.

I would never exchange this opportunity to learn, for the predictability of the corner office.

Not ever.

However large the differences, there are some traits that every contract will have in common with every other.

They all involve a project schedule that is behind schedule before we come on board.

They all require some set of skills that the client does not posses.

They all represent change to the client staff, there is always a certain percentage of the client team that will be reluctant to accept change.

There is always the need to persuade.

And finally,without doubt,there is always the day it ends.

Concluding a consulting contract is a strange experience, no matter the number of times I have it, the predictability of it never mitigates the strangeness.

If you have performed your duties well, the client’s objectives have been met, their resources have been educated, their process implemented and their need diminished or eliminated.

It has been a success, and it has been so successful that your type of help is no longer needed.

The point in time that this occurs is not a flash point. There is not generally a final deliverable that signals a conclusion, a point in time that could be planned for or predicted on a project plan months ahead of time.

No, this would be too easy, and that, would not be consulting.

Prior to this point in time, there is always a span of time during which the client team congratulates themselves, publishes lessons learned, and adopts the responsibility.

Emotionally, this can be a complex time for a deeply vested, well intentioned consultant.

Every consultant has been through this before, we see this for the phase change that it is, we relinquish responsibility, step back, detach. We begin the process of transferring knowledge and making ourselves redundant.

In order to reach that point, the consultant has without question, needed to immerse him or herself fully into the client’s critical daily operations. He or she has worked long hours, learned quickly, replaced home and family with the client’s site and employees.

The consultant has created a new family, a new priority scheme, and a client specific communication dynamic. The temporarily assembled team of client and consultant resources becomes a new type of family, a family living through a trying time.

Each team member’s role will resemble one of many common familial roles.

Some will be like parents, guiding, advising.

Some will resemble children, learning, resisting, testing boundaries, celebrating the smallest sucess.

Some will remined you of your aunts and uncles that visit on Sundays to give advice no one asked for.

And there is always one that is the uncle that everyone wishes hadn’t come to the party at all.

This team will be as critical to your success, and as well loved and as complicated as your own family.

Family bonds are deep and have been a part of you for your entire life. But formation of these project based bonds happen very, very quickly. Bonds that are forged deeply and quickly in trying times are often bonds that are difficult to sever, without question, something that resembles emotional scare tissue results from the severing of this kind of bond.

My years in the industry have taught me that this time is difficult to navigate, but navigating it cleanly is critically important. It is the final measure of the sucess of the consultant.

If the new process, or new paradigm delivered by the process is to become a natural part of the client culture, the bonds of the team that created the new reality must be broken gracefully. Children must leave home full of hope and feeling as though they have no limits.

If children leave home with any level of fear of independence, the independence may be short lived. If when you leave a client site, they are unable to manage what you have implemented, the final measure of success has not been achieved.

As the consultant, we have been through this separation before, and we are completely aware that the final obligation to the client, the new family, is to make them believe that we were never needed, to gracefully promote the recognition that even though we were useful once, that we are surely no longer needed.

The best way to do our job well, is to make our job seem easy.

As a seasoned consultant, I have been here before, here at the end of a project and through the dispersion of this project based family. I have also watched my own daughter grow and leave home, and they are strangely similar experiences.

I find during these times that I feel pride, sadness, loss, excitement (to see what happens next), and above all else gratitude. Gratitude for my own growth, and for the experience.

And I always hope that there will be days, that my daugther, and the work families I leave behind will recognize the contribution that I made, and realize as they come to know more, that my job hadn’t been easy. And that perhaps the hardest part of the job, was making its conclusion seem easy.

I hope they think of me in that way and call to say hello.

Gina Guido-Redden
Chief Technical Officer
Coda Corp USA
(p) 716.751.6150 (f) 716.751.6193
[email protected]


“Quality is never an accident; it is the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. It represents the wisest of many alternatives.”

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