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Dumpster Engagement

A project where low performers can be dumped and allowed to bill for an indeterminate amount of time, mostly because the person whose organization is paying for the work has essentially checked out and couldn't care less whether anything really gets done. A good sign that you're on a dumpster engagement: When you start the project, you seem to have lots of time to do very little, with no visible repercussions.

If you're a high performer, you might find a dumpster engagement enjoyable for around a month, as you surf your way to the end of the Internet, write six open source projects, and blog like a maniac. However, doing nothing eventually gets dull for the high performer; after gaining a lot of weight from boredom, you usually seek to move off the engagement—before you have to explain to your doctor why you gained 50 pounds in six months.

Faith-Driven Development

Faith-Driven Development

A development practice also known as "code 'n' pray" or "Waterfall." It relies on an ever-knowledgeable business analyst writing a book, on the scale of the Old Testament, known as the "requirements document." Meanwhile, a non-coding architect writes the "design document," which approximates the New Testament. Once those docs are cast in stone tablets, a developer (you) must code the system based on the docs, which results in a situation that resembles the last book in the New Testament, "The Revelation," in which the forces of good and evil fight on a giant battlefield, with massive bloodshed (a process known as "testing" or "quality assurance"), after which there is a promise of a thousand years of utopia. Sadly, it seldom ends that well.

Go Native

Go Native

The process some consultants go through that causes behavior like this:

  • They spend so much time with the client that they start to identify with the client rather than their own firm.
  • When the interests of the client and the consulting firm conflict (for example, hiring competitors), the consultant stops representing the interest of the firm.

"Going native" is common in contracting firms acting as consulting firms, where the contractors who know the gig are simply trying to get hired, and are mixed with people from the same firm who are under the impression that this is a consulting engagement, rather than multiple contractors on a project.

Hired Scapegoat

Hired Scapegoat

Some consultants are brought in for the specific purpose of becoming a designated scapegoat on a project. A typical scenario is the 2½-year project that's going badly. In an attempt to keep his job, at the two-year point the CIO needs to arrange for someone to fall on her sword, so he hires a consulting firm to bill for six months, screw up, and take the blame when the project goes wrong.

Taking on such projects is risky. They do resort in short-term billing, but lawsuits frequently result—if the client firm has any sort of assets left after the big fail, those assets are gone, and the consultants will be gone, too. The best way to avoid joining a hired scapegoat gig is to watch for small firms that suddenly have impressive contracts with big companies, needing to expand from 2 to 30 people in a weekend. While not all such engagements turn out to be of the hired scapegoat variety, it's a good idea to ask questions and make sure you know the situation.



The alternative name of the salesperson hired in a recession, to whom all the hopes of the organization are pinned. Rarely does this strategy work, because no good account executive in his or her right mind would walk away from a successful book of business and sales cycles in progress (and the expected near-term income), in exchange for the prospect of building a new pipeline, which will take longer in a recession, and lead to lower or more sporadic income in the near term.

Non-Solicitation Agreement

Non-Solicitation Agreement

A document, signed in blood (kidding a little) when you join a consulting company, that forbids stealing clients or consultants for at least a year after you leave. Unlike a non-compete agreement, which is frequently unenforceable, in the U.S. non-solicitation agreements are generally quite enforceable, and often are enforced.

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