Why you might want to get off a project

Sometimes, getting off a project is just as important as investing time and energy in getting onto your dream project. Normally, consultants will always focus on getting onto new projects and performing well on them to optimize their billable utilization. However, there are situations where you want to roll-off a project. Here are a few examples:

  • You really dislike the assignment or project team
  • Your staffing is being extended over and over again and you finally want to experience something new
  • The assignment doesn’t allow any room for you to improve and demonstrate your open development needs

Trust me, I am sure you will experience at least one of these situations during your time as a management consultant. So, what to do now?

Project roll-off strategies

Bad news is that there isn’t the one perfect solution. However, there are strategies and tactics you can follow, that will improve your chances to get off a project:

  • Talk to your mentor: Your mentor is there to help you. If you have good reasons for rolling off a project, he or she can definitely help to make it happen. However, this won’t be easy and will require quite a lot of convincing. Therefore, this approach is mainly a good choice if you want to roll-off because the project is increasingly hurting your career. Everyone will understand that and your mentor can help in building up pressure with the relevant partners.
  • Clever vacation planning: This method is a bit sneaky, but it can help if you really want to get off a project that is being extended over and over again. If you fear that your project will get extended soon and you don’t want to be a part of it any longer, try to block your availability by setting up a long vacation right after the currently agreed project end. If you just need to discuss your vacation with the staffing department, they won’t see any problems, because they just see the as-is planning. As soon as the project extension is getting more concrete, you can flag that you already planned a long vacation. Now you have a 50:50 chance: Either your project manager will agree that it might make sense to staff someone new, or you will be asked to cancel your vacation.
  • Create pull: One of the most effective strategies is to create a high pull for you. What does that mean? Well, basically you want other partners and project managers to be highly interested in staffing you on their projects. If you were able to build a good reputation within the firm, you might want to talk to partners that value you work and ask them for support. If your reputation isn’t that great yet, you might need to bring a bit more to the table. For example, now might be a good time to commit yourself to a certain practice and ask the practice-leading partner for his or her support in getting you off your current project to fully focus on projects within that practice going forward. Remember: A good reputation is worth a lot since other partners will be highly interested in getting you on their projects and keeping you in the firm. If you have valid reasons for getting off a project, they will support you in that mission. However, if your reputation is lower, you will need to build up bargaining power by offering something yourself.

However, please don’t get the wrong impression: Normally, your focus should be on getting onto great projects and performing well on them. In our free starter training we have a dedicated lesson on how you can influence your project staffing to get to the best possible outcome. It’s way more efficient to focus on getting on a great project, so you are not even required to get off a project. Also, getting off a project only makes sense if you have a good alternative! No partner will be amused if you fight for getting off a project just to turn unbillable for weeks.

If all that doesn’t help

So, what if all the above-mentioned strategies don’t help. Honestly, I would strongly consider changing firms. Don’t get me wrong – management consulting isn’t just butterflies and rainbows. You will experience tough times that are especially challenging or that you don’t enjoy as much as other times in every firm. However, if you feel like you are continuously staffed on bad projects or the firm isn’t really investing any effort at all in improving your situation or listening to your expectations, it might be simply the wrong firm for you.

Categories: Best practices