In fifteen years of consulting work, I learned the hard way how to say “no” to projects. It was always a little bit painful, because, like most consultants, I was very dedicated to “being of service” and turning down a project always felt a little bit like a violation of that core value. But as I came to learn, you only harm yourself and the client by taking on a project that you suspect is teed up for failure, and over time, my colleagues came up with a pretty finely tuned set of requirements for what makes for a successful project.
Here’s short list of the reasons why consultants should sometimes say a polite but firm “no” to projects:
- Misaligned expectations around scope and budget (can go in either direction)
- Timeline + project scope exceeds consultant’s currently available project resources
- Client does not have sufficient project management/leadership resources available
- Client executives not strongly or clearly bought into the project
- Client not committed to consultant’s process/methodology
- Client technical needs aren’t a good fit for consultant’s core competencies, despite mission/attitude alignment
- Client indicates a desire for an “order-taker” type of implementer (“Consultant! Do what I say!”) rather than a deeper strategy + vision partnership. (The former is perfectly good work, but skilled consultants are usually more interested in the latter)
It’s nice to see that Washington Nonprofits, a statewide association of Washington nonprofit organizations, is finally getting off the ground. Washington has long been one of the few states that doesn’t have such an organization.
Sitting with an idle laptop on a UW wireless network here at the Evans School, I typically see a constant 40-50kb/sec of traffic flowing into my machine. At first I thought it was somebody attempting to hack or DDOS my laptop, but digging into the network packets with LittleSnitch showed me that all of this traffic was due to mDNS (Bonjour) broadcast traffic from other Apple machines on the network.
This seems like a huge waste of bandwidth and battery life to allow these network broadcasts. Apparently other university IT administrators agree; Princeton University filters mDNS traffic from its wireless networks. It would be nice to see UWIT do the same.
With the recent start of tolling on SR-520 here in Seattle, the public’s attention is suddenly on traffic volumes on 520 and I-90. So, this morning, I went over to the WSDOT website to see if I could find a simple listing of traffic volumes for the past few weeks. Nothing, just a few random numbers sprinkled in their press releases.
Obviously, WSDOT is collecting this data. It’s ridiculous that it’s not being published in formats that would make it easy to read and analyze. What a huge open government data fail.
I’m hardly a financial wiz, nor am I fabulously wealthy. But I’ve managed to do a reasonably decent job of saving and managing money over 15 years as an underpaid social change activist. Here’s some big-picture advice:
1) Live beneath your means, even if you’re not making a lot of money. If expenses > income, you are screwed.
2) Have a credit card. Use it. Pay it off every month. Never, never, never run a balance. This helps you build a credit history, which will matter when you want to buy a home.
3) Start saving. Compound interest is your friend. But if you’re not-so-young, start saving anyway. 15% of your income is a good, aggressive target.
4) First savings priority: an emergency fund with 6-9 months’ living expenses. Keep it in cash or a money-market fund. This is your “oh no, I just lost my job” fund, or the “gosh, that was an unexpected car repair bill” fund.
5) Next priority: retirement. Take advantage of any 401k or 403b matching that your employer offers–that’s free money. Saving is easier when it comes directly out of your paycheck and you never get the chance to spend it. Invest in low-cost index funds or ETFs. David Swensen’s “Unconventional Success” is a fantastic guide to asset allocation that will help you avoid the traps of the mutual fund industry.