Sugar Plums and Deadlines

Christmas for consultants is a time of desperate work and deadlines. Even non-Christian consultants suffer from the vagaries of this holiday, so it is legitimate to call it what it is – Christmas. No one has ever heard the words, “the client absolutely needs this report before Kwanza!”

While other people are thinking about gifts and family dinners, stealing time away from work to catch up on personal matters, consultants are trying to meet Christmas deadlines. At least those of us with public sector or voluntary sector clients endure this seasonal rush, in part because of reporting deadlines set by government funders. Somewhere up the funding food chain, there is a bureaucrat sleeping soundly because of the reports stacked on his desk awaiting his or her attention in January. Hardly visions of sugarplums, but who would begrudge noble civil servants the rest they need?

It’s not like summer, when for all practical purposes, decision-makers acknowledge an inability to get much done. There is a basic consensus that discretionary consulting work is impractical during the long days and short weeks of July and August.

There is no such consensus about December even though, depending on the school schedule and the days on which Christmas and New Year’s fall, many offices shut down for nearly two weeks. Unlike the summer doldrums when work slows down, this is a virtually complete productivity vacuum in which Canadians consume – merchandise, poultry, bonhomie, and non-sacramental wine – but make no net contribution to GDP. These are good times for everyone except shop clerks, bartenders, and consultants.

As usual, I will start Christmas shopping on the 23rd and will surprise my family with an assortment of periodicals, pharmaceuticals, and prophylactics from the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart. It’s open until midnight just for consultants who won’t get a break until then. After all, Christmas is a time for giving, so Christmas is really all about timing, and timing for consultants is all about deadlines. Ho, ho, ho…

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