IC TIG Week: Stephen Maack on What do American Independence and Evaluation Consulting Have in Common?

Hello, I’m Stephen Maack, Owner and Lead Consultant of REAP Change Consultants, founded October, 2002. The Fourth of July is this week. Many become independent evaluation consultants because of the lure of freedom – freedom to choose projects, what you do, how you do it; freedom from the politics of organizations, bad bosses, and organizational hierarchies; freedom to set your own hours and work in your pajamas. It all sounds great.

It’s all true, too – partly. Yes, you can choose which projects to take on but as Max A. Eggert and Elaine van der Zeil put it “Clients tend to be more rigorous and constraining than managers,” and “Every client wants the right solution to his or her need without taking exceptional risks. Thus you have to have controlled creativity….”[1] Yes, work in your pajamas – but you also need to meet deadlines and juggle time for yourself, your family, loved ones, and friends. Try shutting down your computer and walking away at 5 p.m. when the final report is due tomorrow and you must get it done now because you spent time with your spouse earlier! Yes, you might be free of your own organizational politics and can walk away from those of other organizations once you finish a project. However, for good client relations, pay attention to the politics of your clients’ organizations!

So what to do? Take hints from young America. Once the American Revolution resulted in independence, leaders of the young nation set about forming thirteen disparate states into the United States of America and created a new constitution. As you go independent you’ll figure out your own rules for operation, what you will do and how you’ll go about doing it. The young nation worked at developing allies and establishing markets for its goods and services. You’ll have to do that. Find business partners, learn from fellow consultants, explore and start marketing. Each of the states had others with whom to work. You do, too – AEA and the IC TIG.

Go ahead. Declare independence. Just remember that bravery, responsibility, and hard work come with freedom. Like each of those who financed the revolution and founded this country, you are putting your fortune, fame and the welfare of your family on the line. Good luck!

Hot Tips: Join the Independent Consulting TIG for community and advice. Take AEA training workshops.

Rad Resources: Gail Barrington’s Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers.

Elaine Biech’a The Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond. Second Edition.

[1] Max A. Eggert and Elaine van der Zeil (2011) The Perfect Consultant: All You Need to Get It Right First Time. The Perfect Series. Arrow Business Books, Random House Kindle edition.


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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