Recently, I saw someone got to this blog by using the search phrase “can a consultant quit a project.” The short answer is usually, “Yes.” Actually, I even known this to happen, where one of the consultants doesn’t even let the customer nor their consulting company know they’re quitting and just “disappears,” although I have not known an individual consultant that works directly with the customer to do this, as of yet.
Most of you have contracts with the consulting firms that are servicing your projects. Even when you only have a purchase order in place, there are usually terms to the work. Read the contract or purchase order terms, carefully. Oftentimes, either side (you included) can get out of the work, depending on how it is done. Sometimes, the terms allow it when some amount of advance notice is made, for example. You should understand what the terms are so that you will know what to expect. Also, you, the customer, might want to get out of a contract if the company isn’t working out and you should know what kind of time and effort that would take.
One term that is present in many contracts and even some purchase order terms is that, if there’s an “act of God,” then the rules changes. Often, it says that no-one can be held accountable if this happens. Thus, if the consulting company’s headquarters is hit by a tornado and wiped-out with its entire staff in it, or if the consultant working on your project is hit by a bus, you might not necessarily get compensation for that.
Employment Issues and Ethics
In some cases, we’re not looking to the contract but to an individual to stay on a project. If you’re working with a consulting company that has a number of employees that they are sending to you as consultants, you could probably lose them at just about any time. If they decide to take a job, most employment contracts don’t make people stay on and, in the US, most employment contracts don’t appear to require any particular length of notice before someone leaves. Thus, without knowing differently, look at any consultants employed by the consulting company you are doing business with and consider that they just might not come back.
However, most people being reasonable and ethical, will give at least a two-week notice, longer in some countries where there are tighter rules on this, too. And, for the consultant who is working directly with you (myself as an example), I would think we’re less likely to walk-out on you without notice. After all, it’s our entire reputation on the line to do that and, as I said, I have not happened yet to run across one who’d done this.
Yet More Comments
So, consider losing someone, suddenly, something that’s unlikely but possible. Consider both how critical a person’s work is to your timeline and how easily they could be replaced if they “disappear” on you to determine whether you should have any real backup plan in place.
Here are some tips on what to do to plan for that potential event from a post I made awhile back on how to ensure project continuity if the consultant quits: http://outonalims.com/2011/03/29/how-to-ensure-continuity-of-the-project-if-consultant-quit/