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#117: Reread Your Consulting Contract - and Your Code of Ethics - Frequently

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2009
In many consulting engagements, the scope of work evolves as we reveal unknown facts and the nature of the client's need evolves. To what extent are we bound to the original contract if the client approves these scope changes along the way?

This is a great question, and one for which you may not like the answer. The contract for services is the current agreement between you and the client. The term "current" means not only the original terms under which you began your relationship, but also as modified to address evolving conditions and capabilities. If you do not modify the contract, regardless of how the nature of the work may have evolved, or client acknowledges these changes, you are still responsible for delivering what the original contract states. I wouldn't recommend relying on hallway conversations and assumed client understanding of the "new reality" when your realities may differ significantly.

When you conduct your regular progress reviews, ensure that you are in conformance to the terms of the current engagement agreement. If you consider that the conditions have changed and justify a changed scope of work, schedule of deliverables or work activities, then offer an alternative engagement protocol, along with logic and supporting data. If your client agrees with your interpretation of these changes, then it should be easy to modify the contract.

Tip: Regularly reread not only the engagement documents (both original and as modified) but also your Code of Ethics. As your perceptions about the work change, and the constraints and opportunities relating to your ability to provide the agreed upon services change, you need to return to first principles. What was the original intent of the work and what are your ethical obligations to provide those services? Look to an excellent article about the ethical aspects of this by Michael Shays called Obedience to the Unenforceable (this C2M article is available for free to IMC Members in the IMC USA Knowledge Library.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  contract  engagement management  ethics 

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