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Guidelines and Resources for Termination Phase of Consulting

Much of the content of this topic came from this book: Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover

Sections in this Topic Include:

Goals for This Project Termination Phase
Typical Reasons Projects Are Terminated
Avoid Project Creep
Avoid Client Dependency
Generate Letter of Project Termination
Also See These Closely Related Topics

Strongly Recommended Pre-Reading

All About Consulting - Types, Skills and Approaches
Collaborative Consulting for Performance, Change and Learning
Guidelines and Resources for Contracting Phase of Consulting
Guidelines and Resources for Discovery Phase of Consulting
Guidelines and Resources for Action Planning Phase of Consulting
Guidelines and Resources for Implementation Phase of Consulting
Guidelines and Resources for Project Evaluation Phase of Consulting

NOTE: There can be very different styles in going through this project termination phase, ranging from a carefully specified and sequential set of activities to an unfolding and nonsequential arrangement. See the very Different Approaches in Consulting. For the sake of being highly informative with clear and well organized information, this topic will explain a rather orderly, but highly collaborative approach to project termination.

(This phase is sometimes referred to as the Separation Phase.)


See a video about project termination, including reasons to terminate, ethical considerations, legally terminating and managing relationships. From the Consultants Development Institute.

The purpose of this phase of the consulting process is to ensure there is an effective termination of the project. The activities of project termination are very important to address even if the client asserts that the project has been successful and suggests that no further activities are needed. The activities recognize key learnings from the project, acknowledge the client's development, formalizes the end of the project, and identifies next steps for you and your client. It helps to avoid "project creep" where the project seems to never end because the requirements for success keep expanding. It also helps to avoid an unethical dependency of the client on the relationship with you.

Project Termination: How and When to Terminate a Project
Project Closing
The Project Closure Process and Why It's Important

Goals of This Project Termination Phase

  1. Ensure that there is a specific termination to your consulting project.
  2. Identify the next steps for both of you.
  3. Formalize the end of the project.

Typical Reasons Projects Are Terminated

  • Desired results of the project have been achieved.
  • The end date of the contract is reached.
  • Your client runs out of resources for the project.
  • Your client leaves the organization.
  • Your client’s organization experiences a dramatic change of some kind.
  • You or your client somehow violates one or more terms of the contract.
  • Your client is not able to utilize the outcomes from the consultation work.

Reasons Why Success Might Not Have Been Achieved

Avoid Project Creep

It is during this phase that you and your client should begin the process of separating from the consulting relationship – the relationship in which your client relied on you for guidance and materials to address the same type of problem that had occurred in their workplace. However, even if you had successfully helped your client to solve the problem and to adopt new practices and structures into their organization, then sometimes the client continues to ask you for additional assistance.

It may be because the client is consciously or unconsciously taking advantage of your expertise as long as it seems that you are still involved in the project. So the client might continue to add requirements to the original contract. This is called "project creep". In that situation, it is very important to specify that you both should redo the contracting phase to generate a new contract or formally modify the existing contract in order to accommodate the new requirements from the client.

Avoid Client Dependency

Or, the client might want to remain in some kind of relationship with you, personal or otherwise. So the client might suggest one or two new projects in which you could consult even if they do not require your particular expertise. That is called a client dependency on the consultant and it is highly unethical for the consultant to cultivate.

In that situation, if you do indeed have the expertise to help the client with the one or two new projects, then specify that you both should do the contracting phase for each of them. Otherwise, it would be unethical for you to contract to deliver services in which you have very little, if any, expertise to offer.

Generate Letter of Project Termination

Regardless of the reasons for termination of the contract, you should formally terminate the project with a letter to your client. This practice is too often forgotten, yet it is meaningful to ensure that you and your client clearly recognize that the project has indeed been terminated. In a written document that is dated and signed to the client:

  1. Specify the document is your specification of the termination of the project.
  2. Specify the reason(s) for termination of the project.
  3. Reiterate the accomplishments of the project.
  4. Congratulate them on their new developments and learning.
  5. If appropriate, request permission to use any of their complimentary comments as testimonials in your advertising literature about your services.
  6. Add any final invoices.

Include the following sentence: “If you do not agree with all of the contents of this document, then please respond in writing to me with your reasoning and within two weeks of the date on this document.” (This is not legal advice.) That useful phrase might protect you at some time in the future if your client ever decides that your project was not successful, after all.

Also See These Closely Related Topics

Overview of the Field of Organization Development
Guidelines, Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
Competencies and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

Additional Library Resources in the Category of Organizational Change and Development

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