Outsourcing & The Olympics

As seen on the Zirtual blog

I’ll begin with two new discoveries I made this week: the first is that there is an Outsourcing Magazine and the second is that there’s a surprising amount of teams competing in the Olympics.

The first – the magazine – I stumbled upon. I had some questions, of course. Who writes their articles? Do they use a full-time staff? At what point would any amount of staff work seem disingenuous on the part of the magazine? Of course, none of that matters too much – what’s more important is that they write some great articles. More on that in a bit.

The Olympics realization seems more likely. Of course teams compete. We knew this. But it somehow escaped me just how many events included teamwork. The press loves the focus on individual achievements – and that’s perhaps where the Olympics get their biggest shine. But the vast majority of Olympians are part of a team, and compete in a competition amongst peers.

What does that have to do with anything? Well, since I’ve designated August as National Delegating Month, I’ve worked to connect the dots. And connect they do.

I wanted to convey a simple message this week: outsourcing is about execution and not replacement. The outsourcer is as much a part of the equation as is the worker. It’s almost like – well – synchronized diving. Yes, yes indeed, I went there.

It’s not as cheap of a metaphor as you think. There’s individual diving, in which a single person’s effort/work is on display. Evaluated alone. And then there’s diving as a two-some. And while one person may have come up with the routine (or a couch or a dive choreographer), the second person is right there. One person can’t do a synchronized dive, it’s a tandem effort, as is outsourcing a double-sided process.

Want some more? Take the baton races (4 X 100m & 4 X 400m). Try to run one alone and you’ll lose (aside from a rule disqualification). To win that race, you want a pair of fresh legs running each part. Teams need great individual efforts to win, certainly, but success is based on teamwork.

It’s the same with outsourcing. That’s your fresh set of legs to run the next lap. That’s your handing off the baton. But it’s your baton. It’s not a separate race. It’s not you delegating your outsourced worker to run an entirely different race altogether. He/she is right there with you – finishing a race you’d lose if you kept going at it alone. See where I’m going with this?

It relates to Outsource Magazine’s article on the rise of vested outsourcing as a result of the recession. The tightening of the full-time job market has created a more talented pool of possible outsourced workers. Simply put, there’s better divers, runner and swimmers available. There’s more PhD earners, stay at-home workers with great experience, travelers on the move, etc – and all amount to a better selection of possible Olympic level candidates to help with your projects.

But the article goes further and so shall I. What this better pool of talent means is that it’s easier than ever to find a team member rather than an individual. The article points out that more European CIOs are using outsourcing as an avenue to “turn ideas in new and improved processes”. Outsourced workers are taking a few puzzle pieces and using their talents to execute. It’s not a replacement process – where higher-ups hire workers to tediously compile a puzzle for them to solve. Outsourcers are learning to use outside talent more efficiently, as executors capable of finishing their vision, not just working on the bits and pieces.

Outsourcing is about execution. Gold medal type execution. But it has to start with a point that allows for teamwork. And team gold medals are great – and we can use the success of the USA Woman’s Gymnastics team as an example. They won gold in team all-around, as a summation of amazing individual efforts, which also allowed each of those girls to go out and compete in their individual competitions without fatigue or loss of focus.

Team gold medals take communication and a great sense of working together – but like outsourcing, they can provide amazing results from the work of a few individuals. Instead of dividing to conquer, why not work as a team to execute? Gold medals await.

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