When you outsource; don’t outsource your happiness

March 15, 2009

Dual income, duel careers. We outsource knowledge, so we can get more time to play with our kids. However, does that always happen? That’s a troubling thought

Managers often resist delegating because:
a. They think it would take less time to do the job themselves
b. They think it takes lot of effort to train someone else
c. They think the work done by someone else would not be done to their satisfaction
d. They fear losing control
Yet sometimes, it’s more sensible to delegate when the objective is to:
a. To cut costs (your time is more expensive than your executive’s) — stats prove this
b. To get work done more efficiently (multi-tasking is impossible)
c. To free-up your time to do something more creative and productive that your delegate can’t do (such as strategic planning)

The trouble with delegation or outsourcing (come to think of it, its another mode of delegation) is that it needs careful planning. We need knowledge to be able to outsource knowledge. Ever tried Karaoke — lip-syncing to a pop song? It’s the same with knowledge process outsourcing. Unless you have really chosen your ghostwriter smartly; someone who can write in your voice and understands your domain as well as you do, it’s really very difficult to be very similar even in a copy-cat world.

The result? Micromanagement can sometimes make you less effective. A case of being penny wise, pound foolish. Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell A. Nordstrom explain this very well in their book Be Different in a Copycat World (Book by; Praeger, 2005). “The trouble is that too many companies are placing bets on the assumption that someone else is going to provide them sustainable competitive advantage. Unfortunately some of them have stopped thinking and become consulting junkies.”

Happy Outsourcing

The worse thing about this is that the competitors are also heavily into re-engineering, revamping, rethinking, re-organizing, re-branding, re-orienting etc., through third party outsourcing vendors! That’s why, Emma, who creatively sells herself as a “happiness advocate, social entrepreneur, spiritual maverick, blogger, geek, artist, lover of words and shiny things, recommends, “don’t outsource, if you don’t have to…”

In other words, delegate only when it is absolutely essential. If you were thinking of turning your books over to an accountant, ask yourself, “Wouldn’t a bookkeeper be more effective? Do I really need chartered accountant to manage my money?” This begs the question —- when and how much to outsource?

In my view, outsource when a job is simple, can be broken into chunks, and be closely monitored. And how much would of course depend upon the scope and boundary of a project or a draft report that should contain, four to five key areas, but don’t try to tell someone “how” to do it. Do give some autonomy, as well.

In any case, before outsourcing it’s wise to know if your time is better spent doing something that ONLY you can do. Or enjoy doing, anyways. “Outsource everything that you can and make the maximum use of your time doing only creative special things that only you can do to move your business forward,” recommends Emma. “It certainly wouldn’t make sense for me to try to learn how to build my computer myself, or for me to do my taxes manually. There are some really easy and simple ways to outsource or buy ready-made solutions,” she argues.
Ferriss says the secret to happiness is not earning a fortune – but simply replacing yourself with someone cheaper.

I think that’s an extreme view. Sometimes you also need to outsource stuff that:
• You could learn to do but someone else does better or just as well
• You are extremely gifted with, such as painting and programming
• Allow you more quality time to spend with your kids (Looking to Outsource? – Don’t Forget Your Kids)
Stuff that falls in this last category for instance could be:
Checking Emails
Packaging and Mailing
Scanning and organizing documents
Web Content Writing
Press Release Submissions
Simple Bookkeeping

Lastly, how can the fear of outsourcing be countered?
a) Evolve detailed manuals, set definite timelines, record processes, and measure the final outcome so that you are not concerned about the quality of work you outsource
b) Define outcomes. Set clear conditions of satisfaction.
c) Delegation is not abdication. As the captain of the ship, you are still 100% accountable.
d) Accept that you cannot micro-manage everything. Micromanagement in fact makes you less effective.

Bottomline: Current recession is the ideal time to outsource and switch to more efficient practices. Smart delegation or outsourcing is one such practice.


2 Responses to “When you outsource; don’t outsource your happiness”

  1. Best Outsourcing and Offshoring Blog Resources | Freelancing and Outsourcing Tips, Commentary, Analysis, and News from oDesk on April 27th, 2009 6:42 pm

    […] Portfolio Here you’ll find interesting pieces like “When You Outsource, Don’t Outsource Your Happiness.” Though many blog here, the creator is  Mani […]

  2. James on November 10th, 2010 4:51 pm

    I think that companies will outsource less if they have a reliable way of tracking if their own employees are actually working at home or remotely. There are new software’s on the horizon that really can track that sort of thing, like Time Doctor, check it out on google

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