Every Friday, I"ll answer two or three management questions submitted through the "Ask Lisa"?? link found on my blog and on my website. This week I have honed in on one juicy question submitted by Barbara Jane. If you would like to submit a management question for future Friday posts, click here.
QUESTION: In your September 07 comments you ponder how outsourcing will change managment. My comment and question: Management begins at home where we have outsourced setting the family table to fast food joints. Result,we eat from a piece paper–lose a valuable forum for family unity–and fatten our offsprings. Lisa, can Corporate America benefit from this screw-up?
ANSWER: BJ (Can I call you that?) this is a fascinating question, thanks so much.
Can Corporate America benefit from this screw up? Hmm… Well, maybe, but I think they/we would first have to recognize the screw up. I assume by benefit, you mean learn from, yes?
I think there are some similarities between outsourcing that works at home and outsourcing that works for business. If we think about the average modern family, many things are outsourced including home maintenence, food production (not just fast food, but farming) and preparation, child education and in some cases rearing, auto repair, health care, pest control, entertainment, and so on. All of these things used to be handled at home. I would contend that some outsroucing strengthens the lives and relationships of the family while other types of outsourcing weakens the family.
Family outsourcing that is not detrimental to family relationships and health(because it frees up time to be together or improves lives):
Most home maintenance – electricians, painters, etc.
Food production, as in farming and processing
Most health care for illness
Family outsourcing that can be harmful to the family’s health and relationships:
Most food preparation and consumption (when time spent together is eliminated)
Some child rearing (when time to bond and build relationships is eliminated)
Some entertainment (when time spent having fun together is eliminated)
Do you see what I am getting at? I think that when considering outsourcing, we need to be very careful not to eliminated the opportunities we have to build and maintain relationships and ensure the health of our family/customer base.
Oddly enough, many companies are outsourcing their customer service functions, which in many industries is what differentiates competitiors. Going back to my personal experience with Dell, I had a positive perception of Dell until I had a very bad experience with their outsourced customer and technical service functions. I was not a first time customer, this was the 3rd Dell I was purchasing and I ended up sending it back. Having said this, I am sure there are very good overseas vendors that would have handled my problems well, but this is a risk that Dell is taking with something very precious – their reputation with their most loyal customers.
And it is not just Dell, all companies are or will struggle with the outsourcing decision. Stockholders are demanding efficiency and cost savings, and this cannot be ignored.
BJ, it is a shame that many families outsource dinners together – I agree that this a concern. But I’m all for having someone paint and clean my house, grow and raise my food, hold and invest my money, and dispose of my waste water! The equivilent of these also seem prime targets for corporate outsourcing.
Have nice weekend everyone.