Law of unexpected consequences

Apr 11 2008 by Print This Article

Time once again to visit the Corporate Cynic as he takes an in-depth look at the unintended effects of outsourcing. In his latest piece, he analyzes how removing just one person can start a chain reaction that ends with an entire office in chaos.

The Cynic relates the story of Ann, who was at the Accounts Payable desk. The company decided that her job could be outsourced so, without discussing this with anyone else, they got rid of her.

This lead to the person in the cubicle next to her, Marie, who had nothing to do with accounts payable, getting all of the requests Anne used to get. Since Marie doesn't handle that, she is buried in requests she can't satisfy.

At the same time, Marie's boss, Jim, is being attacked by his superiors because Marie is not able to keep up with the demands being placed unreasonably on her. It also turns out Ann handled more than accounts payable, something no one bothered to find out before letting her go. So now no one else can deal with this burden, either.

As the cynic writes in his final paragraph, "instead of analyzing the workload first to eliminate the arbitrary, superfluous and redundant tasks and requirements, the focus is always on cutting the resources.

What a back-asswards approach to problem solving! Even after reducing staff, they will continuously come up with new requirements and even more compressed timetables - turning the arbitrary, the goofy, and superfluous into the essential."

So, if outsourcing seems like a sure-fire way to improve your bottom line, stop living your life with just numbers. Take a look at the actual people and take the time to actually learn what they do first. Researching things a bit can stop the dominoes from falling.

Older Comments

In an early part of my career I was working as Customer Service Manager for a manufacturing business. Central to this role was the supply of spare parts many of which were made from castings. Because of supply difficulties I was close to the ordering process and this was handled among other planning activities by a not too lively individual who also ordered castings for the main production processes.

Because the individual was seen to not be performing his planning activites too well it was decided he had to go. His planning activities would be transferred to someone else. Those who made this decision did not realise that the ordering of the castings would cease and the whole of the spares and production processes would be adverslely affected. The factory would have ground to a halt.

Without intervention on my part this vital decision would have been made in ignorance. I have often reflected on how at times of 're-structuring' businesses can lose essential but little appreciated aspects of the overall service they offer to their customers. Act in haste................... you know the rest!

Michael Harrison

Michael Harrison United Kingdom