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A local photographer decided that he does not like selling and marketing as much as he liked taking pictures, so he outsourced it to a small local firm. We received a call from them today, which in its abridged version went something like this:

Saleswoman: “Hi, this is Brenda from Such-n-such Photography. We would like to come to your home and take a picture of your baby – free of charge.”

Kim: “Sounds good. How many pictures are included?”

Saleswoman: “Oh, just one pose, one picture”

Kim: “Can additional pictures be ordered?”

Saleswoman:”Yes, packages start at $120″

Kim: “What is included in a package?”

Saleswoman (miffed): “I have no idea, I just book appointments”

Kim: “Thank you. Not interested”

Outsourcing is as old as the hills and we all do that – I don’t deliver my correspondence in person but the postoffice and courier companies do – but remember that judgement needs to apply.

You should consider outsourcing non-core activities that others do either better or cheaper (while maintaining acceptable quality) than you do in house. For the vast majority of businesses, relationship with clients is a core activity and should never be outsourced. The issue in this particular case is therefore twofold: not only a third party is retained to perform a core activity but, also, they cannot do it well. 

You may be reading this and saying to yourself, “but of course, it’s asinine!” You may feel that what I am saying is just common sense.

The trouble is, even large and sophisticated business often make outsourcing decisions that seem to be against this very common sense.

It turns out that common sense can be remarkably uncommon…

I am happy to announce collaboration with a media outlet dedicated to outsourcing, in particular nearshoring. My articles will appear every couple of months.

In the first article I share my thoughts on three strategic errors in decision making on outsourcing. Read on…

Sounds harsh? Overblown? Too far fetched ?

I don’t think so but you be the judge. Read it here.

“Time is God’s way to keep everything from happening at once” — George Carlin

I believe that the most critical factor to individual success is the highly developed sense of discipline. It enables one to generate an enormous amount of valuable results, to get the necessary work done,to maintain one’s self-esteem and the sense of well-being.

When I started in solo consulting, many people told me that they wouldn’t be able to work on their own because they’d spend days looking out the window, playing with their dog and browsing the Internet. We see this often enough in organizations too. Despite the structure and discipline that corporate life imposes, whole department keep themselves busy by working on tasks that have no value.

In IT, as an example, you will routinely find great redundancies that have been instituted to “service the internal clients better” – the many layers of project and portfolio managers, reporting analysts turning up heaps of reports with performance metrics that no one cares about, and enforcers of procedures.

Success in life and in business is defined by results of one’s work, not by the tasks one performs.  The sense of discipline enables talented individuals to channel their energy to achieving these results, away from the “tasks” that have marginal, if any value. 

Personally, I understood this early in the game and it has made a world of difference in my life and work.

Based on my recent article.

Watch video

My article on instigating change has been turned into a video by CBS Techrepublic’s Editor-in-Chief, remarkable Jason Hiner.

Click to watch the video

Julia Gluck, whose Consulting course I took and liked, has emailed this note to me, having read The Art of Walking Backwards. Julia graciously agreed with my posting it here.

“I just read your latest newsletter. I found it very interesting that you are writing about the technique that my husband and I used in 1977 to develop our life plan. I didn’t have a name for it and now I do!

Having done it, albeit on a personal level, I can attest to the fact that it is really hard work and very worthwhile doing. ”

Thank you, Julia!

This is a repost from my monthly newsletter, sent out early this week.

I may have shared with you in the past that I believe in stretch goals, objectives that challenge you, your team or your organization to venture to the brink of what’s perceived to be doable. This concept appeals to great many people but the key question that I am asked again and again is this: “It’s fine to think big and set challenging goals, but how do you make sure you reach them?”

Whether you are setting your organization’s strategy or seeking breakthrough in a tactical matter or looking for a leap in self-development, there is one particular skill that you need to master. I call it the art of walking backwards. Here is what it’s all about.

We all make plans in work and personal life. Traditional planning works reasonably well for objectives that we are reasonably familiar and comfortable with. Take, for example, new product launch, which your organization may do all the time. A product manager knows what it takes and how long the lead time is, which enables her to put together a roadmap, a project plan. Prior experience comes in very handy in this case.

Try to do the same kind of planning for stretch goals and you will find that experience becomes baggage, too heavy to allow any progress and too precious to relinquish. A consultant I know was once facilitating an executive retreat for a large residential builder. Profitability was the hot topic on the agenda and as it was discussed, it transpired that it would typically take all of 120 days to build a house. The company’s management couldn’t shrink the construction time any further and was looking for a miracle.

“What would it take to build the house in just 10 days?” asked the consultant, which prompted the audience to question his lucidity. He continued: “Well, we already know that it is impossible, so don’t say it again. If it were possible, what would have to happen to enable that?”

What happened then is this. The company did not hit the 10 day goal, but they managed 20 days, which they hadn’t seen in their wildest dreams.

And so is the key: you have to learn to walk backwards:

  1. Set the goal (e.g. own 1/3 of the East Coast market, acquire 100 new customers by 2010, reduce product development cycles by 40% and so on)
  2. Walk backwards from the desired future state and determine what needs to be in place to enable your goal.
  3. Capture all critical issues that need to be addressed: facilities created, people hired, R&D, systems deployed, etc.
  4. When you reach the present state, you should have in front of you a list of future projects. Prioritize them and run as a program.
  5. Maintain the momentum.

 This is a very powerful technique that not only helps to get over that “Impossible!” or “It will never happen!” reaction but also challenges your people to find solutions to difficult problems. If, as many other executives, you are looking to spark the spirit of innovation within your organization, this is a great way to do that.

 Sometimes, walking backwards is a sure way to get ahead.

When making a decision, what else should you consider beyond the economic costs and benefits?

Techrepublic’s Chief Editor Jason Hiner has turned my earlier article on  into a video.

Link to the video

Dan Pink discusses motivation and refers to some of Dan Ariely’s surprising results.

Frederick Herzberg and David McClelland have done a significant amount of work in this area and if motivation is of interest to you, I suggest reading about their work. Herzberg’s hygiene theory, in particular, is absolutely solid

What Pink describes supports my own findings. For a practitioner, the gap between the scientific findings and the regular management practices are both apparent. The lack of volition among the vast majority of managers to change their practices is disconcerting. I am posting this to inspire enough people to reflect on their work and find their way to new exciting heights.

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