Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Walk the talk

I joined corporate life during the TQM era and was constantly fed this going phrase “Walk the talk”. Most organizations at that time started competing on who was a better TQM organization and the best TQM benchmark practices started getting created. One of the important benchmark practice was to treat all employees equally and provide certain classless benefits.

In my organization we had a common lunch room where everybody ate the same food from CEO to the worker. We would highlight that as the biggest achievement of TQM. The second biggest was providing open parking slots to people where there were no reservations for anybody including the CEO. This was very big as every manager in the company was provided a car.

Lets take the lunch situation, everything else was common, except that while others would pick up the plates and spoons on their own, Vice President and above were provided an extra benefit of a person standing there who will pick up the plate for them and hand it over with a spoon and a PAPER NAPKIN.

Lets look at parking. One day a few people in my office who saw my car parked at a spot came up and warned me that I had parked my vehicle at Mr VP’s reserved parking slot and there is going to be serious repercussions. I did not believe this. Within 15 mins I was dragged out of an important meeting, given serious lecture by the admin department about parking in the reserved slot and made to remove my car that very moment. This is where TQM took over, within 15 mins Mr VP called me personally and apologized for the behaviour of the admin department. I was impressed as this was walk the talk, till people around told me this was a drama which had been enacted many times. After about 4 months I decided to test this and parked my car at the same slot. Within 15 mins admin called, gave lecture, I removed car and within another 15 mins Mr VP called to apologize. I could only laugh.

The situation became more funny when Mr VP was quoted in all TQM sessions and was projected as the father of the TQM movement in our company. No doubt TQM died a natural death.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Why outsource

I was once in an outsourcing discussion with a client we were pitching to. The client wanted us to outsource their HR activities but was requesting us to take the processes as is and then also give them a significant cost reduction. My question was how. If we were to take same processes and same service levels, then we would have to deploy the same number of people and use the same technology being used and if that was the case, the cost incurred by us would be the same as what the client was incurring. From where will we get the cost reduction.

This got me thinking about the motive most clients have around outsourcing and why it ends up not giving the requisite benefit that it should. During conversations with a few clients the feel I got is that clients wanted to download their problems onto someone else, who can be blamed, other than ofcource show cost reduction. Due to this the situation never improved for most organization, infact it worsened as now there was another inefficient process of handover between the organization and the service provider.

To me the basic reasons why any organization should be outsourcing is for the following reasons :
- To get better service levels
- To reduce corporate time spend on routine non-core transactional activities
- To streamline processes for better efficiencies and continuous improvement on processes

Cost reduction is an outcome which will accrue automatically if the other three objectives are met. First and foremost we should be looking at improved service levels. More so with respect to the HR processes as we are talking about processes which impact our so called most important resource – people.

For service providers there is a need to ensure that their clients can get higher levels of service to justify the outsourcing decision. Also there is a need to work with the client to streamline the handover process to ensure that there are no additional inefficiencies that get built in at that stage.

Another significant change required for an outsourcing deal to work is for the client to treat the service provider as a partner, an extension of its own organization, similarly for the service provider to think of itself as an extension of the client organization. This will ensure that both the organizations are working towards the same cause of providing higher service levels to its ultimate customer, the employees.