How to Outsource: Stop Pointing Fingers and Resolve Problems Together

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Vantage Partners. Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of this series on managing performance in offshoring relationships.

Practice joint contribution instead of blaming
When performance issues arise in outsourcing relationships, the customer often defaults to blaming its provider, especially when the outsourcer is on the other side of the world. When your provider is a faceless voice on the phone, or just someone you exchange emails with, it is easy to forget they are people, with their own business needs and pressures. Pointing the finger at your overseas partner is certainly easy, but it tends to be unhelpful not only because both parties contribute to performance, but also because blame inhibits each party's ability to learn what is really causing the problem and do anything meaningful to correct it (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Assigning blame for a network outage

By discussing joint contribution, however, the parties can see how they have contributed to the situation, enabling them to engage in productive conversations, resolve problems, and move the relationship forward toward joint success (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Joint contribution for a network outage

To abandon blame and instead focus on joint contribution for performance issues, try the following:

  • Recognize that blame is about judging and looks backward, while contribution is about understanding and looks forward
  • Look for how you have contributed to creating the situation and take responsibility for it
  • Look for how they have contributed to creating the situation and help them understand it
  • Think of how you might change your contribution to improve performance
  • Remember that, although both parties may have contributed to a problem, only one party may have legal responsibility or contractual accountability (but those are separate questions from "How do we fix it?" and "How do we avoid repeating it?")

- Danny Ertel, Partner, and Sara Enlow, Principal, at Vantage Partners

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