Several years ago, I developed an outsourcing relationship quiz, and posted it on the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network website. And it didn’t get much traction. But times seem to have changed. Seems as if every outsourcing client is more concerned about the quality of the relationship than ever before. So Ithink it’s time to take another look.
Just like in a real marriage, buyers and sellers often stay together for practical reasons—too expensive to get out, fear of being alone, worries about the children. Yet strong relationships are very intimate, with each of the parties growing into it over time, completing the other in a climate of trust. If the parties feel they are growing personally in the pursuit of improved service delivery, and are energized about working with one another, they will commit to solving problems successfully.
What do you feel about your outsourcing relationship? A number of us (myself included) have written about outsourcing relationships, using marriage as a proxy. But we tend to focus on what’s going wrong from a service level and contractual standpoint, always with the looming specter of the sourcing equivalent of the divorce court, rather than the actual way the parties feel about each other within the outsourcing relationship. If we feel good, we work harder to sustain the relationship. It’s that simple.
To understand how the parties should feel in an outsourcing relationship, I turned to some of that Dr. Phil/agony aunt stuff as studied by various university researchers and popular psychologists. And with the help of the recent work of Drs Arthur Aron and Gary Lewandowski of the State University of New York and Monmouth University respectively, and my own experience, I simulated what it feels like to be in a productive sourcing relationship. We seek certain things from a strong outsourcing relationship. Certainly we want to trust as partners, but we also want to learn from each other and be energized just by dint of being in the relationship. Ideally both teams believe they are stronger because they complement the other, while still attaining separate goals. And over time, we aspire to be sort of an outsourcing Darby and Joan, a relationship greater than the sum of the parts, so comfortable that they are “never happy asunder.”
Enough of literary illusion. Take the quiz and see how sustainable your outsourcing relationship feels. With one being low (not very much), and seven high (very much), please rate the following:
- Do you feel that your relationship exposes you to new ideas and encourages you to develop new approaches to the delivery of business processes? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- After you meet with your partner in business reviews or ad hoc meetings, do you feel more committed to the relationship and energized about the ability to make a step change in sourcing performance? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- How much do you believe working with your partner increases your ability to accomplish your organization’s objectives for the engagement? How much does working with your partner propel you to expand outsourcing scope because you are confident that objectives will be met? 1 2 3 4 5 67
- How much does working with your partner contribute to your personal career development and that of your team? 1 2 3 4 5 67
- Do you make decisions jointly with your partner, or decide independently then inform your partner? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- How much do you trust your partner to stay the course or cover for you if you were not available to make decisions? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- How much do you believe that sustaining your relationship with your partner is more important than always being right? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- How much has working with your partner resulted in your or your team’s attainment of new skills? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- How much has working with your partner made you personally a better professional? 1 2 3 4 5 67
- How much does working with your partner increase your functional and business knowledge? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
- When speaking about the relationship, how often do you use the word we as opposed to they? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Scoring 60 and above — Very sustainable Chances are you have a productive, sustainable relationship. You trust, are energized and see the parties as working in a true partnership.
45 to 60 — Moderately sustainable You have a level of comfort in certain aspects of your relationship, but need to work harder to gain the benefits of a true sustainable partnership.
Below 45 — Low level of sustainability Your relationship has not yet on a footing is conducive to long term partnership based upon the way you feel about it