Expert: New attitudes needed in outsourcing

As the business world continues to change, organizations that outsource work and the contractors that provide it need new attitudes, Dov Seidman said during a keynote address May 20 at Gartner's Outsourcing and Vendor Management Summit 2008.


Seidman, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of business advisory firm LRN, said the watchword for the current era should be outbehave -- a word that's not in the dictionary alongside outperform, outlast and outcompete. But it should be, he said -- because how organizations treat others is increasingly the only thing that sets them apart from one another.


Organizations that manage contractors -- whether federal agencies or private companies --- have three primary management options: coercion, motivation or inspiration, Seidman said.


Coercion is sometimes effective, but in limited ways. Inspiration comes not through just telling people what to do or even through encouraging them, but by behaving in ways that demonstrate high standards, he said. "Leaders are changing their behavior because in a connected world, the implications of behavior are more wide-ranging than ever before."


The Internet has changed the equation for behavior, and actions that in the past would have gone largely unnoticed can take center stage. He told the story of Debbie Weil, a Washington author and blogger that proves the point. One day in 2007, Weil was eating lunch at a D.C. sandwich shop. She left her food and a newspaper on the table and went to the counter to buy coffee.


When Weil returned, she found that three men had dumped her lunch in the trash and taken over her table for a meeting. When she complained, they waved her off without apology. However, she glanced at the papers on the table and found that at least one of the men worked for The Analysis Group in Washington. She blogged about the encounter, and now a Google search for "Analysis Group Washington" brings her column high in the results list.


In an age in which cell phone cameras, digital video recorders and people who write blogs are common, individual behavior can hurt an organization's reputation in an instant and for a long time, Seidman said.


The exposure often applies to job applicants, too, he said. In the past, an applicant could control the information in a resume and largely dictate the content of an interview through it. The employer and the candidate talked mostly about the information in the resume.


Now, "Why should I talk to a recruit about their resume when I can Google them?" he said. "I can go to their MySpace and Facebook page and get deeper insight about them and what their friends say about them."


Finally, he said, conferences such as Gartner's should reconsider their approach. Expressing his thanks to the organization for inviting him to speak, Seidman said the name of the conference may no longer apply.


"Vendors aren't to be managed, they're to be inspired," Seidman said.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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