Business columns: Responsibility can’t be outsourced
When something goes wrong, companies quickly discover that the public doesn’t blame the help, it blames the company that hired it, said Stefan Stern in the Financial Times.
Stefan SternFinancial Times
It was depressing to see the heads of BP, Transocean, and Halliburton blame one another for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico when they testified before Congress recently, said Stefan Stern. But they did offer a useful object lesson in the perils of outsourcing. The executives all seemed to “fall for the illusion” that by bringing in help from the outside, they were somehow relieved of responsibility for doing the job right. It’s an attitude that pervades the business world.
Despite a “long list of notorious outsourcing disasters,” executives still think they can whittle their companies down “to an ever-smaller essential core, while handing more and more tasks over to hired—cheaper—help.” But businesses are more than a collection of “stand-alone projects.” The good ones have “an overriding purpose and sense of identity” that’s diluted when outsiders take on key tasks. And when something goes wrong, companies quickly discover that the public doesn’t blame the help, it blames the company that hired it. You can outsource your operations, but you can’t outsource your reputation.