In part 2 of this three-part series of looking at the capacity for improved decision -making by outsourcing, I’m looking at how outsourcing can enable us to thwart mission creep.
In my last blog post (objective decision making) I looked at whether hiring remote staff enables senior decision-makers to make more objective decisions. As one of our clients, Malcolm Piace, the COO of Keystone Employment Group, UK said when discussing the benefits of hiring virtual employees,
“I think that was a really helpful aspect of having employees at arm’s length. I think it’s a lot harder to remain objective when you brought those people in (physically within your office) and you’re engaging with them in ways other than just the project at hand.”
So if, as Malcolm says, you can make more objective decisions by hiring remote staff because they are now at “arms length,” in what ways does that enable you as a decision-maker to make better decisions? For an example of improved objective decision-making, we can once again we can turn to Malcolm for an answer,
“I think that inevitably what happens if you directly employ people is that there is greater chance of mission creep; those people end up working on other things. I don’t think it’s easy to be as objective about the job that people are doing and what you are paying to get that job done. I think that was a really helpful aspect of having employees at arm’s length. There’s attachments that just happen. Had we had someone in our building, I am pretty sure that we would have said actually you know C sharp let’s get you to have a look at this. That’s one aspect to it. That’s where you can sort of – you can drift from the original project brief.”
The point about mission creep was also touched by Ray Peck, the CEO of Vxp Pharma, USA when I met him in 2013 (Does Hiring Remote Staff Help Prevent Mission Creep).
“The other situation is, when you expand your headcount in the company, you have to hope that you are going to have enough work for all those people that they do all the time. That was the concern we had. Are we going to hire two or three new people and we need them now, but six months from now we don’t need them and then we have to decide – do we have to get rid of them or do we try to find more work, do we pay them or not…you know in the hope that more work is coming. But Virtual Employee gives a lot of flexibility.”
I think many senior decision-makers can relate to the above situation. This is particularly true when you have good staff. It is very easy to start assigning to them tasks they weren’t originally perhaps hired for. The problem with this, however, is that you start deviating from your original plan and budget as Malcolm goes onto explain,
“I think being able to go from 3 to 2 to 1 developer as we did over the full sort of 9 months was key (with Virtual Employee). It was an important part of making sure the project came in on time, and that the phasing of the project was kept clean. Otherwise, I think there could have been a risk that we were still overstaffed to the points where the project really didn’t require. It allows us to take just a much more objective view of where the project was at, what it was costing us, and the resource that we could realistically attach to it ongoing.”
Was it was easier for Keystone Group to avoid the trap of mission creep and scale down the team because the “emotional link,” to remote staff is weaker? And that this, in turn, is advantageous because it enables decision-makers to “stick to their guns,” and phase out their project as they had originally planned because they no longer have those tough decisions to make? Is Malcolm saying in a roundabout way that because of the stronger “emotional link” (which we discussed in the last blog post) you naturally have with local staff, you can sometimes, almost subconsciously, start searching for more work to assign them in order to justify their retention? I think these are all important points for us reflect upon when thinking about the advantages of outsourcing. However, what is unequivocal is that by hiring Virtual Employees, Keystone Employment group most certainty did not suffer from any form of mission creep.
And this leads to the next topic of discussion in the next blog post. Is scaling down not only easier but also more emotionally painless when your staff are virtual employees?