Outsource Successfully
and Get the Results You Want

Watch the video of this post.

Listen to the podcast of this post.

Wisdom 4 Humanity means doing what you do best.  Sometimes that means outsourcing so you can focus on things that use your talent most wisely.  

Many entrepreneurs talk about hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA).  When I hear their ambiguous and ill-fated plans, I cringe.  

From entrepreneurs and executives alike, I hear too many horror stories of outsourcing gone wrong.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars wrong.  Legal action wrong.  Let's avoid those.

Time for a Wisdom 4 Humanity blog post to share Outsourcing Wisdom.

This blog post may read like a business article, but really outsourcing isn't just for business.  

Are you thinking about: 

  • Outsourcing housekeeping or lawn mowing services? 
  • Hiring a tutor for your child?
  • Bringing on a new team member?
  • Hiring a VA (virtual assistant)?
  • Outsourcing functions for your business?
  • etc 

Well then, this blog post is for you!

What is Outsourcing?  Simply, outsourcing is transferring work from one organization to another.  

I learned a critical outsourcing guiding principle during my PhD work in organization behavior:  

Every Separation Requires Integration.  

Once you give away work (separation), you need to integrate that work back into the flow.

Throwing disorganized work over the wall and expecting quality returns doesn't work.

In this article, I describe my STOPS Framework for Outsourcing ™, built from my experiences as a consultant helping organizations outsource functions, as well as my experiences as an entrepreneur using outsource entities.

I love the extra time and lifestyle that come with effective outsource arrangements.   

Built on hits and misses in my journey, the STOPS Framework for Outsourcing ™ can help you get what you want from your new outsourcing arrangement.

Let's begin with my Outsourcing Disaster Story.

I just landed in my hometown after a week on the road.  Walking down the people mover at the airport, my phone rings.  I look down and I see the name of the Global Lead for my practice.  A few skip levels above my pay grade.  

"Hey Patrick, it's David."

Stumbling off the people mover, I step into a quiet place to talk.

"What's up?"

"On Monday morning, I need you to fly to City X.  We're outsourcing a Sales Support function and the client is extremely unhappy.  Things look bad.  I need you to bail us out of a bad spot."

I push back, saying I have a lot going on and difficult to re-arrange my schedule.

Not an option.

I hang up and call my executive assistant to make the arrangements.  

As I walk towards my car, I smile.  David feels confident in my ability to bail out a tough project.  Fabulous!  10 minutes pass and a dark cloud drifts in.  Bailing an engagement out of a tough situation NEVER results in a favorable performance review.  At the end you have an unhappy client who you just convinced not to take legal action.  

Great.  Just great.  

To make this long story short, I LOVED that project.  Yes, I still got a bad performance rating.  Not for my effort or my results, but in the end the whole consulting management team was evaluated poorly.

I DID bail us out of a tough spot.  Mission accomplished.

Here are the basics.

The client was outsourcing Sales Support functions to our organization.  The client's now extremely demotivated Sales Support organization drafted a HUGE 1700-page document which purportedly included ALL their knowledge of 20+ years of sales support experience.  

Obviously, they had no incentive to make the outsource team look good.  

They handed that 1700-page document over to the outsource team and said, "have at it."  The outsource team was doomed to fail.  Imagine getting a 1700-page manual and then one week later answering inbound customer calls to handle complaints, changing information in many different systems, providing price inquiries (from anywhere in the world) or answering ANY ambiguous questions customers might ask.  

While on the phone with customers, there they were, paging through 1700 pages to find answers.  Response times doubled, tripled and more.  Customer complaints soared.  Our client was NOT happy.  

The client outsourced a mess and got back ….  a worse mess.

The fix took a couple months, but we got there.  

We got the client team working more harmoniously with the outsource team.  We taught the outsource team how to search the 1700-page manual effectively.  Client service improved and satisfaction ratings rose.

Whew!  Bullet dodged!  

I captured my biggest outsourcing lessons in the STOPS Framework for Outsourcing ™.

STOPS stands for:

  • Scope
  • Tools
  • Objectives
  • Process
  • Service 

STOPS is NOT the order I recommend for implementing the framework, but O-S-P-T-S doesn't sound like anything, so I re-arranged the letters and went with STOPS.

NOTE:  Do you know where the term, 'pulling out the stops' comes from?  In the mid 1800's, organ players pulled out the stops of ALL the organ chambers to allow air to flow through all chambers and provide a full range of sound.  'Pulling out the Stops' changed to mean … do everything possible to make something happen the way you want it to happen.

When YOU pull out the STOPS with Outsourcing, your business flows better, your team flows better and YOU flow better.

Here's an introduction to the STOPS Framework for Outsourcing ™ in the recommended order of implementation.  This overview gives high performers a jumpstart to more effective Outsourcing.  

Objectives.  Draft air-tight objectives for what you want to achieve by outsourcing.  Typically, you outsource to fill either a Capacity Gap or a Competency Gap.  Capacity Gaps include routine tasks you know how to do, but you want to re-allocate time for more valuable tasks.  Outsourcing gives you more capacity.  Competency Gaps include tasks you do NOT have the competency to accomplish with requisite quality.  Outsourcing reduces risk and increases quality.  What are you trying to accomplish by outsourcing?  More time?  Lower risk?  Better lifestyle?  

Scope.  Clearly define the scope of activities to outsource.  Listing what the outsource entity DOES is half of scope definition.  Defining what YOU DO is the other half.  I see so many executives pile up mounds of ambiguous tasks to outsource.  Then, the outsource entity spends their time and YOUR money defining scope by trial and error.  

Process.  Define a comprehensive step-by-step process, including activities and timelines.  Focus on tangible 'things' that flow.  What documents get passed back and forth?  What checkpoints are included?  When do quality reviews happen?  Including what YOU do and what THEY do goes a long way in defining your relationship with the outsourced entity.

Tools.  Provide the exact right tools needed to do work effectively and efficiently.  What collaboration tools will you use to communicate.  Emails is not the best collaboration tool for tracking expectations, commitments or consequences.  Do they need access to systems?  Passwords?  Do you need to buy software packages for them?  What templates will you use to define and regulate the work?

Service.  Pristinely define service requirements for you and the outsourced entity.  Executives and entrepreneurs LOVE to jump to requirements first.  Sounds like this:  "The outsourcer needs to get everything done on time, with zero mistakes and minimal direction from me."  See how this can go wrong? 
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is simply a description of a relationship between two parties.  High Trust = fewer pages in the SLA.  Low Trust = more pages because expectations, commitments and consequences for BOTH sides are spelled out in detail.  Include Metrics and Milestones which define requirements for quality and speed. 

I opened this article with one of the three key guiding principles for effective outsourcing:  

  • Every separation requires integration.  When you separate work, build bridges.  Well drafted Service Level Agreements (SLAs) help you do exactly that.

Here are two more guiding principles:

  • Outsource Internally First.  Outsourcing a mess just creates MORE mess, months of heartache and money down the drain.  Consider setting up an internal service of what you intend to outsource.  Apply the STOPS Framework for Outsourcing ™ internally now so you can outsource confidently and effectively later.


  • Crawl, Walk, Run.  Don't outsource EVERYTHING at once.  Start small.  Crawl.  Give a few pieces.  Expand and start walking.  Pile more on and RUN!  Build confidence and trust in the relationship.  GROW with CONFIDENCE!

Outsourcing works great if you do it consciously and patiently.  The STOPS Framework for Outsourcing ™ can provide a solid foundation to help you avoid an Outsourcing Disaster.

Pull Out the STOPS, FLOW and GROW!


Thank you for Subscribing to our Weekly Broadcast