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Is there a Best Practice way of doing business? And what is the role of ‘standards’?

May 17, 2012

This posting comes from Paul Mallory, IACCM’s Vice President for Europe & Africa.

A working group of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is currently drafting an ISO guidance standard on outsourcing, and IACCM is acting as an external liaison to this group.  I have spent the past two days in Paris with the group, where some fascinating debates have been taking place around what does best practice in outsourcing look like.

We are all familiar with the common stories of outsourcing deals that go wrong, and are terminated early. The statistics suggest that far too many such deals fail to deliver on executive expectations. The causes are undoubtedly many and varied, though some common patterns can be found. One example would be that some external market change meant that the deal entered into was no longer as viable as expected at the outset, and now failed to meet the original business case.

These discussions raise the interesting question of whether such a thing as best practice exists, and if so who will define ‘the standard’ and how can we have confidence in it? Listening to the many and varied experiences of the working group members in the room, from a variety of industries, countries and cultures, I was stuck not only by how it is possible to reach consensus on what a best practice is, but also on how much value is available through the diversity of views. If we’re prepared to share views, listen, compare with our own experience, and then be open to trying a new/different approach, we can identify areas for improvement in our current approaches. By comparing our performance and working standards to an external benchmark view, we are able to identify ideas to raise our game.

The working group is a great example of collaborative learning. All members of the group are learning, by recognising that we share a common issue (outsourcing deals that fail to deliver), sharing a common objective (better outsourcing deals and management of them), and being willing to both contribute our views and to listen respectfully to those of others, with a willingness to be open to new possibilities, solutions, directions.

This work will result in a guidance standard from ISO which everybody will be able to access and share the learning.

What group could you pull together today to work on a common issue and develop a better answer, raising the standard of performance for all concerned?

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