Why pave the cow path while outsourcing?


    An outsourced broken process is still a broken process! Outsourcing provides a golden opportunity to rationalize processes before outsourcing them. In fact, in many cases, outsourcing forces documenting the latest version of a process for the first time! The outsourcing service provider does this on behalf the buyer due to contractual and legal reasons.


    This provides a great opportunity to apply Lean Six Sigma to rationalize and formalize the process rather than just throwing it over the wall to an outsourcing service provider and measuring them with obsolete and broken measures. Elimination of waste, measurement and maintenance of key performance indicators under statistical process control are the underpinnings of Lean Six Sigma. Documentation of any process makes all the process steps explicit. Making them explicit provides an opportunity to ask the question “why do we do it this way?”


    You may be surprised that many of the answers may be “I am not sure. That’s how we have always done it!”


    Governmental regulations or legal reasons may have mandated some process steps. However changes in regulations and laws, hardly send people in companies scurrying off in a hurry to review every process. Revisiting processes with an eye to questioning the reason for every effort that is expended on it may reveal a lot of waste.


    As the famed management guru C.K.Prahlad calls it, these are “paving the cow path” examples. When cows meander through fields while grazing, they hardly take a straight path. Over time, these meandering cow paths are assumed to be the shortest and best ways of reaching a destination.


    Why pave the same cow path while outsourcing?


    Loss of productivity caused by automation is typical when practices are not changed; when systems "were created to pave a cow path rather than straighten it."
    — D. Wessel, "Service Industries Find Computers Don’t Always Raise Productivity,"
    The Wall Street Journal, April 19, 1988, p.37.


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