Every single bad thing in the world is the direct fault of outsourcing*

(*and I attempt to prove it using a logical fallacy and with reference to the Darwin Awards)


“Outsourced bin collections leading to rise in upheld complaints”

This was the headline in a recent article on localgov.co.uk, which is the web presence of the Municipal Journal, one of the two industry rags normally found in the waiting area outside the door of Town Hall CEO’s offices.  It referred to a recent report by the local government ombudsman (LGO) analysing the root cause of complaints that it had received in relation to waste collection.

The article underneath repeated the accusation in its initial paragraph although the rest of the article seemed to infer that the responsibility for problems with outsourced services (and making sure they are fixed when they go wrong) still lay with the Council.  Nevertheless if you don’t outsource you don’t have a client function – so if it is ineffective then that must be the fault of outsourcing the service!

Let’s turn to the LGO website for the real message – but wait!   The very clear headline on the page linking to the report says:

“Outsourcing at the root of too many upheld bin collection complaints”

Well I assume the notion of causation is something that I would imagine is a key part of journalist/sub-editor/PR person training so my guess is that all involved were pretty confident in the headline.  Outsourcing the bins must be the direct cause of the rise in upheld complaints by the public…

Maybe they have a point.  Let’s see if we can prove the logic.  To do this I am going to use the technique called ‘proof by example’ which is a logical fallacy, but we won’t let that stop us.

Consider the Darwin Awards.  These are annual awards given to people that have killed themselves in pretty dumb ways. The winners contribute to the human gene pool by removing themselves from it – as the organisers describe it.  If I can show that the 2017 ‘winners’ were actually regrettable by-products of outsourcing then by inference every unfortunate event involving less stupid people has a similar villain and we have our proof.

#1:  Burglar climbs onto roof, removes tiles to break into a chemists.  Falls, gets tangled up in and then is asphyxiated by his own clothing.  Found weeks later.

My conclusion:  Clearly if he had tried to break into an (in-house) hospital dispensary instead of this privately run chemist he would have been faced with a flat roof typical of NHS buildings.  Less hazard, probably would have survived.

That was easy.

#2 Two young women watching horse racing meeting held on land next to an airport in Mexico find ideal vantage points on top of vehicle roof parked on adjacent runway.  Whilst taking selfies, a plane lands killing both of them instantly.

My conclusion.  Sport of kings or not this is excessive commercialisation of surplus public sector land and completely to blame for the ladies’ unfortunate loss in height.

#3  Men provoke elephants in Zimbabwe, elephants charge, men run, slowest bloke gets flattened.

My conclusion.  I can only presume the pachyderm emergency hotline was short-staffed due to cuts made by the outsourced service provider.

#4  French guy locked in his room by his mother.  Decides to escape via Ethernet cabling which goes out of the window of the apartment.  On the 9th floor.  Man is too heavy for cable.  Downloads 9 stories faster than a kindle.

My conclusion:  In-house service would have tested whether computer cabling can take the weight of a fully grown adult male.  More private sector penny pinching, clearly.

#5  German man determined to rob ticket machine at train station, by spraying several aerosol cans into the machine then lighting it, presumably with the intent that the machine explodes.  Machine does explode.  He ends up with one-way ticket to the afterlife.

Here we go…..since the trains were privatised – oh they aren’t in Germany….er well in that case it will be something to do with the outsourcing of aerosol production.

Hmm that last one nearly had me – but my proof is done. QED!

I did mention that proof by example was a logical fallacy though.  This means there might just be another cause or causes of all the failures described above.  Human error could be one I guess.  Stupidity, mistakes, wrong decision-making, insufficient skills, incentivising the wrong behaviours.

And if that is the case for Darwin Awards winners, then perhaps headlines implying service complaints are on the rise with the single act of outsourcing “at the root” of the problem are misleading as well…

It is important to go to market for an outsourced service armed with a robust and effective contract.  But it is equally important to staff the client side with good people, who can solve issues quickly and hold the operator to account – just like managing an in-house delivery team in fact.  This is what the LGO’s report was saying, but its own PR people came up with a lazy headline and then this was copied by the press.

If you want help to create an effective outsourced relationship, get one back on the right track, or extricate yourself from one that your team can’t deal with anymore, then speak to me.

For more information

Get in touch

If you would like more information please call or email us

07768 554527 enquiries@newnetworks.co.uk