So, you’ve made the decision to outsource a department or function of your charter school. You’ve researched the competitors, finished a bid process, and signed a contract. Now, reality sets in. You have to give up that portion of your school activities to the provider. This is easier said than done because it requires both a change in your processes and a change in your attitude. Change is always difficult. It’s even more difficult when you have to trust activities to an outside agency. It may feel uncomfortable or even risky.
Here are some tips to adjust to the change.
First, change your mind about the way that you’ve been doing things. Especially if you or your staff are resistant to change, prepare to change your mind about what has to be done and how things have to be done. It’s very likely that the company that you hire will not do things the way you are used to having them done. The process will be different, paperwork and reports will likely look slightly different, and even the results may be slightly different.
Make up your mind and help your staff understand that things may not happen the way that they are used to. Some people will worry about giving up control. If someone on staff used to perform these functions, he or she may be concerned about losing a job or perhaps feel not as busy. You may feel as if you have less to supervise. The good news is that you can use that additional time to think of ways to focus on your teachers and students.
You also need to rely on the outsourcing company for help. Depending on which functions you are outsourcing, the company should be able to walk you through the new processes. Your internal processes will need to change as well. In some cases, it may simply be eliminating internal procedures and making information available to the outsourcing company. In others, you may have to perform some processes prior to the outsourcing company taking on the tasks. Find out what is required. Companies will often be able to tell you how they work with other clients. Often the outsourcing company will have written procedures for you.
Also, the company likely has suggestions for your school’s internal processes. Most companies have worked with enough clients to have seen what works on the client end and what doesn’t. Ask them for suggestions.
Once you’ve begun to make the internal change, you need to let the outsourcing company do its job. You don’t go to a restaurant and go tell the chef how to cook. Perhaps a better example is that you don’t go to the restaurant and order an entrée, but then prepare your own appetizer and dessert. It’s almost certain that the company you are outsourcing to knows how to do the tasks better than you do. Their personnel are going to be more efficient and more knowledgeable. In a case in which you are outsourcing simply to gain efficiency or extra capacity, and in which you know the tasks well, you should still allow them to do things their way. If you have suggestions, most companies will listen, but it’s their model and that’s why you’ve contracted with them.
This is part of the giving up process. It’s often more difficult than you would think. If you are used to performing tasks internally, all of a sudden it’s like throwing a bunch of paperwork or information into a magic black box. Many people want to peek inside the box. It’s ok to peek, but it’s not ok to try to manipulate the box. The outsourcing company is the magic. Just enjoy the magic.
To enjoy the magic, you have to make sure that your expectations are clear. This should be done prior to the contract, but communication is important throughout the contract period. Depending on the complexity of the services, your needs may change. The outsourcing company may change its staffing or procedures. If some of those affect you, the company needs to know. Most outsourcing companies work because they are efficient, but that doesn’t mean that they always know what you are thinking.
It is especially important to let an outsourcing company know right away if you are not getting what you think you are paying for. There is nothing worse for a vendor to be doing what they always do for clients and then find out it isn’t what you wanted, especially if it’s three to six months into the contract. Depending on the size of the outsourcing company, they may not have someone that checks in on you to see how things are going.
In order for the transition to be really successful, you have to buy in to the programs and processes of the outsourcing company. Hopefully, you would have made that decision prior to signing the contract. Once you are up and running, it’s important to fully acknowledge that within your school. Change your processes, let internal personnel know that it’s OK to let go and that you still value them. Most of all give it up and enjoy the fact that someone else has to do that work so that you can focus on your students.