Pestilence, War, Famine and Death . . . the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Benchmarking, Outsourcing, Shared Services and Command and Control Thinking are the four horsemen of the business apocalypse.

Let’s begin with a brief overview of benchmarking (pestilence).  This is comparing one organization against another.  This violates a fundamental premise of systems thinking . . . that systems are the same, they are not.  Foolishly, organizations compare costs and performance against competitors or other “similar” organizations.  This usually leads to copying when systems (organizations) are designed differently by customers, technology, work design, policies, management, workers, etc.  W. Edwards Deming first warned us that “copying invites disaster” because of the difference of systems.  Also, benchmarking can be limiting by using a standard, why can’t we shoot for something better?  Like perfection, continually improving our products and services.  For more reasons please read “Benchmarking: What is it Good For?” from this link.

Outsourcing (war) has its own systems thinking problems.  Other than the pure cost, the most blatant is the outsourcing of waste (call centers).  Service organizations consistently outsource their failure demand (problem calls, follow-up calls, etc.) to other locations and countries.  Not to much of a concern other than the fact this number represents between 25% and 75% of all call center contacts.  The outsourcing separates the people that need to work together as a system to fix the problem.  Please read Think First: Call Center Outsourcing and/or 3 Things to Consider before Outsourcing.

A shared services strategy (famine) has become a favorite of both the public and private sectors.  The assumption is combining call centers, HR, finance departments, etc. will save costs when we find it usually increases them.  Service organizations become so enamored with the savings they forget the system, pushing things together like two puzzle pieces that don’t fit.  All the while after the “savings” from economies of scale and forgetting that costs are driven from economies of flow.  The information technology that enables shared services actually entraps the waste created by it.  Please read more Failure through Shared Services and/or Government Shared Services- A Recipe for Disaster.

Finally, we have command and control thinking (death).  The horseman that has been slowly deteriorating our economics since a better way was discovered by Deming, Ohno and Seddon.  This thinking involves the use of scientific management theory born from Frederick Taylor in the late 1800s a breakthrough in its time . . . now a Dodo bird.  Except the Dodo bird is extinct and command and control thinking lives on.  For more please read Command and Control Assumptions Challenged and/or 5 Fundamental Thinking Problems in the Service Sector.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse are upon us . . . economically speaking.  They promise lower costs for numbers that we can see on financials, but not the ones that matter . . . total costs.  There is a better way . . . systems thinking provides improved service and lower costs with better thinking. 

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control thinking and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking.  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at