Mercenary, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. One who serves or works merely for monetary gain; a hireling.”
Using this definition, and forgetting the military connotations of the word (warrior for hire). The term mercenaries can be used to describe outsourcing suppliers and organizations.
Our outsourcing mercenaries are individuals or organizations that are motivated solely by monetary gain and do not share our organizations philosophies, ideals and interests.
We are hiring mercenaries to manufacture our goods, “do the dirty work”, buy time and help us compete better (and win) against the competition.
Are we weighing the long term risks of this outsourcing strategy?
Beyond the current short term cost benefits, have we identified the long-term strategic and control risks to our organizations by embracing outsourcing?
There are inherent dangers and advantages to using mercenaries. What can history tell us of mercenaries and the long term results of depending upon them?
Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince (a book about the strategy of power and control), wrote that mercenaries were not loyal, dangerous and even useless: “He who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay.”
The decline of the Roman Empire has been linked to the use and dependence upon mercenaries. The failure to control them, and their infiltration into positions of command and control inside the government.
- Historically tend to overthrow the power or control they do not like.
- Adopt strategies to protect themselves from danger and risk.
- If talented, will seek to increase their power, and if incompetent will ruin their employer.
- Have no loyalty to the employers ideals, goals or objectives.
- Are marked by their materialism.
- Create their own agendas and goals
- Their first priority is to themselves and self preservation.
Using (outsourcing) mercenaries can be positive when:
- There is total control and agreement regarding training, quality, standards, and continual improvement.
- The competition has access to equal or reduced resources in order to hire mercenaries.
- There are clear short term objectives and goals, at which point the contract is finished and/or renegotiated.
- There is clear recognition that their intervention is specialized, unique and required to create an advantage for swift campaigns or to solve specific problems.
Mercenaries and outsourcing become a risk or hazard to your organization when:
- Mercenaries reach a level of importance and power, where their absence will provoke or contribute directly to your failure.
- They understand your entire process or have access to your “secrets”.
- When the competition can pay more for their services than you can.
- Objectives are not clear, and contracts are not specific.
- Quality standards fall, or the organization accepts below standard levels of work or products.
- Mercenaries are relied upon to provide long term stability or to reach long term goals for your organization.
- You forget that mercenaries respond to power and money, and not on providing quality “soldiering”.
- You believe that by hiring mercenaries you have eliminated risk from your operations.
What risk factors and changes occur in our organization when we relinquish control over the entire process by using outsourcing mercenaries?
What happens when our outsourcing “partner” says no or begins to work for the competion?
Are we outsourcing because everyone else is, or are there fundamental long term strategic and economic reasons that support the decision?