As Tom Devane sees it, businesses today, like Hamlet, face an existential question: To offshore or not to offshore. "For most of today's manufacturers and knowledge service providers, that's a perplexing question indeed," says the author of Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High-Performance Organization. Leading the Charge Toward Dramatic, Rapid, and Sustainable Improvement, which was published this year by Pfeiffer/A Wiley Imprint.
Devane, founder of an eponymous consulting firm, believes offshoring is the most economically viable alternative for some business situations, like call centers. But he believes too many businesses are offshoring in a "knee-jerk fashion." He says some of them "are discovering the hard way" that a business process must be in "tip-top shape" before it can work smoothly overseas. "The irony is this: if a company changes the process so locals can executive it well prior to moving it overseas, the company may find it doesn't need to offshore at all," he says.
Just how can companies do this? Devane recommends combining the best parts of three powerful improvement disciplines:
- Lean manufacturing. This process attempts to eliminate waste, streamline the process, then speed it up. The process listens to customers' voices using a technique called Critique to Quality (CTQ.)
- Six Sigma. This technique uses rigorous mathematical tools to eliminate variation.
- High-performance organizations. The theory here is to radically shift how companies organize workers. High-performance organizations assemble employees in cross-functional teams instead of work-oriented silos.
Devane says sustainable results and less top management time required for implementing new improvement programs are two hallmarks of this approach.