The Chief Executive of security firm G4S, Nick Buckles, has agreed with a parliamentary assessment of his efforts to supply security guards for the London Olympic games as a ‘humiliating shambles’. Buckles was being questioned today by a group of British politicians asking why G4S has failed to supply guards when this is their speciality.
Buckles confessed that he wished he had not taken on the contract and that it was probably going to cost his company around £50m to hire the police, army, and other additional security resources to ensure the safety of Olympic spectators.
It is too soon to know what went wrong – even the politicians admitted that they do not want to start digging too deep into the problem with just over a week until the games begin. The focus now is on getting the guards in place – from whatever source – and then analysing the failures after the games are completed.
This is not intended as a critique of G4S – they are working in a different market to Teleperformance and we don’t compete, but many in the media are turning their attention to “outsourcing” as the villain in this affair – and that is a dangerous place for the government and private sector to be heading.
Mistakes happen in every company – all the time. Look in the Companies section of the Financial Times today and in amongst the financial results you will also find errors, scandals, and issues that should never have happened.
These incidents are flushed into the public a lot faster when a high profile client – such as the Olympic Delivery Authority – is involved, but there are always fire storms raging in household names that are sometimes doused and sometimes also end up in the public domain – look at the recent LIBOR scandal for another good example of something that should never have happened.
But to blame outsourcing as a business strategy is erroneous. Outsourcing simply offers one company to buy in the expertise of another in a way that makes the supplier more of a partner in delivery – not just a supplier of widgets. When you supply expertise to a company that needs those skills then the deal usually requires a great deal of trust. At TP UK we have hired around 2,500 people in the past year alone so we know about finding good people in Britain we can trust to deliver.
G4S were hired because they know a lot more about security than the staff working for the Olympic Delivery Authority. It’s true, they failed to deliver as expected, but one contract failure does not mean outsourcing as a strategy is flawed. To draw that conclusion is simplistic, lazy, and plain wrong.
Photo by Jamie Sneddon licensed under Creative Commons