About Me

This blog carries a series of posts and articles, mostly written by Anthony Fitzsimmons under the aegis of Reputability LLP, a business that is no longer trading as such. Anthony is a thought leader in reputational risk and its root causes, behavioural, organisational and leadership risk. His book 'Rethinking Reputational Risk' was widely acclaimed. Led by Anthony, Reputability helped business leaders to find, understand and deal with these widespread but hidden risks that regularly cause reputational disasters. You can contact Anthony via anthony.fitzsimmons At cranfield dot ac dot uk

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Outsourcing the BBC's reputation?

The BBC is in deep water again.

On 2 November, a flagship news programme 'Newsnight' carried allegations that an unnamed "leading Conservative" was a paedophile.  A media frenzy identified the alleged perpetrator.  On 9 November, his accuser, apparently shown the alleged perpetrator's photograph for the first time, sorrowfully announced that this was not the right man.  Result: an abject apology by Newsnight and discussion whether the BBC's Director General's head should roll.  In true BBC style these included an interview with the BBC's Director General on 'Today', BBC radio's flagship news programme.

The BBC is still reeling from a second recent 'Newsnight' scandal, in which another paedophile investigation, into the former BBC star Jimmy Saville was canned - only for its commercial rival ITV to broadcast the allegations. As I wrote here, many of the issues are shared with the Jimmy Saville episode, but a new one has emerged.

It seems that the latest Newsnight debacle emerged from a "collaboration" with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. To what extent, and why, the BBC outsourced or subcontracted its investigation to outsiders is not yet known.

One of the many lessons of lessons of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the UK rail crashes of 2000 and 2002 is that outsourcing and sub-contracting are more risky than leaders recognise.

There is little doubt that outsourcing can save money.  But particularly if it involves 'core' operations, outsourcing often saves money now at the cost of increasing risk for the future.

This is not only risk of those core operations causing harm to the outside world.  Outsourcing puts the risk of causing severe reputational damage to the company into the hands of its sub-contractors and outsourcers. But particularly where core operations are concerned, the public never allows an organisation to outsource its responsibility if things go wrong.

This trade-off is often overlooked and too infrequently discussed by leaders under pressure to 'save money now'.

Outsourcing is fashionable and can save money.  But poorly managed it can led to short term gain at the cost of long term pain.  The  wise prefer short term pain for long term gain.

Anthony Fitzsimmons

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