Do you remember the word “mankind”? personally I am a supporter of using the gender neutral “humankind” and can see how, regardless of my underlying motivation, using a different word can have a significant impact on the reader. Let’s be clear though, a word change doesn’t automatically result in a change of heart/attitude/ language. But it should always act as a helpful encouragement to not give up pursuing the substantive issue. Here are some thoughts on how another word has developed and is now looking for a change.

With a career that began back in the 1980’s, I have had the opportunity to start/stop/change course on numerous occasions.  and here I find myself for the first time, quite a few agreements/deals & successes/failures later, taking time to pause & reflect. Bearing in mind some of the experiences I have been through, I think that it is long overdue. At times I am, at best, confused about our expectations and at other times I am simply not aligned to the outdated and tired set of expectations you insist on enforcing.

But let’s go back to where it all began. One man’s classification of a new breed of businesses that exist to deliver certain elements of another business’s activities or functions.  It was him who coined the name that gave me life; a label that has survived across 4 decades and has found its way into that ubiquitous status of being liberally deployed as noun, adjective, verb & adverb to name but 4 variations:

outsourcing: my official job title

According to Wikipedia, this is how my name is interpreted, how I am seen today; this is how businesses throughout the world engage with me:

Outsourcing (not to be confused with offshoring) is “an agreement in which one company hires another company to be responsible for an existing internal activity”. It often involves the contracting of a business process (e.g., payroll processing, claims processing), operational, & / or non-core functions, such as manufacturing, facility management, call center support). the term “outsourcing” came from “outside resourcing” & dates back to at least 1981. outsourcing sometimes involves transferring employees & assets from one firm to another. outsourcing is also the practice of handing over control of public services to private enterprise.

The focus is exclusively on the start of the process; the point of engagement between outsourcer & service provider. There is no reference to the subsequent journey or the ultimate intent for one organisation to be engaged in the act of delivering services for the other.

There is further definition to turn to if I break myself down into my constituent parts (thanks to


  1. moving or appearing to move away from a particular place, especially one that is enclosed or hidden.
  2. situated far or at a particular distance from somewhere.
  3. away from home.
  4. so as to be revealed or known.
  5. at or to an end.
  6. (of a light or fire) so as to be extinguished or no longer burning.
  7. no longer involved in a situation, competition, or activity.
  8. (of a jury) considering its verdict in secrecy.


Obtain from a particular source.

So how does this help with my current reflections? It’s very true that some form of agreement is necessary at the outset of us knowing each other. I realise that I am not inside your organisation. Sometimes I may appear like I prefer to stay hidden and unknown. I obviously am involved in some purpose or intention. But I have no intention ever to be extinguished or see my fire go out. I recognise that a selection has to be made at the outset but I don’t simply end on the back of that exercise.

Maybe I was simply given the wrong name, or perhaps I have just grown up and grown out of that original identity; but there is no doubt that I have allowed this situation to persist for far too long fostering confusion & unhelpful stereotypes to be developed. Yet I am totally clear on what and who I want to be and it is so much more than that:

  • I want to be closely aligned to you and your business;
  • I want to be completely visible & transparent so that there is no part of the end-to-end journey for your customers, employees or any other stakeholders that becomes fractured or disjointed through my involvement;
  • I only want to be involved in delivering things that matter to your business & where my experience & capabilities allow me to help – “non-core” seems like an unhelpful concept;
  • And, perhaps most importantly, I am actually interested in what happens during the whole life of our relationship, not just about how the journey starts……

So I think that it is time I changed how people see me and interpret my intentions. It is time that I change my name to reinforce that I am someone else.


  1. either of a pair of people engaged together in the same activity.
  2. either member of a married couple or of an established unmarried couple.
  3. a person with whom one has sex; a lover.

I don’t object to the idea of being intimate but perhaps this takes things a little too far…….. though if I read beneath the surface I find the following:

1.1. a person or group that takes part with another or others in doing something. ‘he began to call potential coalition partners about forming a new government’
1.2. any of a number of individuals with interests & investments in a business or enterprise, among whom expenses, profits, & losses are shared. ‘a partner in a prosperous legal practice’

I can live with a label that indicates I want to work with you closely, to be aligned, to have a common interest and shared obligations/liabilities. Most importantly it refers to our entire relationship: start; middle; & end. From today going forward I will no longer be “outsourcing/outsource”. I wish to be called:

“partnering / partner”

There, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Hang on a minute……..of course change doesn’t happen overnight; but it has to start somewhere. So things may not change completely, or even in part, today, or tomorrow, but the journey towards a place of true partnership and being authentically aligned can start right here. New language alone is not enough. My actions & behaviours are the real root of how to make changes in the way that we engage. My new name will, however, be a helpful reminder.

And what about you? Are you looking for a different type of engagement? Why not try partnership on for size? But don’t forget that a true partnership only occurs when two parties choose to partner with each other…… who is going to make the first move………..?

Throughout his career Tim Sunley has built a reputation around organisational design & development; partnership sourcing/delivery and strategic transformations. Prior to setting up his consulting business in the UK (Sunley Associates) he held a number of positions in the public & private sectors where he designed, built and led customer service operations both through internal teams & outsource partnerships. Through this he gained extensive experience of the business process services industry, largely from the client side, though during his time consulting, he has been more closely involved with bps supplier engagements. he has also built a wealth of knowledge & experience of South Africa as an international delivery destination.

Strategy is close to Tim’s heart and he believes passionately that in any organisation or scenario it is important to clearly understand the complete story, “the big picture” – and this includes looking at the customer’s journey end-to-end and developing solutions from that perspective. Tim also views the ultimate reward as seeing individuals achieve their full potential and counts it a privilege to help equip and enable them on their journey.

Tim’s contact details are as follows:

+27 72 974 2979