Five Rules For Dealing With A Toxic Workmate

There are five key things you should do that will make life a lot easier when you work for, or with, a toxic person…

Toxic People exist in almost every workplace.  You are much more likely to encounter one than not and the further you progress towards the top of your organisation, the more likely it is that you will be working alongside, or for, one.

They aren’t toxic in the radioactive, life endangering sense, rather they are toxic in the career limiting sense – specifically your career. They delight in finding minor fractures in the social structure of your workplace, driving enormous wedges into them and sitting back to watch the fireworks.  They enjoy bullying those they manage and emotionally tormenting those they work with. They will lie constantly but somehow no mud ever sticks to them while those all around them fall on their swords.

A workplace containing a toxic person will be riddled with distrust and fear.  Productivity will be at rock bottom and staff turnover will be through the roof.  They care nothing for the good of the organisation or anybody in it.  Their only motivation is cheap thrills and personal gain at all costs.

When you find yourself in such a workplace, there are things you should do and there are things you should definitely not do. A 2016 study of Australian workplaces plagued by what the researchers called ‘toxic leaders’ found that the following strategies were not a good idea. This was because they resulted in prolonging stress and fear of the leader:

  • Confronting them
  • Avoiding, ignoring or bypassing them
  • Whistleblowing
  • Ruminating on the wrongs done and reliving the feelings of anger and frustration
  • Focusing on work
  • Taking sick leave (as it provided short-term relief only).

Instead, you must leave your passion for your job at home. You must become a well-mannered, honest, polite, compliant, precise employee who does whatever they are told no matter how pointless. Here are five things you should do that will make life a lot easier when you work for, or with, a toxic person.

Rule 1 – Accept reality

The most important rule is acceptance.  You must accept that you are working with a toxic person with psychopathic tendencies. They are not wired the same as you and regard you as a tool for achieving their aims in much the same way that you might regard a photocopier.  They don’t care about you at all and nothing you do or say will change that.  Every time you try to interpret their behaviour using rules which would apply to you or any other normal person, you will be confused, dismayed and potentially targeted. Do not under any circumstances suffer under the misapprehension that you have changed, or can change, anything about the way they behave.  Your options are survival and find somewhere else to work (or hope they do).

Rule 2 – Be businesslike and polite

Before you open your mouth in the presence of the toxic workmate, always ask yourself ‘Am I being polite and professional?’. Do your best to avoid unnecessary contact. This does not mean give them the cold shoulder. It just means you don’t drop by their office for a chat. Whenever you speak to them, do it within the confines of your role and for an explicit purpose.

Rule 3 – Maintain privacy

A toxic workmate will pump you for information they can use against you and others. You can defend against this by not disclosing anything to them and making sure you understand the privacy settings on your social media. Do not discuss anything that is not entirely business related.

Rule 4 – Be honest

Always be honest even when it is against your interests. They will offer you an opportunity to fudge a bit. They might allow you to claim more expenses than you are otherwise entitled to. They may ignore you pilfering from the firm. They may allow you to take credit for something you did not do. No matter how much they make it seem like you’re all in this together, make no mistake, they are gathering dirt on you and they will use both that dirt and the weakness you displayed to manipulate you in the future. Learn to say no – and mean it – when anything slightly dodgy is being proposed. Otherwise they will use your weaknesses of character against you.

Rule 5 – Be prepared

Document every verbal request they make and seek clarity on every instruction. If you are asked verbally to do something immediately follow up the request with a confirmation by email. Retain a copy of the email in printed form. If you are not sure exactly what you are required to do, seek written clarification. If you don’t get it, send a follow-up email saying you didn’t get it, and how you interpret the task. Voluntarily provide regular written updates on your progress. In other words, behave as a competent but compliant slave that documents everything publicly.

In short, you must become an emotionless machine (while at work) if you plan to stay in that workplace. Accept reality and remove all emotional responses from the way you interact with that person. Do everything they ask of you and ensure you document everything. Don’t take anything personally and make sure you have a good support network outside the workplace. Work will become a place you go to perform mindlessly (while you look for another job), but as long as you don’t become vested in that complete waste of your time and talents, it won’t kill you.

3 Ways We WISH We Could Deal With Serial Mavericks

(Satire alert!) Does out-of-control maverick spend in your organisation give you high blood-pressure and/or violent thoughts? Check out these suggestions for cruel and unusual ways to deal with your mavericks!

They really knew how to send a message in medieval England.

After being found guilty of treason in the summer of 1305, William Wallace was dragged through London at the heels of a horse, hung, drawn (eviscerated) and quartered, with each of his four limbs sent to trouble-spots throughout the kingdom as a warning to others.

One hundred and twenty years later, Pope Martin V was so infuriated by the teachings of John Wycliffe (who translated the New Testament into English) that he declared him a heretic. Wycliffe had died of natural causes 44 years earlier, but the message still had to be sent – so Wycliffe’s bones were exhumed, crushed, burned and scattered into the River Swift.

Highly effective PR, right? The extreme brutality of these acts was motivated not so much by a desire to punish the offenders as horribly as possible, but as a way to discourage others from going down the same path.

For the 21st-century procurement professional, maverick spend is one of those issues that can lead to us having (secret) violent thoughts in the office. How many times have you confronted a serial maverick and been offered these weak excuses:

  • “Oh, sorry – I didn’t know!”
  • “But I have a really good relationship with this other supplier…?”
  • “I found a better deal.”
  • “I always use this website to book my travel!”

Infuriating. Maverick purchasing cuts profits, impacts contract fulfillment, damages supplier relationships and can mean no legal protection outside of contracts.

So, it being a Monday, let’s indulge in a bit of fantasy about some effective ways that procurement could deal with mavericks in their organisations.

To begin our list of cruel and unusual punishments…

1. The Maverick Leader Board

Name and shame! What if every procurement function had a Top Gear-style leader board on prominent display, listing your organisations’ worst mavericks? You could make a real spectacle out of it whenever it’s time to add a new maverick to the board (lights, music…), and even call them over to receive a prize!

  • Pros: People will work hard to ensure they get their name off your leader board asap.
  • Cons: With maverick spend as high as 80% in some categories, you’re gonna need a BIG board.

 2. The Scarlet Letter

American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece The Scarlet Letter tells the story of Hester Prynne, a woman accused of adultery in 17th-century Massachusetts. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet “A” (for adulteress) and has to stand on the scaffold for three hours while the Puritan townsfolk hurl insults at her.

Wouldn’t it be satisfying to see your most notorious maverick skulking around the office with a giant “M” for Maverick sewn onto their lapel?

  • Pros: Very visible, and a great way of spreading the message as your mavericks move around the office.
  • Cons: Making people sew symbols onto their clothing is a more than a little suggestive of the Third Reich, so maybe we should give this one a miss.

3. Make them pay

A “cost-conscious culture” is a workplace where employees treat every dollar of company money as if it were their own.

Sounds good in theory, but even the most tight-fisted person can suddenly become extremely lavish when it comes to spending someone else’s money.

The solution? What if it actually is their own money on the line? We need a piece of software that draws unauthorised purchases straight out of the offender’s personal bank accounts – and watch your maverick spend problem vanish overnight.

  • Pros: You could spin this as procurement’s contribution to top-line growth.
  • Cons: Probably illegal.

Seriously, though:

There’s plenty of great advice to be found online about tackling maverick spend, including these articles and videos here on Procurious:

Outsourcing versus Insourcing – Where to Play When the Music Stops

In the fourth article in a series charting the key issues in public sector procurement, we examine the difficulties for organisations in deciding whether or not to outsource key strategic services and what this may mean for procurement.

I’ve been told in the past that procurement is a cyclical beast – the chances are high that a decision made today will be revisited in 5-7 years’ time and reversed, only for it to cycle round again at the next strategic business assessment.

One common example is centralised versus decentralised services and the level of autonomy business units are given. I’ve had the opportunity to witness this cyclical decision making first hand and have to say that, as much as it sounds fantastical, there’s a ring of truth to it.

I wasn’t long into my role with the organisation in question when the procurement department was pulled into a meeting with the Procurement Director. The purpose, ostensibly, of the meeting was to discuss the strategic direction of the department. However, the experienced members of the team knew exactly what was coming and they were proved to be correct.

The decision had already been made to centralise the procurement activities to one site (ours), with the Director justifying the move with talk of cost efficiencies, economies of scale and better governance over processes. This all sounded very sensible to me, a relatively green procurement professional. After all, the organisation as a whole had cost savings targets and to me it didn’t make sense to have everyone doing their own thing when it came to procurement.

It wasn’t until I sat down with my more experienced (and some might say cynical) colleagues that I fully understood what was going on. This was a strategic decision made by a new Director looking to put their stamp on the department. Not only this, but the department had only gone through an exercise of decentralisation 6 years before, with the move justified by talk of greater efficiency, more autonomy and procurement better able to service the individual site needs.

It became clear during my conversations with other department members that not only did they think this wouldn’t change the way the business worked (wasting time and money in the process), but that it would be reversed by the next Director in a few years’ time. I’d be lying if I said this whole thing didn’t confuse me, but I was to realise that this was more common that you might think as my time in procurement went on.

The Strategic Hokey Cokey

The example above is meant as an illustration of how strategic decisions can be made and justified no matter which side you fall on. It is neither complaint nor criticism, but an observation from someone who, at the time, had next to no experience in procurement. As time went on, I ended up procuring external services as part of a role, as well as managing an in-house manufacturing process for a procurement department.

The decision of whether to outsource strategic services, or keep the work and skills in house, is one that faces many organisations. Taken as part of the decision making cycle, it can begin to feel a bit like the hokey cokey. Insource this, outsource that, in-out, in-out, shake it all about and, frequently, hope for the best when someone comes asking about business costs and value.

But what is the best value approach when it comes to sourcing key strategic services? In the public sector, an argument could be made for outsourcing for budgetary or expertise reasons. However, the counter-argument relates to potential job losses and the erosion of workers’ skills, losing the option to bring them back in-house in the future.

The strategic services most commonly associated with outsourcing would include HR, Marketing, Finance and even Procurement. But in the public sector would there be an appetite for outsourcing procurement? And what could it mean for this and other services in the long run?

On the Way Out?

Fundamentally, it boils down to the question of whether or not the public sector could or should outsource their procurement function, and what the benefits would be were they to choose to do so.

We’ll come back to the first part of that question shortly. Ascertaining the benefits of outsourcing procurement is tricky, as any benefits tend to be subjective and wouldn’t necessarily apply to all organisations. There has been plenty written, too, on both sides of the debate, including a very interesting discussion on Procurious.

From a wealth of articles on the subject, the most commonly mentioned benefits to outsourcing a procurement function include cost reduction (relating to head count, training and access to resources); accessing expertise in a particular area in the market; a way of complementing existing resources; and the access to extensive networks of knowledge through highly-skilled procurement professionals.

However, on the flip side, there are also a number of negatives raised. Organisations can lose control over day-to-day procurement activities, and through this there is increased risk; there is a potential for the quality of the work to adversely effected; and although procurement has been outsourced, there will still be a requirement to purchase these services and manage the subsequent contract, which may not provide all the time-saving benefits first considered.

Instruct the Experts?

There are a number of organisations in the market that offer procurement as an external service – Capita, GEP and Capgemini to name but a few. The similarities between the services? All of these ‘consulting’ organisations highlight cost savings in their literature and focus on areas such as analytics, research and digital procurement (areas where many organisations lack both expertise and time to carry this out) as a core offering.

From this you would think that a consulting-led service would provide a very attractive option for the public sector. After all, it ticks all the right boxes – improved efficiency, reduced costs and expert-led services. Taken from that point of view, why wouldn’t the public sector choose to instruct the experts, use resources elsewhere and watch the savings roll in?

Apart from being a gross over-simplification of the issue, it doesn’t take into account the wider considerations of skills and training. A decision to outsource in the short-term could lead to a skills shortage in the long-term, and the loss of the opportunity to bring these services back in house without having to set up a new function from scratch (with all the associated costs).

For the public sector, there is an additional consideration – perception. Government, Local Government and Local Authorities have to be particularly careful, perhaps more so than private companies, with public perception and what may be printed in the local and national newspapers. A decision like outsourcing a service, which will be paid for with public money, and for which there may be associated job losses, may not meet the relevant criteria even taking cost savings into account.

The reality is that there isn’t really a right answer for this question and no one correct view in the debate. The right decision now may prove to be the wrong one in hindsight, or due to the cyclical nature of procurement and procurement strategy, may be turned a full 180 degrees a few years down the line.

That said, it’s no time for public procurement professionals to rest on their laurels. There’s plenty to learn and plenty to do – it’s just up to us to make ourselves so invaluable an outsourcing decision couldn’t possibly happen.

Why It’s Time To Grow Beyond Strategic Sourcing

If the CPO wants to have a seat at the table, they must move beyond delivering cost reductions to deliver solid and sustainable business value where it really counts: top line growth and business
innovation.

I recently worked on a large-scale program of strategic sourcing transactions across multiple business and technology functions. The strategic sourcing team produced a considerable volume of contracts and notably delivered significant cost reductions along with contractual obligations for supplier-led innovation.

While the strategic sourcing effort followed a mature process and produced great results there was a gap in the process for ‘hand-over’ from the externally sourced strategic sourcing teams to transition the contract relationship

to the category management function. The hard-earned gains and concessions of the negotiations phases needed to be understood by the category manager and then further nurtured and managed through ongoing supplier relationships.

The gap in the process was understandable as the business was in a state of disruption after their acquisition and the brand-new procurement function was immature

and still finding its feet. Notably they
were starting to implement a strategy for category management, so no doubt the situation will quickly improve for them.

However, this first-hand experience of this gap did highlight for me the impact on the procurement organisation if they are unable to transition from strategic sourcing view to category management.

Category Management is a way of driving and delivering value, growth and innovation and yet most companies struggle with the transition from Strategic Sourcing to effective Category Management.

Category Management includes strategic sourcing but it is much broader than that. The Faculty defines Category management as: a rigorous, fact-based, end-to-end process for proactively collaborating with stakeholders to develop and implement strategies that generate significant value that stakeholders recognise, from an organisation’s external spend

It sits above and guides both the content and the sequencing of the lower level methodologies such as (not limited to): spend analysis, demand management, strategic sourcing, supplier relationship management and benchmarking

What is a category?

A category is a grouping of materials or services that have similar supply and usage characteristics to meet business objectives. Managing by categories is a strategic approach which organises procurement resources to focus on specific areas of spend categories.

This enables category managers to focus their time on the business requirements, conduct in- depth market analysis, supplier capability and performance analysis to fully leverage their procurement decisions on behalf of the whole organisation.

Many CPOs understand that implementing and sustaining an effective category management process can deliver great benefits, it usually leads to:

• Raising the profile and competency of the procurement function within the organisation

  • Significant savings typically 10-30 per cent
  • Reduced risk in the supply chain
  • Improved stakeholder relations
  • Improvements in service levels, quality, availability and value for money
  • The revelation of other sources of value and innovation from the supply base
  • Re-usable processes to leverage across other categoriesCategory management allows you to source more effectively and then to get even more value from constantly optimising the resulting contracts.

How to get started and maintain an effective Category Management function:

• Ensure that you have an effective and seamless transition process from strategic sourcing outcomes to the business-as- usual category management function

• Develop the logical categories for your business by bringing together products or services that have the same features and are bought from similar supply markets.

• Build an in-depth understanding of the organisation’s plans and business strategies and ensure that the categories are aligned to business goals

• Develop category benchmarks so that you can more easily identify additional improvement opportunities

• Use big data and business analytics to undertake continuous analysis of spend, (direct and indirect), market data and performance against benchmarks

• Undertake a program of constant price analysis on local and international markets and the monitoring of trends in the category

• Invest in a process of gathering supplier performance data for more quality and service improvements

• Monitor and track all the savings that have been achieved through substitutions, better compliance or contract negotiations

• Engage with your stakeholders! and have continuous discussions and reviews to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in decisions on the category

The bottom line for the CPO

Category management will be a continuous improvement process that should form the basis for all future successful strategic sourcing initiatives. It requires the right level of attention and a good training program Category management will deliver a range of benefits such as being able to work with suppliers to speed up the time between initial adoption and full implementation. At the same time, also providing a layer of continual strategy adjustment once a new supplier or contract has been initiated

Your category managers will be the ones responsible for all things related to a given project or managed service (gather requirements, collect bids and negotiate contracts) and their time will be freed up for engagement with the business to focus on their jobs and deliver better value.
Establishing the single points of contact means better co-ordination and this will streamline communication in a way that will vastly improve stakeholder and supplier relationships.

Three Key Steps To Getting Brexit Ready

It’s been over two years since the UK voted to leave the EU. But beyond the exit date of 29 March 2019, little is known about the details of the Brexit agreement…
Negotiations between Brussels and Whitehall are rumbling on with little sign of a breakthrough. And the longer they continue the less likely it seems a deal will be struck.

A recent EU exit impact study conducted by Efficio for a UK central government department indicated a potential 8 per cent increase in costs as a result of Brexit.

Yet a poll of 800 business leaders carried out by the Institute of Directors has revealed that 49 per cent of businesses do “not anticipate drawing up nor implementing any contingency plans for Brexit”.

Similarly, a Survation survey commissioned by Maritime UK found that nearly half of businesses polled have done ‘very little’ or no preparation in anticipation of the UK leaving without a deal – despite two-thirds of business leaders believing such a scenario is ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’. Only 27 per cent  consider it ‘unlikely’, with another 8 per cent saying they are unsure.

Stick or twist?

Few can argue that these are unprecedented times, the likes of which Europe has never seen before. There’s no blueprint for untangling member states from the union – a situation made more complex by the need for Brussels to safeguard the EU project and potentially make the UK pay a high price for ‘independence’.

The majority of public and private sector organisations appear to be biding their time, waiting to see the terms of an exit agreement before they invest time and money in putting contingency plans in place. Is this a deliberate, tactical approach? Or could it be that procurement teams are unsure of what action to take and/or lack the capacity to deal with the task ahead?

Whatever the situation, now is not the time to hunker down and do nothing. On the contrary, businesses should be using these crucial few months to assess the scale of the impact on their supply chains and ready themselves to respond to what lies ahead.

Sourcing strategies, suppliers, contracts

Organisations should start by considering three core pillars of procurement, namely existing contracts, sourcing strategies and current suppliers.

1. Contracts

Form a clear understanding of your contract risk profile. Identify your risks against a hierarchy of needs. Examples of potential risks may include EU funding reliance, lack of freedom of movement restricting labour availability and driving wage increases or foreign exchange and tariffs creating cost pressure. Examine key contract clauses linked to EU exit readiness, such as termination, cost pressures and continuity resulting from legal change to determine where further risks may lie.

2. Sourcing strategies 

Review your existing category strategies to understand category objectives, sourcing strategies and the pipeline of work. Identify which elements will be affected by the EU exit and, where this impact is significant, determine how to take account of EU exit activity in your category plans.

3. Suppliers

Engage your suppliers and assess the wider market to pinpoint cost and risk drivers in key categories. Work with your suppliers to review expected pressures resulting from Brexit, their current mitigation plans and their view of the company’s main risks. Then encourage them to implement effective business continuity plans.

Deep knowledge of these areas, coupled with strong contingency plans to deal with change, are essential to manage risks and seize opportunities.

Act now to get ahead

Efficio is working with a number of public and private sector companies, including large central government departments, to carry out detailed readiness analysis ahead of the EU exit. The service is designed to prepare organisations to make fast, structured change and mitigate risk when the time comes.

To find out how we can support you in getting Brexit-ready, visit our website.

Is It Time To Make A Career Move? Mind the gap

When things get bad at work do you find a way to fix it or consider a career move?

The bad days are becoming more frequent, the work is no longer challenging and your procurement career seems to be floundering.   The question arises: what must you do to kick your work life into action?   If you have a general feeling of being undervalued or not being fairly recognised for your achievements, now is the time to take stock. Work takes up at least 40 hours of your week.  Life’s too short to be miserable, this is decision time.

It is unlikely that your current situation will improve much unless there is a radical change in management or strategy.  The options are:

  • Move into a new role at your current employer or
  • Move on to a different employer in a similar or different role 

Assuming that procurement is still the place you want to be, there are some steps you need to take whether you plan to stay with your current employer in another role or move on to new adventures.

Do a personal gap analysis

Take a deep, introspective look into yourself. The aim is to identify the knowledge gaps between the skills you need for your chosen direction and those that you currently have.  What changes should you begin making to prepare yourself for the kind of job you want? As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”   Be realistic about your current capabilities.  Then go and fill the gaps.

Consider further education   

There’s no doubt that further education and continued professional development play a part in opening up opportunities. The reality is that most the attractive roles require some tertiary education or certification, especially in a tight job market. If you are lagging in this area it may be an opportune time to upgrade.   If your current employer can subsidise your work-related studies, take advantage.    No funds?  There are lots of free training available, there’s no excuse.  What about a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?

 Learn the new skills

There are roles that didn’t exist ten years ago and those are where experience is in short supply.  The application of I.T. technologies to procurement problems is growing fast:  consider data analysis and warehousing, supplier relationship management (SRM), and procure-to-pay (P2P).   Also, both the public and private sectors struggle with issues of fraud, corruption and conflict of interest. Companies need people who can exercise constant vigilance over supplier risk, governance and contract compliance.

Sustainability issues are placing new demands on procurement leaders and their teams.  “Green” procurement is a growth niche where there is a limited number of experienced applicants and pressure is building on companies to limit their negative impact on the environment.  Focusing on fields that concern you (and the consumer) and those that play to your strengths will deliver the most work satisfaction.

Get a grip on the numbers

Whatever direction you choose, advanced analytical abilities are becoming mandatory.  An in-depth understanding of financial ratios and the triple bottom line can give you the edge over others competing for similar roles.  If you don’t know what macros or what a cash flow crisis is, now is the time to find out. If your current company offers in-house courses that can enhance your computer skills, sign up.

Influence and persuasion

A survey conducted recently by Accenture amongst global CPOs noted that traditional areas of knowledge and experience are less important to success than the ability to develop and sustain high quality internal and external relationships.  Stakeholders can influence your project’s success or failure.  Good stakeholder management just means being able to win support from any and all interested and affected parties such as end-users, subject matter experts and key suppliers.

Attitude is important, that much is clear.  It seems behaviour and demeanour can impact on career progression as much as technical know-how.  Always do what you promise to do.  To paraphrase  J.F.Kennedy,  don’t think about what your stakeholders can do for you, think what you could do for them.

Communicate your successes

Keep an on-going record of what you have done well, e.g. reported cost savings, accolades you have been given, and positive feedback received from internal customers.  This information can be used to enhance your CV.  Don’t be shy to share your successes; it’s a good confidence booster.

Moving employers   

Moving on to another employer or launching yourself as a consultant or contractor may be a choice, or it may be thrust upon you.  Protecting yourself fully from downsizing and “restructuring of the workforce” is pretty much impossible.  Don’t despair. Review your achievements to date, fire up your CV and take yourself to the market.    Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards.

The best a person can do to rise above the mainstream is to have a good attitude, stay relevant, keep up with trends, communicate well and keep the networks alive.  Sometimes the current environment is not going to deliver the options you need. Then it is time to move on.

Talk Less, Ask More

Procurement leaders must create more opportunities to be open with the levels of the organisation below them and consistently request feedback… Talk less and ask more! “When you’re the CEO of a large organisation – or even a small one – your greatest responsibility is to recognise whether it requires a major change in direction. Indeed, no bold new course of action can be launched without your say-so. Yet your power and privilege leave you insulated – perhaps more than anyone else in the company – from information that might challenge your assumptions and allow you to perceive a looming threat or opportunity. Ironically, to do what your exalted position demands, you must in some way escape your exalted position.” – excerpt from Bursting the CEO Bubble, Hal Gregersen. Harvard Business Review, March – April 2017.

This passage stuck a chord with me and I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly.

The majority of feedback given in organisations tends to flow in a downward direction; people in higher levels of an organisation are giving feedback to people in lower levels. People may be asked to provide feedback in the opposite direction – back to their superiors – but it is rarely given freely and without careful consideration.

I believe many people don’t give feedback to their superiors out of an instinct of fear. That is not to say they are scared of their managers, but more that there is a sense of uncertainly around how their feedback will be taken and any resulting consequences. The safer option tends to be to bite one’s tongue and keep quiet.

The impact of this behaviour is that people, or groups of people, can feel stressed or excluded, and ultimately become disengaged.

I also believe that many leaders don’t ask for feedback from lower levels of their organisation because their information “feeds” are so broad in our modern era.

CEOs have so many sources of information to consult and deal with that they are spending more and more of their time in a scanning mode rather than a deep analysis mode. Consequently, as their decision-making time is continually reduced they have to use their bias to make quicker decisions.

Important decisions in any organisation deserve careful consideration. Bias tends to work as an opposing force to this process. As the excerpt above suggests, and that I strongly agree with, our leaders  must expand on their process of discovery. They must create more opportunity to be open with the levels of the organisation below them and consistently request feedback, particularly on their own performance. Not only will staff feel listened to and more engaged, but also this process will invite alternative perspectives – alternative ideas, alternative ways of thinking, and alternative cultural outlooks.

It is this diversity of thought – the diversity of their entire organisation – that should be informing our leaders’ decision making process.

This article, by Tom Verghese,  was originally published on Cultural Synergies. 

Procure with Purpose – Join the movement

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Diversity and Inclusion; to Environmental Sustainability.

Enrol here to join the Procure with Purpose group and gain instant access to our exclusive online events, including the Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns webinar, which, in part, explores the importance of diversity of thought in procurement teams. 

Critical Factors When Selecting Your Suppliers

Procurement exists in a dynamic, fast-paced, constantly changing environment. So surely the reasons we use to select our suppliers and supply partners would change over time too? Wouldn’t they?

It’s been over three years since the Procurious network was canvassed on what critical factors they look for in their suppliers. The world has moved on a-pace in the intervening period and it’s interesting to take an inward look to see if procurement has developed at the same pace, particularly in its supplier selection processes.

Gone are the days of the cheapest price (or at least they should be!). Gone, and consigned to a very dark part of history, are the days where supply decisions were made over lunch or in private meetings, and related more to who you knew than what you knew, which golf course or members’ club you were part of. Or even (sharp intake of breath) what you might be offering the buyers in return.

Even the list below, the key factors highlighted last time out, may have been superseded. So what are the new criteria? Or, if they are still the same, why is this the case?

Cost and Quality vs. Social Value and #MeToo?

If we take a look back at the responses from the network in 2015, we find ourselves looking at a list with a number of the usual suspects on it:

  • Cultural Fit – including values
  • Cost – covering price, Total Cost of Opportunity/Ownership
  • Value – value for money and value generation opportunities
  • Experience in the market and current references
  • Flexibility
  • Response to change – in orders and products
  • Quality – covering products and service quality and quality history

In addition to this, some that didn’t make the top 7 as it was included trust and professionalism, strategic process alignment and technical ability. There’s nothing that looks out of place on the list. In fact, they’re all eminently sensible and fair criteria to be considering.

The problem is it that it reflects a very traditional view of procurement.

Given the changing environment that procurement operates in, wouldn’t we expect to see these criteria changing too? In the past couple of years, geo-political instability has dominated the landscape and shows no sign of disappearing soon with Brexit and a potential trade war between USA and the rest of the world just two examples.

But what about the other factors we need to be considering? Social value has jumped to the top of many organisations’ lists, increasing work with SMEs and Social Enterprises. And let’s not forget an increased focus on harassment, discrimination and equal opportunities following #MeToo and campaigns like Procurious’ own ‘Bravo’.

What Does the Network Say?

When asked their opinions on what the critical factors were, the Procurious network highlighted the following:

  • Previous Safety Performance
  • Service Delivery
  • Efficiencies
  • Cultural Fit
  • Price/Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Ethics
  • Quality and Consistency
  • Supply Chain
  • Financial Stability
  • Environmental Policies
  • Communication

I’ve highlighted in bold the criteria that appear in the previous list that also appear in the new one. As you might expect, they are the common criteria that procurement are known for, and may be expected to deliver as standard.

It doesn’t appear that other factors in line with Sustainability, Social Value and Equal Opportunities (to name but a few) are getting much of a look in. However, we’d need a much bigger sample to be sure. And that’s where the wider knowledge base comes in.

Procurement’s Response

Having a trawl through the latest articles on supplier selection and key criteria two things struck me. One, there were very few articles, blogs, thought leadership posts or even research papers from the past couple of years. The most recent one I found was from early 2017 and even using a broad range of search terms, it was difficult to find anything relevant.

The second, and perhaps most surprising/concerning, thing was how few mentioned any different criteria for suppliers. Only one article I could find mentioned Social Responsibility or Environmental Performance/Sustainability. The remainder still focused on the criteria commonly found in a Commercial or Technical/Quality evaluation. The most common criteria still were:

  • Years in business and financial stability
  • Price/Cost
  • Quality and Delivery
  • Reliability
  • Communication
  • Cultural Match

What does this say about procurement? Is the profession still falling back on the old favourites when it comes to supplier selection? Or could it be that traditional “thought leadership” is no longer leading the way, and organisations are working differently without shouting it from the rooftops?

For me, it’s a combination of all of the above. There’s no denying that it’s hard to separate procurement from cost and quality (after all, it’s what we’re there to do). And why wouldn’t professionals use criteria that are both reliable and easy to measure, particularly when time and resources are tight?

Getting our Message Across

Speaking from experience, however, there are areas in which overall value is much more prevalent. In the Scottish public sector, organisations are mandating Community Benefits for contracts above a certain value. These can cover everything from creating apprenticeships to financially supporting community projects.

In addition, Local Authorities have started to mandate evaluation of ‘Fair Work Practices’ in all procurement exercises. Again, this can cover a multitude of elements, such as paying the living wage, no zero-hour contracts, equal opportunities and good training and development. Suppliers are being forced to consider these criteria to the benefit of their employees and the wider society.

There is good work going on in procurement, but maybe we aren’t making the most of communicating our message to the wider market. And if communication is one of the key factors in supplier selection and subsequent relationship management, it’s high time the profession started telling suppliers what is important to us and seeing what they have to offer.

3 Mega-trends In Procurement You Need To Understand Before 2019

What are the key mega-trends procurement pros need to get their heads around before 2019?

CatwalkPhotos/ Shutterstock

1. Co-Creation –  Using collective efforts to bring the best value

Since the very beginning of my career in Procurement competition was a key.  Competition helps procurement drive down prices using quotations, tenders, e-auctions or other tools.

And, of course,  it is much easier to negotiate contract terms and conditions with  if you have alternative sources.

Striving to establish, at least,  dual sourcing for every product helps you to decrease supply related risks.

But with greater experience I started to see that competition has its limits,  that RFQ’s and tenders were not bringing the desired effect.  This was particularly apparent for certain groups of products with limited supply possibilities and higher complexity.

I learned that for such segments a more efficient strategy is to cooperate with your key suppliers.

Cooperation is about alignment and harmonising performance, goals and strategies.  The very first step should be about aligning performance and KPI’s. Then you align the goals, including price reduction. At this point, the strategies of both companies should be aligned.

So cooperation is the alignment and harmonisation between two parties: the procurement organisation and the vendors.

But is cooperation and competition with suppliers enough in the modern world?   My simple answer is no. Procurement of tomorrow is about more than delivering goods, reducing prices and mitigating risks. The future of procurement is creating value for the final customer. And so the new buzz-word coming in 2019 is Co-Creation.

Co-creation is about developing and delivering products, services or systems using the common efforts of all interested parties.

2. Digitalisation

In my consultancy work I meet ten to twenty Procurement and supply chain organisations every year. It’s a big privilege to meet so many great people, and work in a variety of industries and businesses.

But one thing that surprises me is the fact that the majority of organisations are not making procurement decisions based on  complex benchmarking or performance indicators.

In fact, the majority of organisations in Europe and North America are making Procurement decisions based entirely on  cost reduction. Whatever has been discussed before quotation is ignored and whatever might happen after is neglected.

“Give me the best price: here and now! And you get the business…” – is still the driving force for many procurement organisations.

Of course, this approach is beneficial in the short term. But on a strategic level it will not work.  In the era of big data this approach is a crime. I know that digitisation and fact-based Procurement decisions may not sound like a mega trend for many readers. But before you skip this point – answer one simple question. Do you really include performance evaluation and risk analysis in all your Procurement decisions?

3. Sustainability: Part of our new reality

Sustainable procurement is not a new term.

The United Nations definition says that sustainable procurement practices are the ones that integrate requirements, specifications and criteria that are compatible and in favor of the protection of the environment, of social progress and in support of economic development, namely by seeking resource efficiency, improving the quality of products and services and ultimately optimising costs.

It might look a little complicated at first glance, but it is quite a straight forward definition.

More and more countries are shifting towards sustainable procurement; improving national procurement policies and procedures. But the true leaders in this shift to sustainable procurement are the international corporations. Using their massive purchasing power, they are able to make real impact to ecological, technological or social standards across entire industries.

Some companies use the sustainability messages for marketing of their products or services, creating positive buzz and media attention to their brand. Many more develop their sustainability agenda for mitigating or preventing risks within supply chain.

One thing that I can say for sure; sustainability is becoming part of a new reality for procurement organisations. It is not a buzzword anymore, it is an expectation customers. People are beginning to understand that low prices should not be achieved by unethical or unsustainable means.

So what can you do to introduce sustainability to your Procurement agenda?

Start by investigating in more sustainable sources and raw materials. Look around your industry or category to identify the best practices and get some inspiration.  I guarantee that you will find great cases of good environmental, social and sustainability impact for any area and any category.

Of course you should also include sustainability parameters to your RFI/RFQ evaluation criteria.

Another great idea would be to involve some measurable indicators for your sustainability progress. For example, carbon emissions, water footprint, share of renewable energy used for manufacturing or recycled materials used for products.

And remember: responsible sourcing is more profitable in a long term!

Back To Blockchain Basics

Do I need to understand how Blockchain works? Where does bitcoin fit in? And how long until this tech hits the mainstream? Your questions: answered!

Kumpol Chuansakul/ Shutterstock

When it comes to Blockchain procurement pros don’t know what or who to believe, when to expect its takeover or how to prepare.

What’s the difference between bitcoin and blockchain, are they one and the same?

Do you need to understand the ins and outs of how the technology works?

Ahead of today’s Procurious webinar on Blockchain , Jack Shaw, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the American Blockchain Council, clears up some of the Blockchain basics!

Blockchain and bitcoin

“There is a widely held misunderstanding that blockchain and bitcoin are one and the same or inextricably connected with one another.

“In fact blockchain is an underlying enabling technology. Bitcoin and other digital crypto currencies are one of the first effective applications of that technology.”

“Think of it as being similar to the situation in 1990s with the emergence of the internet as an underlying enabling technology platform of which email was one of the first successful applications of internet technology and one of very many ways the internet is being used.”

Why you don’t need to understand Blockchain

“Blockchain is so highly technical that only people with advanced degrees in cyber science could possibly understand it.

“Often we get down into the weaves of the technical details of how blockchain works. I’ve found it helpful for procurement pros to understand what it is that blockchain does.

“You don’t need to be able to build an engine to know how to drive a car similarly you don’t need to understand every technical detail of how blockchain works in order to understand what it can do for you…”

What can Blockchain do for you?

“Blockchains do four things that we haven’t been able to do previously…

  1. Blockchains can create immutable signed and time stamped record of identity, ownership of assets, transactions or contractual commitments
  2. They allow that information to be shared among multiple entities; either people or businesses or other organisations, governmental agencies, across the internet without any of those entities having to depend on any one of the others to be the so called master record keeper. And without having to pay a third party intermediary for that service, which can take tremendous costs and delays out of inter-enterprise business processes
  3. They allow that information to be shared with complete transparency among all those authorised to see that information and the subset of those that are authorised to update it by adding new information
  4. [Blockchains are] virtually unhackable in terms of preventing those not authorised to update that information from doing so or even being able to see it”

The combination of those four capabilities means Blockchain provides a tool for the use and sharing of information across business and social ecosystems that goes far beyond the ability to exchange value via currencies. It, in fact, gives it the potential to impact every aspect of our personal and organisational lives.

When will blockchain hit the mainstream?

“I’ve been around emerging technologies for so long that I’ve finally come to recognise these things do not simply suddenly switch on full-blown and ready for everyone in the world to use at once. [adoption] increases over time.

“Blockchain is coming along much more quickly than the internet. Widespread adoption of Blockchain technology will be in place within the next two or three years. Most of the major IT solution providers are already actively in the process of delivering blockchain enabled capabilities.”

The purpose of the American Blockchain Council is to help senior level executives understand the strategic business implications of blockchain.   

Jack Shaw will be speaking on our latest webinar Blockchain: The Technology, the Myth, the… Legend? which goes live today at 11am EDT/ 4pm BST. Sign up here.