Procurement – Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?

We spend so long looking outwards at the wider environment for our key issues. But are we missing the elephant in the room? Is Procurement actually one of Procurement’s worst enemies?

own worst enemies
By MarinaP/ Shutterstock

For anyone who has experience working in public sector procurement, the strictures of the rules and regulations are well known and often highly frustrating. So it would have come as a surprise to many when former UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a plan that would ‘free the NHS’ from Government procurement rules.

Cue many cornflakes being choked upon around the UK upon hearing this news. And then numerous procurement professionals taking a very keen interest in where the story was going next. 

After all, if you were to speak to any procurement professional with experience of working in the public sector (and their client departments), you would probably get a fair picture pretty quickly of the key barrier, hindrance, ball and chain impacting their work. Administration, bureaucracy, paperwork, regulations – take your pick. Once you enter a public sector procurement process, it’ll be a while before you emerge out the other side. 

That’s not to say that these are bad things. The regulations help to bring openness, honesty and transparency to the process. They also make it fully auditable and able to be used as a shield against bad practice and spurious challenges. That said, there isn’t a single procurement professional who wouldn’t love to drop the regulations once in a while.

Who wouldn’t love a bit of extra ‘freedom’ to spend money in a more effective and efficient way. 

Worst Enemies – Self-Inflicted Pain 

Putting aside the UK and EU-wide regulations for a minute as an unavoidable consequence of public procurement (Prime Ministerial intervention pending…), we can turn a lens on the processes that procurement has set up for itself. Sure, the regulations are a pain, but they’re part and parcel of doing the job. What isn’t is the self-inflicted pain of all the additional administration that procurement loads on itself. 

Take a closer look at the processes in your organisation. Are they as lean as they can be? Do you have a set of toolkit documents that you can use for all your process? Or are you mired in repetitive documents that are all required, but aren’t adding any value to the process? 

This additional burden not only extends an already lengthy process, but also curtails the valuable time of your procurement professionals. Want a happy procurement team? Then it’s value and management, not process and admin. 

In previous articles, I’ve outlined both the importance of time management, but also the use of collaborative frameworks and other procurement routes that can be used to help use this precious time more effectively. What is more problematic, however, are the timescales attached to the procurement process that is specific to the individual organisation. 

Tender regulations aside, we’re talking about the additional time procurement builds into its own process that is potentially avoidable. Think internal approval processes, report writing and flurries of emails that could be taken care of with a short conversation or a really good document storage system. 

Strategies and Stakeholders 

Beyond this is a perceived acceptance by procurement of being strung along by Client department and stakeholders. Not just in taking on additional tasks for these groups, but not being strong enough to push back when things clearly aren’t progressing.

This is not an open invitation to undermine stakeholder relationships or burn bridges. But make it clear that a single stakeholder’s requirements are not the only thing that a Procurement Officer is working on, let alone responsible for. 

By having this bit of extra support for pushing back on project teams that are dragging their feet with important information or documents, and moving on to other projects that are set to go. Send someone to the back of the queue when they’re not ready more than once and they’ll get the message.

Finally, it’s worth considering how procurement chooses to set itself up strategically. Strategic structuring such as Category Management or embedding in project teams all have their pros and cons (enough for another article entirely). But stick too rigidly to any structure and it can cause issues. From imbalances in work levels across a department, to pigeon-holing your team members into one area or commodity, they’re all things that need to be considered on an on-going basis, not just once every 2-3 years. 

Adapt and Survive 

Not to get too Darwinian, but if procurement continues down some of these paths, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that we could see the profession as we know it cease to be. Market environments, technology and even organisations continue to grow and adapt organically. So why does procurement keep tripping itself up with rigid structures and tying itself up in bureaucracy and red tape? 

While I don’t advocate a ‘free-for-all’ approach to procurement, or believe that fully unstructured departments can work effectively all the time, there are changes that could be made to aid the survival of procurement in the long term. 

As a hero of mine once said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Quit being part of the problem.” 

Let’s stop ignoring the elephant in the room and take a long, hard look at ourselves. Procurement has enough challenges to contend with without adding more on itself. It’s where platforms such as Procurious are such a valuable tool. By talking our problems out, we can find collective solutions to the benefit of everyone. I, for one, am trying to do better and I’d love to work with you all to do more. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and others on the challenges facing public sector procurement. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Adventure, Exploration and Gold – Why Supply Chain is the Career of the Future

Time to step out of your silo, get your body and brain ready for the future, and find your inner gold. Catch up with Career Boot Camp to get yourself on the track for the summit.

supply chain career
Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

The supply chain profession attracts some of the best minds and biggest thinkers around. Are they drawn to the chance to travel the globe, have diverse experiences and learn lessons from a myriad of people? Are they energised by the idea of finding a role that gives them a broader perspective and makes them a more well-rounded person?

Or maybe it’s the chance to enact real change, set bold personal goals and aim high?

It is, in fact, all of the above. Don’t just take our word for it – these are the thoughts and experiences of the fantastic trainers from Career Boot Camp 2019. Here are just a few of the insights from this podcast series:

Change Your Career Trajectory to Aim Higher

The strange thing our trainers all had in common this year was that they weren’t initially directly involved in supply chain, or didn’t set out for a career in it. But, far from falling into it, three made active choices to change their careers to supply chain.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain, started out with a degree in Environmental Management Planning and then gained a PhD, but wishes that she had found a supply chain earlier in her career. This view was echoed by Supply Chain Executive, Steve Day, who, after starting out in Engineering and Telecoms, found that his supply chain career was some to “feel energised about”.

And Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain, didn’t gain qualifications in supply chain, but has found that supply chain has opened doors for him around the world, giving opportunities he may never have had otherwise.

Cultivating the Common Habits

All five of our trainers picked up on some key habits from their careers and experience that they have cultivated to reach their own summits. Could you do anything differently in your career in the future?

  1. Be curious – don’t tell yourself you can’t do something. Replace limiting thoughts and see what’s possible.
  2. Don’t believe that you only need training in one area – broaden your perspective, and then bring this perspective into new roles to enhance your expertise.
  3. Be a more holistic thinker – get a rounded experience, have a passion and set ambitious personal goals that allow you to aim high.
  4. Take the chance when it’s presented – it might seem like random chance or something out of the blue, but you won’t know unless you try it.
  5. Keep current but also talk about broader topics than just your area – it will show a broader knowledge that could change the trajectory of your career.

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future

Dr. Karen Darke MBE believes that we should learn from the past, but not to let it define us. Your behaviour and emotions in the moment can actually shape your future, through the power of your mind.

The way you think and feel can impact your own reality. Study of the mind was also part of Professor Moran Cerf’s podcast as he discussed why the human brain might still surpass AI and machine learning. The brain is still one of the most power muscles we have and we should still be training it, just like our other muscles when we, for example, go out for a bike ride!

Whatever trajectory your career is on right now, know you have the power to change this. By applying yourself, training hard (your body and your mind) and setting your sights on what you want to happen, you can be the master of your own destiny now and in the future.

It’s not too late to catch up on all the Career Boot Camp podcasts and access all this great thought leadership. Sign up here now!

A New Skillset for Procurement Leaders

Procurement leaders of tomorrow will need to combine highly refined soft skills, a broad business understanding and digital literacy to elevate their function and put it at the centre of business change in the years to come.

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Procurement has never had a better opportunity to be the value adding function that it has always aspired to be.

The exponential technological advancements of the last decade have lowered entry barriers across markets. Procurement functions that successfully invest in and work with these new innovators will give their businesses a competitive advantage. Technology has also vastly improved the handling of large data sets.

Sitting at the intersection between the supply chain and the business, procurement is awash with data, and technology means it can spend less time on data acquisition and analytics and more time on deriving strategic insights from that data. Crucially, that helps the business to make more effective decisions, faster.

In recent years, we have also seen a spike in companies outsourcing key elements of their business. This has led to an increased number of strategic suppliers that need to be efficiently managed in order to ensure consistent high quality of product and service.

These two factors combined generate the perfect environment for procurement to move from its traditional role of “price negotiator” and “process policeman”, to strategic partner of choice, leading business transformation.

However, to do that, it will need a new skillset.

The ‘Right’ Skills

Efficio’s recent 2019 study, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, asked 500 senior procurement and operations leaders across the globe what their current top priorities were. The top answer, with 29 per cent of votes, was access to the right skills.

It received 60 per cent more votes than the next top priority, maximising efficiencies in the supply chain. Moreover, nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) put access to the right skills in their top three.

Organisations clearly recognise the need for a new skillset, but what are the right skills? In our view these can be categorised into three pillars: soft skills, broad business understanding and digital literacy.

Procurement Leaders – Influencing & Leading

The study showed 78 per cent of procurement executives believe soft skills are either essential or very important for the procurement leader of tomorrow. By drilling deeper into the results, we can find some interesting insights about how these executives see procurement in the future.

The single most desired soft skill quoted was the ability to influence and lead. This is indicative of a procurement function that is setting the agenda and leading stakeholders to make more effective decisions. Interactions that procurement has with stakeholders will be just as important, if not more so, than those it has with suppliers.

By understanding the business requirements and having a deeper knowledge of supplier capabilities, procurement will not only drive cost savings but also influence the business to select solutions and partners that best align with a company’s strategy.

The second most sought after soft skill is the ability to challenge conventional thinking. As well as challenging the way the business thinks, it needs to re-evaluate and challenge the way it has operated itself for so many years, with the goal of defining what it can do differently in order to move from a function that most organisations try to bypass.

It needs to become more customer centric and challenge itself and the business to move from a savings focussed, to a value-adding function.

Involving Your Suppliers

Thirdly, respondents recognised a need for innovation, creativity and problem-solving skills in the future. This hints at an expectation that procurement activities will go beyond traditional one-size-fits-all RFX approaches to every problem.

It will instead work in a more project-based manner with an agile approach that more effectively meets business needs. An example of this could be involving suppliers in the solutioning, to help define those requirements in the first place.

Although soft skills are generally not part of the current procurement training curriculum, they can still be learnt and developed. But critically, these don’t need to be learnt solely from being in procurement roles.

By positioning procurement on the career path of high-flying and ambitious individuals, it can benefit from people who have honed these skills in other functions but can apply them in a procurement context.

A Broad Business Understanding

To be truly accepted at the top table, procurement needs to communicate in the language of its peers in the business. Specifically, that means avoiding defaulting to a narrow focus on savings and process and rather seeking to define itself by what is important to its business.

That is not to say savings related activity is not important, but it needs to be put into context of the wider objectives of the organisation.

For example, a strategic lever for a business might be to grow revenue in a sector by bringing an innovation to market. Procurement should recognise in this case that it can best provide support by approaching the supply market with an investor mindset, trawling the globe for new start-ups to invest in and collaborate with in product development.

Going to those start-ups with an onerous RFX to fill out will unlikely result in any strong partnerships because those start-ups don’t have the capacity or knowledge to put themselves through such an approach.

Digital Literacy

Finally, the future of procurement will need to have a strong technology element to become a more effective function. Whether procurement leaders go for an end-to-end solution or a best of breed approach by building an ecosystem of tools best suited to their organisation, understanding at a basic level how technology is built, and how it integrates with other tools, is essential in being able to make good long-term investment decisions.

Historically, procurement leaders have never needed to be digitally literate in this way, however this will need to change as businesses become ever more reliant on technology and need to make long-term decisions on what to purchase.

It is therefore incumbent on the procurement leaders of tomorrow to educate themselves on the digital terms they use, latest trends and not to just limit themselves to the procurement sphere in the search for that knowledge.

Looking at other functions and sectors to understand how new technologies are being applied can help develop digital procurement strategies and roadmaps that are a step ahead of the competition.

Hone these Skills to Thrive

To become a more effective function and to elevate itself in the business, procurement is going to need people with a different skillset from today. A strong focus on soft skills is essential, but so too is an understanding of business more broadly than procurement’s traditional priorities of savings and process.

Being able to successfully digitalise the function will require people who understand not only how to use technology, but who are also able to make long term investment decisions. Procurement functions that recruit, train for and retain these skills are likely to find themselves at the centre of business change in future.    

Download our research report, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, here.

Navigate Global Trade in 2020 and Beyond

Digitisation, automation, and the shifting state of global trade are the three macro-trends predicted to affect Procurement and Finance the most over the next few years.

global trade

According to ourworldindata.org, global exports today are 40 times larger than 100 years ago. Much of this due to long-term relentless focus on developing free trade – across the world, but especially between the three powerful nations or nation groups: The European Union (EU), The United States of America, and China.

Albeit with the global commerce climate changing daily, there are growing concerns, as highlighted by a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that explores why geopolitical issues are dominating.

Free trade is the heart of modern business

The free market has thrived for decades. So much so that the young generation of business professionals haven’t experienced the closed alternative. But due to shifting trade dynamics, the free market we have grown accustomed to may be threatened, and not everyone is prepared.

According to the survey report from the EIU, only 35 per cent of respondents are confident in their organisation’s ability to adapt to global trade trends and have secured alternative market sources or suppliers.

Anyone in Procurement and Finance would agree that a free market and mutually advantageous regulations have made business easier. Cross-border shipping, VAT handling, cross-border invoicing—all of which are more straightforward when governments cooperate with one another. All that mundane work and those non-productive tasks required to move money, people, and goods between countries is decreasing.

As a result, businesses can:

  • source materials where they are the most accessible,
  • produce goods and services where it’s most economical,
  • and sell final products in the markets where the profit can be maximised.

An European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) report has estimated that by 2030, the amount of trade between USA and China will grow by 80 per cent, and over 85 per cent between EU and China.

Given these numbers, free trade must surely be part of the recipe for growth. Or will it?

EIU highlights global trade concerns

In the recent EIU report sponsored by Basware, we interviewed over 400 supply chain and finance professionals to find out how they’re preparing for the future.

Almost one in four of the respondents believe that the post-Brexit climate of trade will have the greatest effect on global commerce. 21 per cent believe that the impending US-China trade war will pack the biggest punch to global trade dynamics.

Overall, survey respondents revealed that they’re generally quite concerned. The most common impacts expected from these changes are:

  • An increase in procurement costs (35 per cent);
  • Greater supply-chain complexity (29 per cent); and
  • A decrease in business opportunities (22 per cent).
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And these professionals are justified in their worries.

Questions regarding international trade post-Brexit and the customs introduced between the USA and its trading counterparts make even the most experienced supply chain experts raise questions.

Discussions of the current and future geopolitical landscape have become a permanent agenda point in board meetings. The competitive nature of businesses is no longer merely determined by the typical factors of economies of scale, product differentiation, switching costs, or access to distribution channels. Instead, it’s also determined by businesses’ abilities to manage ever-increasingly fragmented supply chain for goods and services and respond to changes outside of their control.

According to Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY), one in five executives say that there is “too much uncertainty” to predict the full effects of the trade actions instated this year by the US government.

As products and services become more and more dependent on tangled interdependencies of businesses and therefore subject to trade restrictions, the chances of non-compliance increase. As the probability that these sanctions hit your supply chain increase, so does your business risk.

Steps to prep for the future of trade

How can procurement and finance professionals embrace change to make sure that they are a part of the solution and not the problem?

Participants in the EIU report state that reviewing internal controls and procedures, forecasting costs through simulations, and developing end-to-end supply chain visibility measures are all ways they are prepping.

Here are three steps you can follow, to future-proof your organisation’s global trade strategy:

1. Move to digital flow of information

Move away from paper and email-based orders and invoices and adopt electronic commerce to take advantage of digital financial supply chain and its economies.

2. Consolidate financial and supply chain information to identify risks

Combine information regarding your supply chain from different sources to learn more about your supply chain. Develop alternative sourcing options to diversify supply chain risk.

3. Automate where possible

Automation is required in order to move people around from transactional duties into business advisory and forecasting. Develop and train staff to adapt to change.

It may seem like a lot of work. But, it’s worth it. In fact, many companies may not be able to face the consequences of not doing it. In 2014, The US Department of Justice fined more than $1.5 billion in violations of US rules and regulations collectively.

But in 2019, just a single sanction for a non-compliant company exceeded $1.1 billion. Businesses must apply increased internal controls and procedures to continuously monitor their compliance and the compliance of their supply chains.

Make a plan for your team

Following the three steps (digitising, consolidating, and automating) are three overarching concepts that will future-proof your organisation amidst global change. But there’s more to it and it’s covered in depth in the EIU report, ‘What’s now and next for finance and procurement‘.

Learn more about automation, digitisation and the future of the global trade, and download the EIU report, sponsored by Basware, now. Learn how finance and procurement executives are preparing their organisations – and get additional tips on how you can do the same.

Questions? Contact Basware – we’re here to help you simplify your operations and spend smarter.

Swiping Right for Social Enterprise

Procurement should be swiping right for Social Enterprise to create broader outcomes. It’s not the easiest change to make, but it’s a vital one for the future.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Doing things in new ways can be awkward. It’s like dating, there is nervous tension about expectations versus reality and how you will be perceived. Will you be able to “sell” your positive traits well? Will the other person measure up to your idea of success? Do you split the bill or pay for the whole thing? All of the rules from your last relationship have gone out the window – this is new territory.

In New Zealand, the Government has recently changed the procurement rules by shifting the focus towards ‘Broader Outcomes‘.

“Broader outcomes are the secondary benefits that are generated by the way a good, service or works is produced or delivered. These outcomes can be social, environmental, cultural or economic benefits, and will deliver long-term public value for New Zealand.

Broader outcomes require you to consider not only the whole-of-life cost of the procurement, but also the costs and benefits to society, the environment and the economy”

New Zealand Government Procurement Rules

There is no longer a focus on value for money, which is sometimes treated by some as getting the lowest price. The focus is on public value which is multifaceted.

What Else is New?

There have been other subtle changes to the Procurement Rules which have removed barriers whether they were real or perceived. The direction is set, the path has been cleared and now we must dust off our dating profiles and learn to do business in different ways.

We must actively seek commercial outcomes that derive social impact. This is not to say that was not in the consciousness before, but it was not quite as front of mind as it is now. 

Challenges of Putting Yourself Out There

This welcomed change brings about some challenges. There are varying degrees of experience and knowledge of working in a more agile or lean manner within procurement ecosystem. Applying new ways of working to the core machinery of Government can be even more challenging.

While the appetite is there, it can take some time to grease the entire wheel to move. There are many sectors and government agencies where these types of models and ways of approaching procurement have been around for eons.

It’s about bringing together the case studies of what has worked well and applying them more liberally to other opportunities.

Procurement functions can feel pulled, with one foot stuck in the traditional process driven tendering world and the other foot in the new procurement world. The new world focuses on early engagement and co-designing solutions more than ever before.

In the new world, procurement adds value at the beginning of the process and through effective contract and supplier relationship management. Procurement is not the process, in fact this will be largely automated in the not so distant future.

The new world suits the smaller businesses, the start up’s, the social enterprises as it makes Government more easily accessible.

Who are we Swiping Right for?

There has been a marked increase in interest in social enterprise or purpose driven businesses. This does not mean discriminating for these types of businesses but rather, deliberately bringing them on the journey or slicing up parts of projects that may be better delivered by these types of businesses.

It’s about giving them a voice at the concept stage or joining them up with other larger businesses who can bring in the big guns and who are sometimes better placed to take on larger risk.

The Awkward Social Enterprise Disco

Generically speaking the large buyer (particularly government) can look at start-up’s or small businesses with a high degree of risk and uncertainty.

  • Can they met all of our requirements?
  • Can they grow to meet the evolving capacity demands that successful projects often breed?

The smaller supply side of the fence often look at government as impossible to break in to, focused on lengthy tenders, slow to move and offer contracts that require extreme liability stances or loaded risk that shifts the balance towards the supplier. A small start up or social enterprise, for example, might not have the knowledge to begin to deal with our often seemingly fixed ways of working.

What’s Working?

The movement is happening, here is what I see:

  • Agencies working together
  • Buyer and supply side meeting and connecting
  • Different sectors of the supply side engaging to work together
  • More and more green lights everywhere: internal buyers, management, stakeholders, suppliers and the rules are more supportive
  • Procurement functions are helping to facilitate the gap by connecting supply markets and private sector with internal buyers
  • Procurement functions are working with the internal buyers by showing different ways of managing the process, e.g. co-design, agile, sprints, early supply market engagement.
  • Starting small, not tackling the significant contracts first.

Why Bother?

Because we should, because it’s the right thing to do and because spending the same dollar twice by making an impact and providing tangible social good with taxpayers’ money. Just. Makes. Sense. 

From Mountains to Medals – Find Your Inner Gold

How can you accelerate your supply chain career? By finding your inner gold, of course, on Day 5 of Career Boot Camp 2019.

CBC 2019 - Day 5 - Gold

Dr Karen Darke MBE is our coach on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to her podcast now.

Ability is a state of mind, not a state of body. 

We all have incredible power within us to change our thoughts, our emotions, and our energy field. We can all learn to be our own alchemist, to transform unwanted emotions or experiences into gold, be creators of our reality, change our performance, our wellbeing, our world.

That’s the powerful message you will hear from today’s podcast guest Dr. Karen Darke MBE. Karen could be described as a modern-day alchemist: an adventurer, athlete, speaker and author all rolled into one. Karen’s purpose is all about inspiring and impacting, about turning challenge into opportunity – finding your ‘inner gold’.

Karen started out as a geologist in the Bolivian Andes researching and searching for gold. But a life-changing accident that left her paralysed led her away from being a ‘rock-doctor’ to a quest to achieve Paralympic gold.

Finding Your Prime in 79

Karen is fascinated by the importance gold has had on her life.  Her gold medal in the sport of hand-cycling in Rio 2016 was the 79th medal for Britain, and 79 being the elemental number for Gold led to Karen creating ‘Quest 79: Find Your Inner Gold’.  

The project has seen Karen cycle 7 continents and 9 rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and discover their passion, purpose or ability: their ‘inner gold’.

Karen views life as an adventure, and embraces all its experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. She has faced some extreme lows on her own roller coaster, and knows how trauma and life events can lead to fear and pain.  

As a part of her journey, Karen has generated some highs on her roller coaster, exploring and extending the limits of possibility physically, mentally, and emotionally. She has skied across icecaps, kayaked at extreme latitudes of the planet, and hand-cycled the world’s biggest mountain ranges and longest rivers.

She has also extensively explored and studied what goes on inside, from the power of the mind and thoughts to enable performance, to the impact of high frequency emotions to transform and heal. Her career as an athlete and adventurer, combined with her unique studies of mind, wellbeing, and healing make Karen a specialist in transformation.

Finding Your Own Gold

Karen recommends starting with a few simple steps.

  • When difficult or unwanted things happen, hold back from reacting and instead ask “What can I learn from this? How can this make me stronger? How can I use this experience to help myself or others?” Know you are going to learn something useful.
  • Be the observer of your own thoughts, and practice stopping or changing the unhelpful ones. Transform limiting thoughts into curious, expansive thoughts: for example, change “I’ll never manage this” into “This is interesting as I’ve never done anything like this before…I wonder what will happen next.”
  • Develop your self-awareness and take a gardening approach, digging out the unhelpful weeds! (Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can plant flowers, or you can grow weeds).  This way helps you to stop getting caught up in ‘stories’ and being a victim of circumstances, to become the creator of your reality.

Karen has distilled valuable learning and lessons through her years of experience and study so that she can share them with others. Subscribe or contact Karen at www.karendarke.com/contact to receive information about forthcoming webinars, courses and learning experiences.

Exploring New Places in Your Supply Chain Career

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again!

supply chain career

Ron Castro, Vice President IBM Supply Chain is our coach on Day Four of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to his podcast now.

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again! 

Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain’s CV sounds more like a global expedition of discovery than a traditional professional career.  Australia, China, Brazil and the US – Ron’s career has taken him to roles in all four corners of the globe.  He even managed to fit in a stint in France along the way.

Work Across the Business

So how did Ron achieve his impressive globe-trotting career?  He attributes his success to an unquenchable thirst to explore and work in every aspect of the business.  “Rotating across the supply chain and your organisation can help to connect the dots,” advises Ron.  Becoming a subject matter expert in all aspects of the work, he believes,  makes it easier to develop a holistic approach.

Ron hasn’t limited his experience to just the world of work.  His involvement in learning and development to support supply chain professionals across the industry, plus a board position on a non-profit organisation, show his thirst for new ideas and different perspectives extends outside working hours.

Ron recommends that supply chain professionals “be involved across initiatives”.  He’s found that this approach helped him to see things from a different perspective – one of the skills that is essential at a time when the world is constantly changing and moving forward.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Ron is concerned that “people play it safe and have a fear of failure.”  His career success had been built on taking risks and using trusted early warning systems to course correct if his ideas start moving off track. 

In Ron’s view, far too many supply chain professionals aim to low and achieve unambitious targets.  “Better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon,” Ron stresses.

Your Exploration Road Map

So how can you chart your expedition to supply chain career success?  Ron has seven tips that you can try:

  1. Be bold – set yourself an ambitious target today
  2. Make time for the important things rather than letting urgent things dominate your day – being able to achieve important things will define your career
  3. Take care of your mind and your body – perhaps take up mountain biking like Ron
  4. Be balanced and be a holistic thinker – seek out opportunities to gain insight that can help you join the dots
  5. Build a strong network – connect with as many people as you can inside and outside your work
  6. Skills become obsolete – learning is lifelong not just for when you are at school
  7. Have passion and love what you do – if not find yourself something another role.

Why not start your expedition today by setting yourself an ambitious career goal?  Follow Ron’s chart for success to see where next for your supply chain career journey.

Step Out of Your Silo to Propel Your Supply Chain Career

Are you ready to step out of your silo to share skills and expertise freely with other areas? 

CBC Day 3 escape your silo

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain is our coach on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to here her podcast now.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director of Sustainable Supply Chain at MIT, believes that a career in supply chain has the potential to be varied and exciting.  “I’ve been able to bring new insights and fresh thinking [to my role] and in some ways I wish I’d found supply chain earlier in my career,” she says. And she is clear that an open approach to ideas and people could be the key to an upward career trajectory.

Many people and Many Views

The variety that’s embedded in a career in supply chain comes, in part, from the departments of the organisation with which the function needs to interact. Alexis loves the way that this collaboration exposes her to many different points of view. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to interact with so many people,” she says. “Almost everyone has something to teach me.”

Alexis describes her sustainability and supply chain role at MIT as one of working with people from different disciplines who have a variety of conceptual experiences. She believes that working across organisations can really help us to think more broadly about issues and projects.

The opportunity to work in a team with many perspectives is something that Alexis sees as being a key part of a supply chain professional’s role. From engineers, technicians, analysts, and strategists, every discipline and perspective can be part of a supply chain team. Close collaboration and problem solving, she says, is just what’s required when you’re working to improve sustainability.

When she’s leading teams at MIT, Alexis’ role is to make sure these roles are aligned, and voices are heard equally. In her experience, “all voices are there for a reason and unique perspectives can push a project forward or enable the team to think of something really innovative.”

Get Out of Your Silo

“A silo view of the organisation and consequently the topics covered in learning and development is the wrong way to progress a supply chain career,” warns Alexis. She advocates against a heads-down, staying in your comfort zone approach. In her experience, where someone broadens out their perspective to think about how they can apply their expertise and knowledge, a range of opportunities to progress will appear.

Alexis urges people to think more broadly about what they do next. “In supply chain, expertise can really be moulded to different positions,” she reports. And the good news is that, in her experience, having an open mind can be a chance to advance your career.

Thinking about your supply chain career trajectory is something that Alexis would encourage all supply chain professionals to do. Supply chain looks at the organisation from many different perspectives: sustainability, logistics, procurement, last mile, and this means that are many roles where different expertise is required.

“There’s so much upward mobility in supply chain,” she says, “from Chief Supply Chain Officer all the way to the CEO.” Alexis is optimistic about the opportunities that are out there for supply chain professionals who love variety and are prepared to broaden their experience and their skills.

Making Variety Part of What you Do

So how can you seek escape the silo and understand the world and the variety of opportunities out there? Alexis has these tips that you can use to embed the search for different into your routine:

  1. Read a lot – try to fit lots of reading into your life;
  2. Read daily – set a slot aside each day when you make time to read;
  3. Read about different subjects – it doesn’t always have to be about supply chain;
  4. Listen to podcasts – they’re a great way to absorb new information particularly when you’re on the move.

Why not embrace variety into your life by becoming a reader and podcast listener? Follow Alexis’ tips to unlock the potential for success in your supply chain career that could take you right to the top.

Supply Chain Hack – Get to Know Your Brain

Could the human brain be augmented in the future to the benefit of supply chain? Find out on Day 2 of Career Boot Camp 2019!

Career Boot Camp 2019 - Day 2 Brain

Professor Moran Cerf is our guest on Day Two of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to his podcast now.

Do you sometimes wish you could upgrade your professional performance to the next level by simply inserting a micro-chip into your brain with the supply chain skills you need?

Professor Cerf started out in the depths of the cyber world as a hacker, spending 15 years cracking the secrets of computing’s black box.  His career took a different course when Francis Crick, of DNA discovery fame, gave him some career advice.  Moran recalls that his mentor encouraged him to move away from focussing on computers and  “apply his expertise to the most complex black box in the world,” the human brain.

We’ve all heard of the concept of ‘biohacking’, where people make small, incremental changes to their diets and/or lifestyles, resulting in changes to health and wellbeing.  At one end, this can be as simple as reducing your sugar or caffeine consumption.  At the other, perhaps more extreme, end it can involve the use of technology, gadgets or implants designed to ‘hack’ your biology to improve yourself.

Moran is fascinated about the way the brain solves problems, imagines the future and even composes music.  He thinks we may never fully understand the processes inside our heads but he’s excited about the ways that machine learning can mimic the brain and potentially augment it.   

Consider how this could be used to improve the day-to-day lives of billions of people. Could the future hold a time when we have a microchip inserted to augment our brain to become a Human 2.0?  Could this be applied to help our brains do the analytical things we need to do in supply chain?

Playing to your Cerebral Strengths

One piece of Moran’s research, in partnership with Red Bull, sought to identify why some people perform better than others.  How do some people manage to carry on while others give up?  The research team “wanted to see whether we could tap into the part of the brain that regulates performance.”

And it turned out that it was possible to identify the conditions when performance started to dip.  By monitoring the reaction in the brain in the seconds before a person gave up, the research team could send trigger to give a performance boost.  The brain would then react to increase performance and improve motivation to carry on with a task.  Moran’s team’s findings were clear – “There is always the potential to do more and do it better.”

Moran advises Boot Camp participants to think of  the brain as a muscle whose performance you can improve. “The key,” he tells us, “is to play to your brain’s strengths and carry out tasks at times and condition.” 

Five Steps to Improve Your Self-Control Muscle

How can we get into the neuro-science gym and practice the professor’s spin class for our brain? He has five steps we can take to improve our brain performance:

  1. Identify the key activities you do in your role and keep a diary to capture data about the times of the day when you carry out these activities
  2. Review your performance each day – did you do these activities well, were there any factors that influenced your performance?
  3. Identify the times of the day and conditions when your performance in each activity has been the best.
  4. Align your schedule so that you do these activities at the time of day that works best for your brain

Why not kick-start your training today by running through these steps, starting your very own diary and seeing if you get even more than you thought possible from your brain?

And what better way to start than by listening to the Professor himself on our Career Boot Camp 2019 podcast series!

Your Supply Chain Career: A Path to Adventure

If it’s adventure you’re looking for, look no further than supply chain for your career choices. Find out why on Day 1 of Career Boot Camp.

Career Boot Camp 2019 - Day 1

Stephen Day is our coach on Day One of Career Boot Camp 2019. Sign up here to listen to his podcast now. 

Are you sitting at your desk dreaming of a supply chain role that can take you far-away places and foreign lands? Do you wish that your job included the opportunity to try new things and work in different roles?

Stephen Day’s career journey certainly hasn’t seen him stuck in a rut with his wheels spinning. He’s worked in a range of industries and a variety of roles across the globe and attributes his career success to thirst for knowledge and the absence of a fear for the unknown.

Stephen has made many changes in his career. After starting in engineering, Stephen pivoted to telecoms and, after a decade, made another switch to educational publishing. He found the skills and knowledge he’d gained in each industry could be easily transferred to new sectors and new roles.

Break the Habit of Fear

“People can get into bad habits that are not helpful,” Stephen advises. “They can get so wedded to the salary that they end up really miserable – our careers are relatively short – we need to do the work where we feel energised and can make a difference.” 

Fear, Stephen warns, can keep people stuck in the wrong roles.

But the good news is that a career in supply chain has never looked better. There are plenty of great supply chain roles for professionals that want to make the change and who have the skills and capabilities to take on a new role.

The opportunity to work with a variety of new leaders will provide chances to learn and grow. Stephen is grateful that that he’s been able to work with great leaders and thinks that this is an important part of any supply chain professional’s career journey. “Are the people you are working with inspiring you?” he asks.  If not, perhaps it’s time to make a change.

Luck is Not a Random Event

Stephen favorite piece of advice comes from the Greek philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens where preparation meets opportunity.”

He’s always seeking out new ways to be prepared. Over the years, Stephen’s efforts to keep current and up to date have enabled him to have broader conversations at all levels of the organisations in which he has worked. Building his credibility meant that when he sought to implement transformation and change, senior leadership were ready to listen to his ideas.

Three Steps to Build Bravery for your Career Adventure

To make sure that your acts of career bravery and an appetite for adventure aren’t foolhardy, Stephen has these three tips for you to try:

  1. Find ways that you can keep up to date with issues in your industry;
  2. Volunteer for difficult projects when they arise – organisations like people who are prepared to do the hard stuff;
  3. Develop your network so that people think of you when opportunities arise.

Why not take the first step to build your network on Procurious by reaching out to other supply chain professionals today? You can start with Stephen Day as your first step to grow the connections in your supply chain network!