Category Archives: Career Management

Procurement is Already Awesome – Here’s Why So Many #LOVEPROCUREMENT

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that procurement professionals love what they do. And here’s why….

We have all seen how far Procurement has evolved in recent years. The process has certainly not been easy for some; most of us are still on the journey (after all, transformation isn’t a destination) and others have yet to begin. But one thing is clear, procurement has turned the transformation corner and is speeding forward.

It’s not long ago that procurement departments were shunned and dismissed as merely back office administrators. But a lot has changed and the new terminology used to describe procurement is hardly recognisable; collaborative, innovative, data-driven, agile, change agent, advisor. Much of this due is to the broader realisation that Procurement can add significant value to an organisation. But to me, there is even more to it. I believe that the passion that many procurement professionals have for their work and the fact that many of us love what we do plays a big part.

Over the last year, and before that as an industry analyst, I spent a lot of time listening and talking to procurement professionals and it became apparent that people in this function really do enjoy and love what they do. It may have something to do with the fact that procurement is now exciting and invigorated but regardless, I wanted to investigate further. So, at our annual event we asked real procurement practitioners one question “Why do you love procurement?” and the response was overwhelming and quite frankly, surprising. We received over 120 answers, many of which expressed a great passion and  love for procurement. This was enough evidence for me.

The response was so great that we felt obligated to share a few, in the hope that they:

  • Inspire those in this profession (and maybe others)
  • Show that this is not your parent’s procurement; this is a dynamic, modern and challenging profession
  • Prove that many procurement professionals are excited about their roles, what’s in store for them and the impact they can have on an organisation
  • Drive even more proclamations of procurement love (you can submit your own by clicking on the image below)

I couldn’t help myself, so I threw all the responses into a word cloud tool to highlight some of the most common words used:

Why do you love Procurement?

Above are some of the main words used to describe why people love Procurement but here are some actual responses. To see more please visit this page

My favorite one really captures the dynamic nature of Procurement and the impact:

“It gives me that spiderman feeling- middle of the web with the other players and a superhero when we get the cost out.”

Procurement is about relationship building.

“I do not source goods and services, I source relationships.”

Procurement is fun…

“Involves cost, saving, buying, innovation, suppliers and all the fun in the world.”

Who said Procurement doesn’t care about suppliers?

“I love helping suppliers innovate develop and succeed”

Procurement helps make businesses more agile.

“I’m ready to fully respond and support continuous and radial changes in a business.”

Procurement is an exciting place to be right now. It’s a dynamic function that demands a multitude of skills from the traditional negotiation, relationship management and process skills to the increasingly important sales, communication, analytics, innovative technology and more. Many procurement groups are having to familiarise themselves with emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain and IoT. The rapid innovation in these areas and potential impact means that procurement must keep pace.

Procurement is a gatekeeper to potentially the largest source of innovation any company has – its suppliers. Fostering those relationships, building new ones and becoming the customer of choice is critical in this hyper-competitive age.

All of this makes Procurement fascinating. As such, we will continue gathering these quotes from around the world and hopefully generate more interest and excitement about Procurement.

So, if you #LOVEPROCUREMENT, tell us why.

Four Ways To Cultivate Real Confidence And Supercharge Your Career

Often we think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. But this couldn’t be further from the truth…

Think of someone who you say is confident – your boss, a colleague or a celebrity, perhaps. Chances are you’d describe them as poised, hopeful and positive. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses, too.

Often we think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. This simply is not true. Confidence is not a personality trait or a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take. Confidence is learnable.

It also isn’t based on our actual ability to succeed at a task but on our belief in our ability to succeed. It is the expectation of a positive outcome – regardless of whether this relates to our belief in our ability to speak in front of a large audience, to learn new technology, to lead a team, to handle confrontation, to change jobs and careers, or to start a business.

With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence and, with it, our capacity to build more of it. Here’s how to do that in four ways.

  1. Show up as the real you

Having the ability to show up with real confidence means you know yourself, you can be yourself and you show up as the best version of yourself. This is more than getting out of bed, splashing some water on your face and fronting up at your desk hoping you can cope with what the day throws at you.

You believe you can draw on what you are great at. You believe what you’re good at is important, and that it’s aligned with how you are working. You believe that you are valuable and valued.

Showing up as truly confident over a sustained period of time is something that needs to be built from the inside out. ‘Faking it until you make it’ only gets you so far and for so long. Trying to pretend you have the confidence needed to get the job done can be exhausting.

2. Stand up for yourself

At work, especially if you’re looking to get into a leadership position, you need to speak up when no-one else will. You need to be visible, make unpopular decisions and go slow in order to go fast. You must stand alone in a crowd and have the confidence to believe in yourself. You don’t need to be the Dalai Lama, but you do need to stand up for what you deem right, fair and important.

When it comes to building your confidence in standing strong, ask yourself:

  • What do you VALUE? To speak out, you have to know what to speak about. To stand up for your beliefs, you have to know what you stand for.
  • What is your PURPOSE? Steve Jobs once said, ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.’ That’s a clear sense of purpose. He was clear about what he stood for and why, and you need to be too.
  • How RESILIENT are you? Inevitably, when we stand up, we are putting ourselves at risk of rejection. Building your capacity to get back up again is important in maintaining your confidence during adversity and setbacks.

3. Speak up and have a voice

A sure way to fail in today’s demanding business environment is to keep quiet when you should be speaking up!

People often tell me that they don’t speak up because they are not confident and they fear being judged. My response is, ‘So you would rather be judged on just sitting there and saying nothing instead of taking the opportunity to have a voice and potentially getting it wrong?’ The likelihood is that we are going to be judged one way or another.

Many of us also back away from speaking up to avoid conflict. We see conflict as bad, rather than being able to reframe it as healthy debate. As a result, we keep our opinions to ourselves – thinking that if we just keep doing our job and delivering the outcomes, we will get ahead.

Yet we must be willing to speak up, even when it is hard or unpopular or you feel like it will cause conflict. As Martin Luther King Jr put it, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’. So, use your voice!

  1. Step up your performance

You need to have the confidence and skills, and the ability to take on an element of risk, no matter what role or industry you work in. To step up confidently, you need to master your mindset, build your personal brand and have great sponsors.

Reflecting on your current behaviours and stepping up as required is critical. You often need to do things differently tomorrow from how you are today. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone – and be confident enough to do this – and be aware of your context and what the environment requires of you because this is always changing.

If you’ve got your ‘head down and bum up’ all day long, knocking off your to-do list, how will you be able to assess what you need to do to influence and ensure the work makes real progress?

Continue to challenge yourself and ask, ‘If what got me here won’t get me there, what do I need to be doing now to step up?’

When you do this in line with all the other confidence skills, then you start to cultivate your confidence and supercharge your career.

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.

David Gillespie is a guest speaker at the Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October 2018, where he’ll help delegates understand how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. Interested in attending? Register here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

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 immatureand 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.

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.

6 Ways To Prevent A Negotiation Blow Up

There’s no denying that negotiations can be tough. And the best thing you can do to lessen the tension and prevent a negotiation blow up is to be prepared…

Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…

No, it’s not the start of an Eminem song… (well, it is, but that’s not what we’re getting at!)

You’re preparing for a big negotiation with a group of key suppliers and you’re already anticipating a disastrous outcome.

Perhaps you already know the people you’re dealing with are difficult to work with, or you’ve heard about their reputation.

Or maybe you know your own negotiation skills leave a lot to be desired when it comes to crisis management.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that negotiations can be tough. And the best thing you can do to lessen the tension and prevent a negotiation blow up is to be prepared.

We joined a recent Negotiation Roundtable organized by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning), a firm that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing, on the topic of Emotions and Negotiation. We wanted to hear advice from a number of procurement and sales leaders on how to keep your negotiations sweet.

Giuseppe Conti, the founder of CABL, led the conversation by discussing how emotions can influence decision making during negotiations and the ways to increase effectiveness when this factor is taken into account.

  1. Practice mindfulness

If you enter into your negotiation like a coiled spring, chances are the spring won’t stay coiled for long. The calmer you are the calmer you’re likely to remain for the duration of the meeting.

Olga Guerous, VP Commercial – Mars,  recalled a confrontation she experienced early on in her career. A particularly difficult supplier, who’s emotions were “all over the place” became so angry that he was forced to “leave the room midway through a negotiation and remained in the corridor for fifteen minutes in order to calm down.

“He came back and apologised but the situation wasn’t redeemable and he didn’t get what he wanted. Losing his temper made him lose any power and control he had in the negotiation. Having full control of your emotions is a key benefit in negotiations.”

Paul André, Director Reduced Risk Commercial Supply – JTI agreed, recommending, low breathing and mindfulness to help create a barrier to your emotions.

  1. Practice what you’re going to say

If you’re nervous or apprehensive about an impending negotiation, there’s nothing wrong with rehearsing in advance, to ensure you come across as intended.

Regina Roos, VP &  Sales Segment Leader Mineral and Mining – Schneider Electric,  said: “In the morning in front of the mirror I smile and practice some conversations, particularly ones that help you respond to people that are angry.

“When you are talking you can’t see yourself.  When you look in the mirror you can practice your facial expressions so it is not ironic or sarcastic. I call it ‘the mascara moment’.”

Francesco Lucchetta, Director EMEAI Supply – Pentair, agreed asserting the ” importance of making people aware of emotions without showing them, making an effort to keep the exchange respectful and controlled”

  1. Be physically prepared

Regina Roos recalled working with a procurement leader who took a very unique approach to managing his negotiations. At the beginning of every meeting and regularly throughout he would direct participants to the bathrooms.

“The need to take a break, to go to the toilet can create problems and impact on emotions during a negotiation. It’s good to take a minute, recharge your batteries and re-enter the discussion with a fresh perspective.”

Olga Guerous agreed in the importance of taking regular breaks throughout the negotiation process, even if it’s simply a break in the current conversation.  “It’s a powerful technique, when emotions are running high, to completely deviate from that topic, particularly if you believe you are going to have minimal success. Switch to a less contentious discussion and return to the difficult point later, whether it’s in a few minutes or a few hours.”

  1. Prepare to be confident

Preparation before a negotiation is crucial to help regulate emotions because it gives you the confidence to calmly assert your position and communicate your key points.

Ifti Ahmed, Managing Partner – Titanium Partners, argued that the most important way to control emotions is through self-confidence. “Confidence comes from preparation. If you’re prepared – you’re confident. If you think you’re going to win – you’re confident. If you think you’re going to lose – that’s when the emotions come into it.

If it helps you, don’t be ashamed of preparing everything you have to say in writing and sticking to that script.

  1. Plan your stand-up routine

There’s nothing like a touch of light humour to diffuse an escalating argument. Alessandra Silvano, Global Category Director CAPEX & MRO – Carlsberg, explained that his favourite way to blow out tension during negotiations is to crack a joke.

“Of course it has to be tactful, considered and culturally appropriate but it can be a useful and powerful way to break the tension.  Be sure you are not offending anyone and perhaps keep it exclusively to jokes about yourself!”

  1. Pick your venue wisely

Location-choice can make or break the success of your negotiation. If you want to ensure all participants remain civil, calm and professional there’s nothing like a neutral or public space to guarantee best behaviour.

“I’m a very emotional person and I find it difficult to process,” said Alessandra. “The venue of the negotiation has a big impact for me. I try to pick a relaxing, informal setting, such as a dinner. In an office environment it’s easy to get angry. In a nice restaurant I’m more relaxed and it’s easier to joke around and control emotions.”

Is Procurement Full Of Psychopaths?

If one in five procurement managers are psychopaths, how should you manage them?

A recent study of senior managers found that one in five procurement managers are psychopaths.  No, this doesn’t mean they are likely to wear clown makeup and brandish a chain-saw.  But it does mean the organisations which employ them need to exercise caution if they value their reputation.

The study, published in 2016, was conducted by Simon Croom, a professor of supply chain management at the University of San Diego in collaboration with two researchers from Bond University on the Gold Coast. It consisted of a global survey of 261 supply chain managers working in industries with an average price negotiation budget in the range of US$50 million.

The survey was based on a questionnaire widely used to identify psychopathic personalities.  If found that 55 (about 21%) of the procurement managers surveyed had clinically significant ratings in traits which would classify them as psychopaths.  That’s about the same levels as similar surveys produce in prison populations.

Largely thanks to Hollywood, most of us think of a psychopath as a violent serial killer. And while some of them probably are, there is a much more dangerous version that we are more likely to encounter every day in the workplace. You might call them bullies, or micromanagers, or narcissists, or sociopaths.  I don’t feel particularly charitable towards them, so I go with psychopath.

They all share a common set of personality characteristics.  They can be among the most charming people you’ll ever meet.  They are also fearless and focused.  So far so good, but then it gets tricky.  They take big risks on impulse, feel absolutely no remorse, are callous, lazy, have a very high opinion of themselves, will always take credit for good outcomes and blame others for bad outcomes.

Psychopaths are drawn to careers that give them power over others, so jobs towards the top of an organization are inherently attractive to them.  And they will find those jobs easier to get because they are extrabodily good at telling employers exactly what they want to hear and will happily lie about everything including their experience and education.

If you want a go-getter procurement manager who could charm a dog off a meat wagon, then you might be wondering what the downside is.  A psychopath will shoot first and won’t even bother to ask questions later.  They are completely amoral, will lie and cheat compulsively and will leave nothing on the table. They are deal-makers. You might even be thinking these characteristics make psychopaths fantastic assets in the cut and thrust world of supply chain management.  Given that, the surprising thing about this study is not that 20 per cent of procurement managers are psychopaths, it’s that 80 per cent aren’t.

A psychopath may well be fearless but they will only look after themselves. Yes, they will face down a mugger but they will not protect you against that danger unless there is something in it for them. Yes, they will charge into battle but military units depend on every soldier being able to trust the man beside them. You cannot trust a psychopath to act in your best interests, only their own. They won’t be taking a bullet for anyone, no matter how fearless they are.

And this applies just as strongly to your corporate reputation.  A psychopath does not care how your company is perceived in the market unless it directly affects the deal he has on the table today.  They will not plan strategically and they are motivated by nothing but self-interest.  If he behaves dishonestly and trashes your reputation then that is your problem, not his.  If you are in an industry where you will only ever do one deal with any other counter-party and none of them ever speak to each other, then I guess you could get away with employing psychopathic procurement managers.

But reputation matters.  Yes, you could be the fisherman that takes every fish out of the sea, but if you want to be able to do that next year, you’d better leave a few behind.  There is always short term gain to be had from counter-parties in a weaker position, but if you let a psychopath exploit that party because they can, your reputation will be mud and you will miss out on the longer term gains that fair dealing and honesty can deliver.

If your procurement manager is in the 20%, then for the sake of your own long-term welfare, make sure you have strong systems in place to ensure they act fairly and honestly or you will ultimately be paying the price.

David Gillespie is a guest speaker at the Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October 2018, where he’ll help delegates understand how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. Interested in attending? Register here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney