Category Archives: Generation Procurement

5 Career Lessons From a 75-Year-Old London Cabbie

Inspiration can often come from an unusual source. And you should never be too closed off to learn career lessons from a wide variety of people!

Cab Career Lessons

On my way to the Productivity in Pharma meeting in London yesterday, as is often the case, my cab got stuck in traffic.

As we edged our way across Westminster Bridge, I got chatting to my taxi driver, and discovered that I was going to be his very last customer after a 45-year career as a London taxi driver.  His plan was to drop me off, return his cab to the depot, and catch a bus and train combination back to his wife in Surrey.

Not one to miss an opportunity to learn, I quickly thought through what this wonderful man’s life and career lessons could mean for procurement professionals.

A Quick Side Note!

But before I share my learnings, let me tell you how much I love London cabs! I’ve always wanted the opportunity to share my love in one of my blog articles, so I’m very happy to now have the chance! These unique, purpose-made vehicles can turn on a dime, and accommodate five passengers, as well as luggage. Amazing.

According to Wikipedia, many black cabs have a turning circle of only 25ft (8m). One reason for this is the configuration of the famed Savoy Hotel. The hotel entrance’s small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a small turning circle in order to navigate it.

That requirement became the legally required turning circle for all London cabs. Also, the custom of passengers sitting on the right, behind the driver, provided a reason for the right-hand traffic in Savoy Court, allowing hotel patrons to board and alight from the driver’s side. I love these types of London stories!

Back to Career Lessons

Anyway, back to the career lessons learned from my septuagenarian chauffeur.  Here’s what came to mind –

1. Don’t sweat a couple of hiccups early on in your career

Don’t worry if you have to go over a couple of speed bumps early in your career – my cabbie got fired twice early in his.

He had a lot of fun in his very first job, which was being the doorman at the very exclusive Dorchester Hotel. A highlight he shared was when Zsa Zsa Gabor dropped her towel and exposed herself as he made a delivery to the room. His photo also blessed the Daily Mail, when the famous Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield rewarded his good work with a kiss. Maybe as a result of these heady experiences, one day he fell asleep on the job and was summarily dismissed.

He tried couple of other jobs, including being a bus conductor, but when he threw his supervisor off the bus, he realised he wasn’t really meant to work for others. Despite these small set-backs, this gentleman still enjoyed a 45-year career.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint

I know that during the first decade or two of my career, I was convinced that the faster and harder I worked, the faster my career would progress. To a certain degree, this may have been the case.  Even now, I am probably working at a slightly unsustainable pace, but I am learning that sometimes you have to slow down in order to go faster.

While chatting as we edged our way along, it dawned on me that this gent was someone who was in extremely good shape.  At 75 years of age, he still had a full head of hair, was highly animated and spoke lovingly about his children, grandchildren and wife of 52 years (“who kept him young”).

He was obviously a man who enjoyed good health and had a positive life. As much as we feed our self-esteem through career success, we need to remember that our health, happiness and support of our family and friends are really what will sustain us on the long haul.

3. Do what you love

People who have been successful in their career often say things like “I’ve been very lucky”. But what you normally find is that they have worked hard at a job they love.

Make sure you are passionate about what your career – it will reflect in everything you do and will help buoy your success. Being in procurement is a great head start, because you’re working in the most exciting profession in the world…right?!

4. Know your stuff

One of the defining characteristics of the London taxi drivers is their in-depth knowledge of London’s streets and their ability to navigate their way to the desired destination through the congestion and chaos London is so well known for! All without the help of a sat nav.

This is because London taxi drivers go through stringent training to obtain their licence. They need to pass “The Knowledge”, a test which is among the hardest to pass in the world. The drivers need to memorise every possible route through the 25,000 city streets, and know all 20,000 landmarks. Apparently, it takes the average person between 2 to 4 years to learn the knowledge. And it shows – these guys really know their stuff!

So no more complaining about studying for your MCIPS or ISM qualification! Knowledge will give you the credibility you need to achieve your career success.

5. Trust the universe

Amazingly, in his long career (which must have included literally tens of thousands of customer trips), he only had a handful of people not pay their fare. To me, this really reinforced that the universe is actually quite a good place.

There are more good people than bad and in the large majority of cases, people are honest and do the right thing. A cause for us all to remain optimistic!

Safe travels!

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Smashing through the bamboo ceiling

You’ve heard of the glass ceiling – the male privilege which has historically prevented women from rising to the top of their organisations. Less well-known, however, is the concept of the “bamboo ceiling”.

Bamboo ceilingIt refers to the processes and barriers that serve to exclude Asians or people of Asian descent from executive positions in Western-run organisations. The term was coined by Jane Hyun in her book focusing on Asians in American workplaces, Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians.

We’ve recently witnessed a cultural shift in our most progressive organisations wherein gender equality in the workplace is now firmly on the agenda. There are a host of agencies such as Catalyst and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency that are working to address the imbalance, although there is a long way to go.

The difference between the glass and bamboo ceilings, however, lies in the fact that while a company may admit to historic gender bias and pro-actively work to address the problem, racial bias remains in the shadows. Cultural diversity quotas and programs do exist, but the statistics at the executive level are particularly damning. In the US, for example, Asian-Americans hold only 1% of board seats. Australia shares this problem: a recent report by Diversity Council Australia revealed that while 9.3% of the Australian labour force is Asian-born, only 4.9% make it to the senior executive level. Similarly, only 1.9% of ASX 200 senior executives are Asian born, despite 84% of surveyed Asian talent saying they plan to advance to very senior roles. There’s a huge disconnect here – if you are Asian in Australia, chances are very slim that you will make it to the top, no matter how ambitious you are.

The consequences are alarming. 30% of Asian talent have said they were likely, or very likely, to leave their organisation within the next year. For one in four, negative cultural diversity factors significantly influenced their decision.

Tony Megally, General Manager of specialist procurement recruitment and search firm The Source, says that while Australian organisations are hiring more Asian-born talent than ever before, there are still significant cultural barriers to overcome.

“We’re seeing a trend where talented Asian professionals feel they have to change, or Westernise, their names in order to make sure their resumes aren’t passed over”, Megally says. “This shows that there’s still significant cultural bias in Australian organisations, although no recruiter would be willing to admit they passed over a candidate due to a hard-to-pronounce name.”

Bias holding back Asians in business – even in Asia
Even more alarming is the existence of the bamboo ceiling in Asia itself. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, locals rise only so far at Western firms, with multinationals still relying on ex-pats to fill top jobs decades after expanding into the region. Tellingly, 40% more Westerners are placed in CEO-type roles in the region compared with other roles.

Dr Tom Verghese, author and founder of Cultural Synergies, says there’s a real lack of Asian leaders in the top echelons of business. “I’ve been working on developing Asian leaders in the market for 12 years”, says Verghese, “but multinationals do have some understandable reasons for using expatriates in Asia. All global companies inevitably have their organisational culture rooted to their country of origin. There is something in having a person familiar with your language and culture as that link with head office. A very human tendency that we need to be conscious of is our sense of comfort – or bias – that ‘same is safe, and different is dangerous’. Companies want one of their own ‘guarding the store’, and there can be advantages to having an outsider in the top job because they can make changes that an insider would hesitate to make.”

Bad for business
Having less diversity at the top can be bad for business. Companies need to reign in their use of ex-pats, in part because they are expensive hires, and having white-majority executives means a lack of understanding of consumer needs, trends, purchasing power and brand positioning. In short, organisations are excluding the very people who know Asia best.

Multinational organisations in Asia need to focus on the following ways to shatter the bamboo ceiling:

  • phasing out the reliance on expatriates for top roles
  • actively developing and grooming local talent for leadership positions
  • training local talent to fill perceived capability gaps rather than looking elsewhere
  • seeking out talent that knows the local market and understands cultural hierarchies
  • setting quotas for local representation in executive teams
  • understanding the difference in what a good leader looks like across different cultures.

“Multinationals need to embrace cultural intelligence and develop a much broader context around what global leadership looks like”, says Verghese. “A facilitative leadership style may be effective in Australia, for example, but a directive style works better in Asia”.

The Faculty Asia Roundtable hosts quarterly meetings in Singapore, where CPOs from the region’s leading organisation meet to share learnings and best-practice. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Are Charities & Non-Profit Organisations Getting the Most from Procurement?

We’ve all donated to charities at some point, but do we know where our donation is being spent? How effectively are third sector organisations able to leverage their procurement?

Charities Donation

This article was originally written for, and published on, Novo-K.

A bucket in the street. A bake sale or coffee morning. A fun run. A phone call. We’ve all donated to charity at some point in our lives, and we frequently put our money down without thinking about where it goes to. But do you know how your donation is being spent?

With an ever-increasing number of charities in existence around the world, organisations need to be seen to be spending money wisely, or else donors could take their money elsewhere.

It’s not something that immediately springs to mind when you make a charitable donation, but charities and not-for-profit organisations rely on procurement teams in the same way as the public and private sectors. And the role that procurement plays for them is just as valuable.

Procurement Complexity

Despite my experience working in procurement, and the countless conversations I have had with procurement professionals, I will admit to a lack of extensive knowledge on procurement in the third sector. I had also (mistakenly) thought that procurement might be less complex than in other industries such as manufacturing.

However, following some conversations, and giving the subject more consideration, it’s clear that there is just as much complexity as in any other organisation. It’s not just indirect procurement activities as people might think.

In many cases charitable organisations are looking at procurement of a range of services, highly complex machinery, chemicals and drugs, and even construction services for new buildings.

Fighting the Same Battles

I asked the Procurious community whether they thought that got the most from their procurement activities. What struck me was that these organisations face the same issues the wider procurement community, one in particular being maverick spending.

In charitable and non-profit organisations, as with procurement across the world, there is still the need to convince business stakeholders, end users and other functions of the value procurement brings to the organisations.

Traditional mind-sets of, “But we’ve always done it that way”, and “We’ve used that supplier for years”, exist in these organisations. You might think that convincing stakeholders might be easier for a charity – more procurement involvement means better deals, means more money to go on research or helping people.

Effective Procurement

All of this brings me back round to my original question. In truth, as a donor, I don’t really mind what my money is spent on, just that it is being used to support the charity’s cause. As a procurement professional, however, I feel that there is more that could be done to make this more transparent, and also to support these organisations when procurement is less mature or experienced.

There are a number of ways that procurement in charitable and non-profit organisations can be supported. In the UK, the Charities Aid Foundation provides various services on a pooled basis for smaller charities.

There are also opportunities for procurement professionals to work with charities and social enterprises on a pro bono basis. This is a great way for the organisations to access procurement skills, without having to pay for a full-time staff member.

Another option is to expand our procurement networks, getting as many people involved as possible. By creating global networks, procurement professionals can access a wide range of knowledge and experience.

If you have a procurement issue, the chances are high that someone else has dealt with it before. By creating networks, we can help create real value.

All this can help to raise the profile of procurement within charities, educate stakeholders to procurement’s role and value, and make a major difference to how (and how effectively) money is being used.

Best Procurement Books – Explaining Procurement with Apple Pie

The Faculty’s Hugo Britt shares one of the best procurement books he has found. Did we mention it happens to be for pre-schoolers?!

chook1

“But mum/dad, what is procurement?” How many times have your kids asked you this question, and how often have you struggled to explain your complex role in simple language understandable by a child? The best response to this question that I’ve ever heard is “I do the shopping” – which paints a relatable picture of mum or dad pushing a giant supermarket trolley around all day at work.

The best procurement books should be able to answer that question, and I’ve found a picture book that answers it much better than I can. One of the many books my three-year-old enjoys reading with me at bedtime (hundreds and hundreds of times over) is Marjorie Priceman’s whimsical “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World”.

Best Procurement Books - Cover
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World – All Images are copyright to Dragonfly Books

The book is delightfully illustrated, about a little girl in Edwardian times who wants to make an apple pie. The premise is summed up in the first few lines:

“Making an apple pie is really very easy. First, get all the ingredients at the market. Mix them well, bake, and serve … Unless, of course, the market is closed.”

list

The Apple Pie Supply Chain

And this is where this great little book becomes a textbook on Procurement. The little girl packs a suitcase, puts on her walking shoes and takes a steamship bound for Europe and beyond. Along the way, she sources a number of ingredients which will help to make the apple pie:

  • Semolina wheat from Italy
  • Elegant eggs from a French chicken
  • Cinnamon from the bark of a Sri Lankan kurundu tree

kurundu

  • Milk from a good-mannered English cow
  • Seawater and sugarcane from Jamaica
  • And, of course, apples from a Vermont orchard

orchard

She appears to be a master negotiator (or perhaps just very charming), as there’s no mention of money changing hands for any ingredient. Along the way she has to overcome many of the challenges faced in Procurement, such as language barriers and creative means of transport.

The little girl then goes through the exhaustive process of turning the raw materials into the ingredients she needs, milling the wheat into flour, grinding the kurundu bark into cinnamon, evaporating the seawater from the salt, boiling the sugarcane, persuading the chicken to lay an egg, milking the cow, churning the milk into butter, slicing the apples, and finally mixing the ingredients and baking the pie.

process 1

Her reward is to share the delicious pie with all the new friends she made on her journey, including the chicken and cow.

Before my son demolishes a piece of cake or pie, we sometimes pause to talk about this book. It’s fantastic to see him wonder about all the work and ingredients that went into his slice of cake, and he’s even starting to think the same way about everyday objects all over the house, including clothes he wears and toys he plays with.

I give this book 5 out of 5. Do you have any children’s books to recommend that touch on Procurement? What are the best procurement books you have found answering that all important question? Share your thoughts below!

All images above are the property of Marjorie Priceman (and publisher Dragonfly Books). You can purchase How to Make an Apple Pie here: http://www.amazon.com/Make-Apple-World-Dragonfly-Books/dp/0679880836

Hugo Britt is a Research Consultant at The Faculty, helping to support The Faculty Roundtable, an influential group of Australian procurement leaders who gather to share their experiences and insights. 

For more information on The Faculty Roundtable contact Program Manager, Belinda Toohey.

“The grass is greener where you water it” – Millennial wisdom at ISM2016

ISM and THOMASNET’s 30 Under 30 Supply Chain stars share their views on talent retention, the future of learning, and the importance of mentorship.

Millennials

ISM CEO Tom Derry is always at his most passionate when talking about millennials in procurement. He’s a huge advocate for young people coming into the profession, and is delighted that the number of millennials attending ISM’s annual conference has swollen by 166% over last year.

You could feel this change in demographics as you walk the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Centre. Excited, eager and engaged young people are networking with each other and taking every opportunity to meet seasoned professionals at the conference. The buzz is also palpable online, where the tech-savvy millennials are continuing the conversation on channels like Twitter, Procurious and LinkedIn.

30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars

Now in its second year, the 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars award showcases millennials who are proactively tackling the ever-changing supply chain challenges facing global companies. The award was the brainchild of a partnership between ISM and THOMASNET.com, who were concerned at the fact that by 2525, 75% of the U.S. manufacturing workforce will be retired and there currently are not enough people coming into the field to backfill these roles. An entire generation of very senior leaders is on the cusp of retiring, and millennials will have to step into senior roles earlier than expected. “ISM and THOMASNET’s mission”, says Derry, “is to help them get ready”.

This year’s group of 30 winners were drawn from a host of diverse organisations, including big players like DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, Chrysler, John Deere, the U.S. Postal Service, Cisco and Shell. Smaller organisations are also represented, along with a smattering of the big U.S. tertiary institutions.

It’s something of a cliché to say that these young people demonstrate wisdom and insight well beyond their years, but they do. You only need to spend five minutes in conversation with these stars to dispel the stereotypes about an entitled and lazy generation. Their enthusiasm is infectious, along with their can-do attitude and eagerness for new challenges.

Here are three of the big issues discussed at ISM2016 by this year’s 30 Under 30 Winners:

  1. How organisations can retain millennials

Amy Georgi, 30 Under 30 Megawatt Winner and Program Manager at Fluke Electronics (Pennsylvania), bucks the retention trend. “I’ve been with the same company for nine years now”, she says. “In your career, you come to decision points – either your company responds well and you stay, or they don’t respond well and you leave”. Georgi also notes that millennials are not concerned with an 8am to 5pm work schedule – it’s all about outputs rather than clocking in, and flexibility should be a given as long as you continue to deliver and achieve.

Aisha Khan, Global Change Management and Communications Lead, Spend Management Strategy, Johnson & Johnson (New Jersey), comments that it’s important to be able to change roles while staying within an organisation. “Technology helps”, she says. “In the past, a lot of knowledge was lost whenever someone changed roles, but now we have databases that manage client and business relationships so successors can step into the role more easily.”

Georgi comments that organisations may complain about job-hopping millennials, but in an atmosphere of layoffs and pay reductions, employees understand that loyalty goes both ways. She does believe, however, that job-hopping isn’t the answer. “In Seattle, for example, it’s very easy to move around between the big organisations – Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft – but colleagues of mine who have hopped around often find that their expectations are disappointed. I believe that the grass is greener where you water it. If you put a lot in, opportunities will grow and things will work out.”

  1. The changing face of learning

Logan Ferguson, Improvement Leader at DuPont (Delaware), stresses that organisations need to focus on offering millennials constant opportunities to learn and grow. ISM’s Mastery Model and eLearning opportunities, including the newly launched eISM provides the flexibility and adaptability that busy millennials require. “Online learning helps when I can’t make my training dates, and I can skip over content if I’m already confident in that area”, says Ferguson. “But for me, there’ll always be a place for face-to-face training, because some of the conversations that come out of the training sessions are potentially more valuable than the training itself.”

“Sitting in a classroom is very outdated”, says Khan. “E-learning and micro-learning isn’t just for millennials – older people love it, and they’re just as busy as we are. It’s the most effective way to engage and retain information, and that’s important for me in my change-management role.”

  1. The importance of mentorship

Having a mentor appears to be a strategy for success shared by all of the 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars. Khan comments that she and her fellow winners wouldn’t be here today without mentorship. “But beyond mentorship, sponsorship is incredibly important. Young people need to find leaders who’ll go into bat for us.” Georgi agrees: “The key is to find the right match for you.”

It’s not only about finding a mentor, but becoming a mentor yourself. Caitlin O’Toole, Associate Commodity Manager at Stryker (California), took great pride in an intern she mentored one summer. “It was amazing to watch her grow”, O’Toole says. “At the end of her senior year, she accepted a full-time job at Stryker and now runs the shipping team as a supervisor. It was great to be a part of her success, and I also learned so much from her.”

Read more about ISM and THOMASNET.com’s 30 Under 30 Recognition Program.

What Does Procurement Agility Mean in 2016?

Discussing the term ‘Procurement Agility’, and the ways in which procurement organisations can become more agile in their activities.

Procurement Agility

In various reports and papers published over the last few years the phrase “procurement must be agile”, appears on a constant basis. Indeed, there is even a regular publication called ‘The Agility Agenda’. It’s an excellent read and well worth subscribing to.

This article will try and give some practical takeaways for procurement professionals to consider when applying in their own environments.

When considering procurement agility, we need to consider internal and external environments for the two main themes that are emerging in 2016.

Procurement Talent

With the release of the recent Deloitte CPO Survey, attention has once again fallen on talent, and the acquisition, developing and retaining of it. According to the report over 60 per cent of CPOs feel that their teams do not have the skills needed to perform their roles. What is also interesting in noting that the report suggests that these CPOS are not looking to change their teams, but to develop them.

The report states that training budgets have largely stagnated, if not fallen. So how can CPOs develop their teams without a large training budget.

The answer could be an agile programme that blends the theories and methods of procurement with an increase in workplace based development. These programmes, sometimes called Active Learning Programmes, are a mix of short classroom based sessions, which are then immediately applied back in the workplace. When those skills have been applied, it’s time to move to the next set of skills.

These activities are supplemented with desktop video learning. Again, the importance is on the quick application back in the workplace. The idea here is to utilise more of the 70-20-10 learning methodology. Writers such as Tough (1979) and Kajewski and Masden (2012) have argued that the majority of adult learning (about 70 per cent) takes place outside institutional frameworks, while 20 per cent is supported by those who are not professional helpers, such as supervisors, colleagues, parents and friends. Professional helpers, such as teachers, trainers and counsellors, account for only 10 per cent.

For example:

  • 70 per cent – informal, on the job, experience based, stretch projects and practice
  • 20 per cent – coaching, mentoring, developing through others
  • 10 per cent – formal learning interventions and structured courses.

The application of this theory into development platforms has gained momentum in recent years, and this has impacted how people put together formal programmes. For example, according to Kajewski and Masden (2012), an Australian firm has 70 per cent of learning as experience on the job to integrate, practice and master new skills, knowledge or changes in behaviour.

20 per cent of learning is from exposure to others, such as learning through the observation of others (mentors, coaches), and reflection on the impact of this behaviour on one’s own practice. Just 10 per cent of learning is from formal programs designed for the acquisition of knowledge or skills through carefully programmed instruction.

Alternatively, an Australian public sector programme has been set out in a more simplistic way, in that 70 per cent of learning is experiential, 20 per cent of learning is relationship based and 10 per cent of learning is formal.

What is clear is that despite the differences in application the methodology allows multiple ways for practitioners to develop their skills as opposed to formal training alone.

Responsiveness

One of the constant gripes about procurement is the time it takes to “get things done”. Procurement therefore needs to be agile in responding to its stakeholders, both internally and externally.

The fundamentals of Just In Time suggest a review of the non-value and value-adding activities as a means of eliminating waste. If we apply this to our process and procedures, we may find that the need to ask the same question multiple times adds to the turnaround time in procurement, and frustrates suppliers.

Many procurement organisations decide, for a number of reasons, that they need to deal with a set of suppliers who have already passed the hurdle required to supply to an organisation. This could be supply chain transparency, insurance requirements, past history. The ‘barriers’ are yours to set.

Pre-qualification allows these questions to be answered once, and also will allow procurement to have pass/fail rates for areas such as supply chain transparency and accreditation. Ultimately this will also help to develop better relationships with those critical suppliers, to reduce lead times, allow for innovation, and allow procurement to focus on other value adding activities.

When considering the matter of procurement agility, it is imperative to understand the multiple ways we can be agile in meeting the changing needs of our organisations. From building better teams, equipped with the skills and knowledge our organisations require for the future, to ensuring that the suppliers we work with can help meet the objectives of the organisations, procurement agility comes in many shapes and sizes.

How My Procurement Network Made 1 Million Dollars

Your procurement network could have massive benefits for you and your business. But only if you are growing and managing it effectively.

Million Dollars

Mention the “n” word and most people cringe and break into a cold sweat. The problem with networking is that it has a really bad reputation.

The term evokes clichéd images of businessmen getting together for meetings with secret handshakes and weird hats, or of the “long lunch” at the club. Networking used to be elite and self-serving. You networked to get up the corporate ladder; you did not network to collaborate or share.

In today’s world networking is widely accepted as a critical element to career success. But I would also go as far as to say networking will improve all aspects of your life.

Getting started with networking can be tough. After all, old habits die hard. If you need some further encouragement, read my article on the ‘3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Guru’.

Inspiration and Information

Networking stretches way beyond finding your next job. Your network can be a source of inspiration. It can provide you with information and insight you would have never otherwise encountered.

Effective networking may help you find your next mentor, role model or, god forbid, a friend. Of course there are many definitions for networking, but to me networking is about creating and maintaining relationships.

So why should you bother with all this networking business?  I mean, if you just get on with your job and deliver on your promises, isn’t that enough to make you successful?

Well, of course it is, but you may be disappointed when you miss out on some lucrative benefits. Ultimately, the benefit of business networking is to create commercial value.

Leveraging Your Procurement Network

Procurement Network - 1 Million Dollars

To bring the power of an effective procurement network to life, I want to share a personal story to show the “multiplier” effect of building strong relationships.

It proves that just 1 connection can be worth millions of dollars to you and your network.

Let’s go back to Australia 10 years ago, where I met Nick Moen. He wasn’t a client, but a leading CPO, and a very smart guy, running procurement for BP in Australia and New Zealand. Nick and I really connected, we met regularly for coffee, and talked about leadership and shared ideas about improving the procurement profession.

Nick was one of the first CPOs to come to me and suggest the value he would derive if I established a CPO Roundtable. Eight years and more than 50 different companies later, that group is still going strong, benchmarking, sharing and collaborating.

In another of our meetings, Nick mentioned some fantastic should cost-model training he had undertaken from a company called Anklesaria, based in San Diego. We struck a deal which has provided hundreds of procurement professionals in Australia with a very valuable skill-set.

Connecting Connections

One year we were looking for a global speaker for our CPO Forum. Ankelsaria recommended Nokia’s outgoing CPO, Jean-Francois Baril. Many years later, his son, Matthieu helped build our eLearning platform on Procurious, and ended up living in my home in Melbourne for three months.

Jean-Francois also introduced us to the amazing former CPO of Deutsche Telekom, Eva Wimmers, who is now a personal friend and a real visionary on supplier-enabled innovation.

Nick and I also decided to start a Procurement Executive Program, which has now trained almost one hundred rising stars. Although the Deputy Dean of the Business School, Dr. Karen Morley, moved on before we started the program, she and I created a connection. This led to me asking her to develop an X-Factor Skills Assessment to identify CPO talent. She is also a regular judge on our CPO of the Year Award.

At one of our coffee mornings, Nick brought along one of his rising stars, Richard Allen. Richard would later become CPO at BP, and now is the CPO at Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, Telstra. Richard and I have continued to keep in touch.  Even three years after I left Australia we still talk at least once a month.

So – from one meeting – all this value has been generated.

Value for Others

Also worth pointing out is how much other people have gained from the partnerships created. Hundreds of people have received valuable training, my business partners have made money, I have had fun, and got a lot of joy and pride out of building my business. It hasn’t just been about networking.

And to think all this value, goodwill and good work was generated from one networking meeting. So what are you doing to leverage your procurement network? Isn’t it time that you took another look?

At Procurious, we want to create a truly global network of procurement professionals that are there to support each other to learn, grown and prosper.  We believe if you get involved, you will get ahead.

Can Introverts Really Thrive in Procurement?

While many aspects of modern business, including key skills, seem to favour extroverts, Susan Cain argues that introverts have as much to add and value to give.

Value of Introverts

 “There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

Don’t miss Quiet Revolutionary”, Susan Cain’s keynote speech at ISM2016.

There are almost certainly introverts in your procurement team – whether it be yourself, your boss, or your colleagues, a third to half of the population are introverts. Susan Cain’s game-changing book The Quiet Revolution champions the introvert cause and goes into detail about how workplaces are designed to benefit extroverts – but what about introverts in Procurement?

What is an introvert?

First up, it’s important not to confuse introversion with shyness. Shyness is about fear of social judgement, while introversion is about how you respond to stimulation. In Cain’s words, “Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, while introverts feel at their most alive, most switched on, and at their most capable, when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”

We all fall at different points on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, but 21st-century workplaces are predominantly designed for extroverts and their love of stimulation. A culture that celebrates action over contemplation, open-plan offices, constant noise, and (worst of all) endless group-work, means introverts are often forced to pass as extroverts in the workplace rather than be themselves.

Groupthink versus creative solitude

“Groupthink” means that we can’t be in a group of people without unwittingly aping their belief. Groups follow the opinion of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though, as Cain emphatically states, there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. This reveals a serious flaw in the way workplaces, schools and even the legal system (think about what happens in the jury room) see group-work as the best way to get positive results.

Solitude is essential to creativity and productivity. Team members should be able to generate their own ideas by themselves, free from groupthink, then come together as a team to talk them through, while ensuring no single person dominates the discussion. Cain points out that collaboration is important, but we need to recognise that freedom, privacy and autonomy matters.

Rather than constant group-work, workplaces should encourage casual, chatty, café-style interaction where people can share their creative ideas. In Cain’s words, “we need to work together, but the more freedom we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely they are to come up with solutions to unique problems”.

Introverts make better leaders

In a culture that prizes extroversion, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, despite the fact that they make the best leaders. Here’s why they’re a better choice for leadership roles:

  • introverted leaders are generally more careful and are less likely to take outsize risks
  • introverts are much more likely to let employees run with their ideas, whereas extroverts can’t help but put their own stamp on things
  • people recognise that introverts step up because they are driven to do what’s right, rather than because they enjoy directing others or being in the public eye.

What does this mean for Procurement?

As most CPOs would agree, Procurement is a “people skills” job. This means that alongside core skills such as supply market research, analysis, category and contract management, introverted Procurement professionals must be comfortable with networking, influencing, stakeholder engagement, supplier relationship management and negotiation. The best advice is to play to your strengths rather than try to be something you are not.

Extroverts love negotiating, – the thrill of the contest, thinking on their feet and coming out on top – but having to negotiate can make introverts very uncomfortable. Again, it’s not about shyness, but rather about finding yourself in a high-stimulus environment, with pressure, fast decisions, and no time to reflect in solitude to come up with creative solutions. Here are some suggestions for introverts to overcome their fear of negotiation by playing to their strengths:

1. Does the negotiation really have to be live? Carrying out a negotiation by email may be slower, but will allow you to make considered decisions rather than blurting out a rash offer in a moment of high pressure.

2. In a live negotiation, use the power of silence. A meaningful pause can make the person across the table so uncomfortable that they start to gabble to fill the silence.

3. Plan ahead. Use your solitary time to do your research and plan so thoroughly for the negotiation that you will be prepared for anything.

4. Listen. Have you ever had one of those conversations where the other party knows what they want to say and doesn’t appear to listen to you at all? Introverts make much better listeners because they don’t feel the need to dominate the discussion. Active listening makes people feel valued and will enable both parties to find common ground.

Susan Cain has a powerful message that resonates not only with introverts, but will be enormously valuable to extroverts who want to understand how to help their introverted colleagues thrive. Attendees at ISM2016 will learn how to create a better workplace Yin and Yang between introversion and extroversion, and join Cain’s Quiet Revolution.

Susan Cain

Time is running out to register for the biggest and best supply management conference on earth – ISM2016 – from May 15 to 18 at the Indianapolis Convention Center. More than 100 breakout sessions will feature some of the BIGGEST names in supply management, including Apple, Google and Coca-Cola. Get all the information you need to register on the ISM website.

3 Easy Steps to Become a Procurement Networking Guru

Take these three easy steps to become a procurement networking guru and realise the benefits of networking in a global community.

Networking Guru

The benefits of networking are many. However, many people still struggle with the concept and the motivation to get going.

At Procurious, we want to create one huge, global network of procurement professionals, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from one another. We want everyone to realise the benefits of networking, so I thought I would share my three easy steps to becoming a networking guru to help everyone get started.

1. Network from the heart

Why from the heart? Because networking has to be authentic, and you need to have the other person’s interest as your priority.

Firstly, your networking has to be based on absolute authenticity – that is, a real friendship or genuine interest in what someone else is doing.

As a networking guru, if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit. If you focus on how you can help others, more than how they can help you, you’ll always be approaching people with the best motivation.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that workers who help others feel happier about their work than those who decide not to help. By asking someone for help, you give them the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge, and, at the same time, give their self-esteem a boost.

If the person asking the question wins, and the person answering the question wins, what’s stopping us from asking more questions. Despite all these  benefits, perhaps the fear of reaching out to someone and being rejected, is greater than the potential benefit.

When we face the fear of reaching out to someone else, we need to remember that networking is very much a two way street. Whether you’re at a face-to-face event, or on a social media platform, everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. So don’t be too self-conscious!

2. Be both social and formal

In the ‘old world’ getting to know someone and understand whether you had anything in common took a long time. You would meet someone at an event, follow-up via email and then organise a series of catch-ups to get to know them. You might have had to meet them quite a few times before you discovered the cross-over points.

In the world of social networking, the ‘getting to know you’ process is accelerated because you can see all this information on their profile. This fast-tracks the expansion of your network, because you can pre-qualify those people who you would like to join your network based on their experience.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. Also remember that face-to-face meetings still play an important role in expanding your network.

You must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing). This includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch.

It’s only when we get to really know people through face-to-face contact, that we can understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you’re thinking about face-to-face networking, don’t just think formal meetings, corporate cocktail parties and conferences. A networking guru knows that you can literally network around the clock!

Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you.

I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening. A few weeks back, I was at an Indian Ayurvedic Medicine discussion, and met a senior Facebook executive who has agreed to speak at one of our major events.

You always need to keep your mind and attitude open to these opportunities.

And once you have an established network, keep it active by using social media. The benefit to having an online network is that you can better maintain your network by keeping in touch much more easily. By posting updates and information on your social media profiles, you are reminding people that you are still out there. Your posts also act as a prompt for them to reach out to you and connect. Or, even better, remind them to recommend you for a job!

3. Connect the dots

Once you have an established network, you need to understand the power of connecting the dots.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile professional conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection real.

In other words, to create commercial advantage from your network, there’s no point in just being ‘connected’ with all these amazing people. You need to know what to do with the relationship.

Your network will live and thrive only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request, or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something, anything, gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that you do, in fact, have something to contribute.

Other actions to cement your network can include sending through articles or other things that might be relevant or of interest to a contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and use this information to build the relationship. The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

Unfortunately many people don’t reach out to their network until they need something badly. A networking guru does exactly the opposite. They take every opportunity to give to, and receive from, the network, whether they need help or not.

For these reasons, and many more, I believe in the power of networking – for yourself, your contacts and the profession. That’s why we founded Procurious.

Apparently there are more than 2.5M procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available to help them do their jobs better, and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together if we use the power of connection and leverage our network. If each and every procurement professional becomes a networking guru, there is very little that we can’t achieve!

Your Number 1 Resolution – Learn Something New

This is the time of year when most of our resolutions (lose 10lbs, get back to the gym, drink less, do something useful for the community) have fallen by the wayside. There’s one thing you can still do to make a difference in your life – learn something new.

Learn Something New

If you are a millennial, you probably know plenty about social platforms and the innermost workings of WhatsApp, but what about taking a course in supply chain dynamics or an appreciation of jazz? You can learn about almost anything on-line, and most of it is free.

Find a MOOC to suit you

MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). These courses are offered by universities and other quality education providers via the internet and are free. There is a huge range of subjects that have quality content, although they do not normally provide certificates or academic credits on completion.

Many of the courses are developed by universities, but are structured and presented by training organisations, like edX, using specific technology that supports interactive and other forms of on-line learning. When you sign up, you are committing to the class time and assignments (which is good). You can register for classes offered by many leading USA and UK universities including Harvard, Stanford and Yale.

What are the course options?

The choices are vast. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a leader in this field. It is “dedicated to advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.”

They have courses that will teach you how to manage and harness the dynamics and interactions between firms and other entities within a supply chain. They also have courses like Drugs and the Brain and Introduction to Algorithms.

There’s a course coming up at the University of West Virginia called The Science of How Communication Technology Shapes Our Social Lives. Presumably this will be suited to more mature students who are bemused by the growth in the use of hand-held devices and mobile technology.   

Some courses are on not on a fixed schedule but are self-paced, and more suitable to those of us with challenging day jobs. Social Media Marketing for International Business from the University of Salford’s Business School is one of those that you can fit in with other extra-murals. 

It’s not all about work

If that all sounds a little heavy, how about a Jazz Appreciation Course from the University of Texas? You can listen and learn about the artists, eras, and musical methods that make jazz a great original art form. Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker. John Coltrane. You’ve heard their names, but do you know what makes them great? It doesn’t even sound like work!

You can try Lynda.com for video-based courses on Photoshop or Lightroom, which cost a small fee. These are great skills to have for improving the visuals in your slide presentations and management reports. How about learning something that will let you have a serious conversation with your I.T manager without feeling inadequate? The Khan Academy is a well-established not for profit organisation that provides free courses on many subjects.

If you want to try something that is directly related to improving your skills on the job, how about: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel or Career Edge: Communication and Teamwork. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something!