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2016 Rewind – Should We Stop Using the Term ‘Strategic’ in Procurement?

Our first rewind article comes courtesy of a great panel discussion at ISM2016. The debate is likely to rage on all next year too – should procurement stop referring to itself as strategic?

No other profession puts the word ‘strategic’ on their business cards. Why do we do so in procurement?

 

A high-powered panel at ISM2016 drove a spirited debate about the use of the term ‘strategic’ in the profession. Chaired by Joe Sandor (Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management, Michigan State University), the panel included:

  • Hans Melotte (ISM Board Chairman, Senior Vice-President and CPO, Johnson & Johnson);
  • R. David Nelson (procurement veteran and Chairman, Dave Nelson Group);
  • Jeff Smith (Global Sourcing Director – Indirect at DuPont); and
  • Beverly Gaskin (Executive Director Global Purchasing, General Motors).

Actions Not Words

Actions speak louder than words. That’s the message from Hans Melotte, who argued that it’s unhelpful for the profession to continually emphasise how ‘strategic’ we want to be.

Overuse of the term dilutes the concept, especially when having a conversation with sceptical stakeholders. “Procurement needs to be strategic”, says Melotte, “rather than just talk strategic.”

Being strategic comes down to having the right people in procurement, who can talk the language of the business, define their value contributions in a way that resonates with stakeholders, are forward thinking, proactive, and focused on the future.

Historical Overuse

When did procurement start to use (and overuse) this term?

R. David Nelson, who started out in an enormously different procurement landscape in 1957, has watched the profession grow from a back-office function to a highly-influential business partner.

As any modern professional knows, there are plenty of stakeholders who still remain unconvinced. It’s very possible that our constant repetition of the term was a somewhat ham-fisted attempt to convince these sceptics that we do indeed deserve a seat at the table.

Interestingly, none of the major organisations represented on the panel use the term any more. Hans Melotte explains: “At Johnson and Johnson we abandoned the use of this word, because you shouldn’t label yourself who you want to be – you should be who you are. The whole notion has passed its expiry date”.

Strategic is “Divisive Term”

The other problem with the term is that it’s divisive. By calling half the population “strategic”, you’re implying the other half of the function is non-strategic. This sends a negative signal throughout the organisation, and breeds resentment around job titles.

Beverley Gaskin agreed: “Strategic buying is like an oxymoron. If you’re doing anything in the buying field that isn’t strategic, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Even the term “purchasing strategy”, says Gaskin, is misleading. “There’s no such thing as a purchasing strategy. There’s a company strategy and you have to understand your role in getting that done.”

The same concept appliers to how we talk about strategic and non-strategic suppliers. Again, it’s our responsibility to move away from divisive language. After all, you’re never going to tell a supplier that they’re ‘non-strategic’.

Definitions are important. Melotte reasons that if you define ‘strategic’ as something that serves the strategy – a choice wisely made, based on facts and intelligence – does that mean ‘non-strategic’ is defined as the opposite of this? No CPO would want any resources who are not aligned with the company strategy or value mission.

This isn’t to say that the term ‘tactical’ is the opposite of strategic. Professor Joe Sandor provided a valuable reminder that the word ‘strategy’ comes from the military, and simply means planning. ‘Tactic’ means execution, and a plan must be executed. Tactics, therefore, are strategy in action.

Jeff Smith of DuPont summed up the sentiment of the panel: “It’s time the profession moved away from the term”, he said. “If you behave strategically, you’ll always be invited back”.

We Need You – To Vote Procurious in UK Blog Awards 2017

Here’s your chance to get the result you want in at least one vote this year. Vote Procurious in the UK Blog Awards 2017!

we need you to vote

Vote for Procurious here!

It’s been a year of surprise results in global elections. For many, the votes just haven’t gone the way they had expected, planned, or, for many, hoped. But here’s your chance to make sure the final vote of the year has a happy ending!

Procurious has entered the UK Blog Awards 2017, and now we need your support to get to the judges shortlist. If you enjoy the content we publish on the site, then this is your chance to put your mark against our name.

You can vote for Procurious from today, for the next 2 weeks. It would mean a lot to us – so thanks in advance!

UK Blog Awards

The UK Blog Awards were first launched in 2014, aimed at recognising “recognise true viral style and creative excellence across a variety of 16 UK industries. The awards celebrate the very best of British Blogs, from both companies and individuals, across a range of topics.

As well as creating great networking opportunities in the Blogging community, the Awards offer individuals and companies the chance to promote their business and content. The Awards cover a number of topics, including:

  • Digital & Technology
  • Education
  • Green & Eco
  • Vlogger and Podcast
  • PR, Marketing, Media and Communications; and
  • Travel.

You can find out everything you need to know about the Awards, the categories, and previous winners here.

Your Vote Counts

Procurious have entered the Blog Awards for the past 2 years, and have been ‘highly commended’ in the PR, Marketing, Media and Communications category both years. This is great for us, given the age of the company, and the niche area we write about.

However, we are really keen to go one better and actually win this year! And this is where you come in. We need your votes – as many votes as possible – in order to be considered for the final category shortlists. The more votes we get, the better our chance of consideration.

Voting is now open and runs until the 19th of December at 9pm.

It’s really easy to vote too. Go to the Procurious profile on the UK Blog Awards website, and click ‘Vote Now’ at the top of the page. We appreciate any and all votes we get!

And, if you’re really keen, you can share this with your colleagues, peers and friends across social media and get them to cast their votes too!

Why Vote for Us?

Procurious aims to deliver procurement and supply chain news, views, interviews, and hot topics to the global profession. In the past year, we’ve covered everything from the Brexit, to how to improve your personal effectiveness at work, and myriad topics in between.

We don’t just talk about procurement (though it’s one of our favourite topics), we deliver fresh, original content daily to our audience to keep them up to date with everything they need to know.

The recognition gained from the UK Blog Awards in the past 2 years is a big deal for us. As we build more awareness of our site, we attract more people to the community, which benefits all our members. Networking opportunities grow, we get richer discussions, and more engagement in raising the profile of procurement.

Plus is means we can continue to provide high-quality, relevant content for all our members, and all our followers on social media.

Details

If you need to refresh your memory of some of our, and our contributors’, best and most popular articles from the past 12 months, head over to the blog to check them out. Alternatively, here’s a small selection of our most read articles this year:

Every vote you cast really does count. To vote, go to the UK Blog Awards website and visit the Procurious profile. Thanks!