Tag Archives: big ideas in procurement

Procurement Shines Brightest On A Burning Platform

Economic woes, political uncertainty and digital disruption might trouble your CEO, but it should delight the CPO. After all procurement can perform best on a burning platform.
There has never been a better time for procurement.  A combination of the economic cycle, global politics, and digital disruption has brought ambiguity to the marketplace.  If, as a CEO, you are uncertain about your top line, wrapping your arms around the things you can control – costs – is the pragmatic approach to profitability. Costs incurred with suppliers represent the majority of for the average large corporate, overshadowing even labor expenses. How will uncertainty impact each shift.

Economic Cycles

We have been experiencing slow economic growth for a while now. Financial crashes are typically succeeded by over ten years of slow growth, which means a new downward cycle may be imminent.  In the context of record Dow Jones levels and the FTSE not far off its high, it might seem strange to be pessimistic. But when Warren Buffett holds over $100bn of cash, it seems to be an anecdotal indicator that we are nearing the top of a cycle. Being agile with your supply chain is now more important than ever, as you don’t want to get caught with high priced goods and services, or the wrong inventory altogether as your market evolves.

Global politics

Politics shape and reshape the global economy. More so now than ever, economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans, and Labour and Conservative represent a vast divide.  Whether it is Trump or Brexit, coalition politics and political decisions are having a big impact on both the polity and the economic prospects.  Questions about trade, tariff barriers, regulation and corporate tax are now subject to divergent positions and disagreement.  The answers could go in multiple directions, and so politics and electoral results are back to having a bearing on business certainties.  Resolutions to these questions can take many different shapes and will bring some turbulent swings in the stock market and broader business marketplace.  Since these issues are central to the way business is conducted, long-term cost discipline strategies aimed to give cover for the political uncertainty are warranted.

Digital disruption

While not everything is going to be digitized or robotized (I hope a robot isn’t my next barber), the digital age has descended upon us.  Some industries are further down the maturity curve than others – both retail and finance, for example, have substantial legacy infrastructures which impact the incumbent ability to compete cost-effectively, and with agility.  All industries, however, need to optimize digitally; managing processes, metrics, and data to inform short-term and long-term strategies to stay competitive and manage costs. With the emergence of cutting-edge technologies and the disruption of traditional business models, every company will require a hard look at their strategy to ensure they are embracing both the challenges and opportunities that come with advancing supplier provided technologies and their effect on procurement. Companies need to consider how the rapid rate of innovation will disrupt how their organizations work and line up their suppliers to respond. What a moment in time! Add a dash of currency devaluation leading to imported inflation, sprinkle in digital technology, and we could not ask for more ambiguity from the circumstances around us.  Setting clear, agile strategy to control costs is the shrewd response to deal with the uncertainty of our times.  Go procurement.

 

How To Turn Your Procurement Team Into A Cracking Intelligence-Gathering Organisation

According to Justin Crump, CEO, Sibylline, procurement professionals would be foolish to underestimate the value in becoming more active intelligence-gatherers.

Justin Crump spoke at the Procurious CPO Forum in London, Big Ideas In Action, sponsored by Basware

In his book, Corporate Security Intelligence and Strategic Decision Making,  Justin Crump, CEO Sibylline, addresses the current void of awareness about and study of the corporate security intelligence environment. “The increasing size, scale and sophistication of corporate activities  on the world stage – coupled with increasing legislative attention is driving an increasing focus on the [topic of corporate security], and the traditional gap between “business” (which makes money) and security ( a corporate cost center) is markedly narrowing.

Procurement’s value to an organisation has long been due to it’s position at the interface between the supply-chain and the business itself.  Its external reach offers a unique insight into market trends across the globe.

But is your team sufficiently engaged with the external world to spot these trends and push them  back out to your organisation to ensure that you, the CPO, get a seat at the table.

Justin outlines Sibylline’s five tips to bear in mind for anyone seeking to build out their internal process:

Corporate Intelligence is both an art and a science, and is often misunderstood. It is, perhaps sadly, not the province of dashing secret agents and beautiful women in fast cars; rather it is a process that involves everyone in the organisation, refining the myriad data in the world around us into some sort of meaning. Put simply, intelligence is the process which delivers timely, accurate and relevant insight to decision makers, allowing them to value risk and weigh opportunity effectively for their organisation.

The state of the world at present makes the need for an effective security intelligence process in businesses more important than ever. Drivers include:

  • Legislation – duty of care, safe workplaces, negligence
  • Threat environment – scale and tempo
  • Complexity of supply chains – “just in time”, dependencies
  • Information availability – expanding, data overload
  • Global marketplace – challenges and opportunities

Research has shown that truly resilient organisations not only survive but thrive in this environment. Taking an intelligence-led approach allows for effective and efficient risk management and demonstrates clear value add. After all, if you’re not intelligence-led, then what are you being led by…?

1: Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Intelligence is an imperfect process – inherently, returns are a the function of time and resources. While we equate security forecasting to weather forecasting, the weather does not deceive or lie to you – humans do, whether accidentally or deliberately ! In this uncertain world, everything represents a “best effort” – and you more or less get out what you put in.

 2: Understand what you Care About

Understanding what you care about is at the heart of an effective intelligence function. Faced with a mountain of information, it is answering the “so what” question that matters the most – and clear requirements are the fuel for this. Thorough understanding of the organisation, including its people, its business processes, its strategy and its areas of key exposure, is a key facet of making this all work.

3: Make the Most of People, Processes and Technology

Overcoming the constraints of limited time, imperfect information and strained resources relies on a combination of well-trained people, slick processes and appropriate technology. This helps to generate the best possible results in the time and resources available. All too often companies address only one of this triad, meaning that results are imbalanced and opportunities to provide effective insight are missed.

4: Make an Impact

The best analysis, from the most perfect process, is no good at all if people are not listening. One way to ensure this is to speak to their needs; but sometimes even this is not enough. Presentation is therefore important; what suits your consumer? How much detail do they need, or can they absorb? How much information is too much, or not enough? These are the questions that the practitioner must answer in order to ensure that they make a meaningful impact.

5: Manage Intelligence as a Project

Introducing an intelligence function need not be complex, but needs to be managed as a project and with rigour. As the function begins to build a head of steam, it will start to generate more client interest and greater demands will be made, requiring a steadily evolving approach in order to satisfy expectations. It is therefore best run as a project, within a coherent framework that allows it to grow in a controlled fashion.

We at Sibylline earnestly believe that the best decisions are taken on the basis of intelligence, and an intelligence-led process helps make organisations resilient – allowing them to cope with the challenges of the modern global marketplace. This is a minor investment that returns a great deal, often requiring little more than enforcing things that are already happening within a more effective and disciplined system.

The process of examining yourself and examining the world, within a cohesive framework, gives a stable way to reference what is changing in your environment and therefore highlights both risks and opportunities. Procurement functions in particular are well placed to understand the world and the organisation, and so have a vital part to play in making sense of it all – however crazy the world threatens to get, and well know that there are opportunities amidst the doom, gloom and fake news!

Real Relationships Really Matter

It doesn’t matter what technology your organisation adopts, or what digital transformation you endure; procurement relationships will always be essential for success. 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement. Chris Cliffe discussed why relationships really matter.

The world around us is changing. You can’t turn anywhere these days without hearing the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’. Everyone’s writing about technology and the race to automate and use augmented intelligence in business.  IBM’s ‘Watson’ is soon expected to be in regular use within procurement teams across the globe. But, the reality is that the vast majority of organisations, be they Private, Public or Not-for-Profit Sectors, are only at the start of this adventure.

Of course, it is crucial that our organisations do focus on adopting technology. The role of the CIO, for example, is at least equally important to that of the CPO. Yet the technology focus cannot be at the expense of the human focus.

Relationships really matter.

In fact, in the next decade or so, relationships will increasingly be the differentiator as ‘process’ and ‘transactions’ become automated and ‘value adding’ activities become the sole human focus.

Buyer Supplier Relationships

It might seem an obvious place to start but buyer supplier relationships are so often overlooked.  I think we can, in the main, agree that a ‘tender’ process in itself delivers zero value. Value for Money can only be obtained from good performance of the resulting contract. If we put ‘procurement’ theory to one side for a moment and look at ITIL Service Management, it clearly states that “good people can make a bad contract work, equally, bad people can make a great contract fail”.

Having the right relationships, between the right people, on both sides of a contract is how you get best value. Investing time and effort into building, nurturing and maintaining good relationships between buyer and supplier teams will facilitate far more value from contracts. It doesn’t pay to   let and forget!

Let’s assume a big problem happened last week.

Scenario 1: You call your account manager to complain, having not spoken to them in months, because ‘someone’ messed up.

Scenario 2: You call your account manager that you spoke to recently. You know they’ve just returned from their first family holiday in five years. They’ve had an awful couple of years for various personal reasons and, in fact, they’d even booked a restaurant you recommended. Whilst they were away, a junior member of their team was covering and they may have dropped the ball.

In both scenarios, the same issue has arisen and it needs fixing.  But I suspect the majority of us will approach those two calls differently and outcomes from these calls may also be different. Think about whether you could start both calls with the phrase, “How can I help you fix this problem?”

Stakeholders

Stakeholders: An increasingly over used, catch-all term to dehumanise people who we go to work with day in, day out. Investing time and effort into establishing relationships with the key individuals within our businesses will pay you back in spades. Ask questions. Be interested. Get under the skin of the challenges your colleagues face. Don’t be constrained by the perception of silo’s.

We must always remember why we do what we do. The purpose of Procurement is not to further the cause of procurement. Of course, a very happy side effect of an effective, modern, highly engaged and enabling procurement team is that the reputation of the profession will increase to everyone’s benefit, but that cannot be the motivation. The role of Procurement is simple. It exists to facilitate and enable the organisation(s) it supports in achieving its vision, mission and goals.

In human terms, we are there to help our colleagues enjoy work through enabling their success and in achieving their objectives. This is a differentiator between good and bad procurement in my mind. Establishing relationships with stakeholders based on a genuine interest in understanding their challenges and seeking to support them overcome obstacles proactively, will lead to game-changing relationships rather than relationships based on reactively promoting procurement process, policy and procedures.

Career Development and Credibility

Relationships really matter for professional development, career development and credibility. Take a look at the Deloitte CPO Survey 2017, or any recent recruitment agency survey. There will always be analysis pointing out how the procurement profession is dogged by a lack of soft skills and how there’s a real talent shortage with regards to interpersonal capabilities. I believe we all need to take  responsibility for learning and development; it is up to individuals to own the preparation for longer term career aspirations.

Relationships really matter with those in your network. The aim isn’t to collect as many LinkedIn connections as you can, but it is to connect to as many people as you can. Connect in this sense means to talk, ask, listen, learn, impart knowledge and most importantly follow up on conversations. Being market aware and having your finger on the pulse is an incredibly important part of being a credible professional in terms of managing contracts and suppliers and with developing productive relationships with colleagues.

Investing time and effort into building, nurturing and maintaining productive relationships really matters.

Four Ways To Ensure You Still Have A Job In 2020

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson warns that unless we act now, there’s a good chance we’ll find ourselves unemployed as early as 2020. 

Sorman-Nilsson spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson wants procurement professionals to ask themselves two crucial questions.

  1. Firstly, think about your future career, your employability, or your entrepreneurial plans for the future. Given the kind of work you’re doing today, can a computer, an algorithm or artificial intelligence do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently in the future?
  2. Imagine jumping into a time machine and travelling to 2020. You step out of the machine, expecting to find yourself further up the career ladder, successful and wealthy. Instead, you discover yourself lying on the couch, watching daytime television, and no longer employable. What happened?

Roll up your sleeves and conduct a pre-mortem

Business are familiar with conducting post=mortems, particularly after a project or initiative has failed. Sorman-Nilsson advocates for “pre-mortems” instead: “Imagine that in 2020, your personal employment brand is now defunct. You’re no longer employable. What were the trends that you missed? What were the signals you chose to ignore? And what were the education investment decisions that you chose to delay that led to your personal brand’s demise?”

“Finally, ask yourself what change will you make today to prevent that outcome from happening?”

Job-stealing robots are already here

It’s notable that when Sorman-Nilsson talks about time-travel to the future, he doesn’t pick a far-off date decades down the track. He chose 2020, less than three years away. That’s because the AI disruption is happening already. Self-driving cars are a reality, machines have automated a lot of blue-collar work and AI is already impacting white-collar work. “In Japan recently, 34 humans in complex insurance claims processing were made redundant in favour of an insurance firms’ investment in IBM Watson to do those claims instead. We’re really just scratching the surface of what’s possible with artificial intelligence and computing power.”

Four actions to take today to save your career in the future

  1. Examine your skill set and focus on where you, as a human being, might still have some kind of competitive advantage over a robot. Where can your emotional intelligence (EI) compete with, or complement, artificial intelligence (AI)? In a world where everything that can be digitised eventually will become digitised, what are the fundamental human skills that you add to a profession that’s largely about numbers?
  2. Learn to speak digital: “You don’t need to speak Java or know the intimate details of cloud computing and data science, but you need to be comfortable in speaking digital. Digital really is the global language of business for the future.”
  3. Embrace the gig economy: As corporates start opting for robots instead of humans, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and offer your personal brand through increasing entrepreneurship.
  4. Invest in your education: “While we’re already experiencing fundamental shifts, we do have some time to prepare ourselves, but this means we need to really invest in our own learning, and our own agility in the way we position our skills. Aim to invest in at least one new skill every year.”

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the founder of Thinque – a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert these disruptive questions into proactive, future strategies. His latest book is titled Digilogue: How to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrow’s customer. 

Are you a CPO in the Asia-Pacific region? Don’t miss out on seeing Sorman-Nilsson’s keynote at PIVOT: The 10th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum in May 2017.

Intrapreneurs: How Do You Know When Your Idea’s Got Legs

Creating an encouraging environment for intrapreneurs in the biggest organisations can be tough. Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, offers advice on fostering innovation and some top tips on how to assess when an idea has legs!

Chris Lynch spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

What exactly constitutes a big idea? Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, believes that a big idea is defined as something that challenges the status quo. It’s got to be an idea that forces people within your organisation to think differently. Of course, this will only come about if the organisation and its employees are thinking differently in the first place and in a work environment that encourages it. The right big ideas can lead to enormous differences in company output.

But how do you know when it’s worth investing time, and money, into someone’s idea and what can the biggest companies do to encourage and motivate their employees to think big.

Organisations must foster an intrapreneurial environment

Chris believes that “good businesses, good leaders, good organisations, good companies and good departments all want to get better.  They want to ensure they’re making progress and delivering better returns. When their employees lose the desire to improve it’s a sign that they’ve lost all their energy. Everyday, people should come to work motivated to try to make a difference and that’s why big ideas are important.”

It’s crucial that people have opportunities to make a difference, feel confident that they are indeed making a difference and are acknowledged for this. It’s unlikely that any intrapreneurs will continue to flourish within huge organisations if they aren’t rewarded and supported in their efforts and contributions.

Chris was keen to remind us that big companies have got to be very very careful in this area. It’s easy to deter enthusiastic intrapreneurs before they’ve even started innovating.

“There must be a culture that’s open, honest and diverse. But, it’s pointless being diverse unless it’s inclusive.  People must feel confident to speak up and take risks without the fear of having their idea criticised.”

How do you when a big idea has legs?

Organisations need the foresight to be able to recognise a brilliant idea and the confidence to roll with it.  Chris reminded us of an old business saying:  “‘You don’t get fired for hiring McKinsey and taking McKinsey’s advice.’ But it’s a bit of a cop-out to have that sort of attitude.”

“A lot of large corporate organisations are risk-averse. They’ll  have 27 ways to say no and 1 or 2 ways to say yes. We need to get companies to recognise their own people’s contributions, ideas and their energy and enthusiasm. This to me is the key factor about intrepreneurship. Companies must be able to recognise the best ideas and follow through on them.

How do you know when an employee’s idea has legs?  It’s going to be something that makes you stop in your tracks and say ‘hey this is something that could really make a difference.’ It might spark reactions with other team members who can think ways to expand the idea.

How to make your big idea a reality

Chris had some final nuggets of advice for any budding intrapreneurs out there:

  • Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth putting in the effort; give it everything and don’t give up
  • Find someone with whom you’re comfortable sharing and testing your idea. Have a conversation about where your idea could lead and what it could do for your organisation
  • Do your homework. If there’s data that you need, get the data. If there’s things that you can do to prove a point, do them. Take it as far as you can on your own
  • If you need a sponsor, pick your mark carefully. Think about who would be the best sponsor for this idea
  • Have the courage to take a risk– It’s important to have the confidence behind your idea to say  I’m prepared to put my credibility on the line behind this idea and stand up for it at all costs

Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Be Bold But Nice

The role of procurement is changing and evolving. Professionals have more influence than ever before and Deb Stanton wants them to use their position to be bold but nice!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Procurement has elevated within organisations

Deb Stanton, Executive Managing Director at CAPS Research, believes that the procurement function has really elevated within our organisatons.  Data collected by CAPS research shows that 82 per cent of CPOs now report directly to their CEO or one level down.

Under these new circumstances, professionals will have to work differently with their business partners and in their procurement teams.

This is why, Deb believes,  being Bold But Nice, is a valuable mantra. Procurement needs to ask the challenging questions, go in search of new solutions and embrace ideas. Of course, professionals  need their organisation to to work with them, which is why it’s important to be amenable whilst driving new value to our companies. .

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Pay Your Bills

It’s not about the money, money, money… except that it kinda is. Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, reminds us that we need to pay our supplier bills on time!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

If You’ve Got Bills You Gotta Pay – Pay Them!

Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, has a simple but utterly  fundamental Big Idea to share for 2017:  Procurement pros must pay their bills on time!

John acknowledges that  it’s a  great time for people working within procurement. There are now global marketplaces, the online arena continues to grow exponentially and power has transferred into the hands of consumers. This is a truly unparalleled period for the function.

But despite all the changes  that are occurring, John was keen to remind procurement professionals that suppliers really matter and the importance of paying bills on time should never be underestimated. If you don’t pay  when you should,  you’re accountable for endangering a perfectly good customer.

Looking after your  long-term interests and nurturing your relationships is more valuable than always thinking in the short-term.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

“I’m Just Not Very Creative!” Three Ways To Unleash Creative Potential

According to Creative Change Agent James Bannerman, there’s no such thing as a lost cause when it comes to unharnessing creativity.

Bannerman spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

The stifling of creativity is a slow but inexorable process. Evidence suggests that humans are incredibly creative as children.  By the time we reach adulthood, however, we have often lost the ability to connect with our innate creativity due to a combination of upbringing, education, fear of criticism, the need for conformity and the boundaries of the corporate environment.

The good news is that innovation is now firmly on the agenda for businesses worldwide. Managers are pushing their teams to be more creative which,  for some individuals,  can be quite daunting, especially when you believe you’re simply “not a creative type”.

According to Bannerman, though, everyone has innate creativity. It’s simply a matter of re-educating ourselves and learning some tips and tricks to unlock your creative potential. “Our minds become so full of ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that’, and ‘that won’t work’, and ‘that’s been done before’, that a lot of our innate creativity gets squashed and stifled.”

Here are three tips on unleashing creativity from Bannermann’s interview with Philip Ideson. 

  1. Stop labelling yourself

There’s no such thing as a lost cause. Bannerman has worked across multiple sectors, unleashing creativity in teams including Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and some space agencies. But you don’t have to work in a “creative” profession to be creative. “It doesn’t matter if people are nuclear physicists,  or accountants, or if they work in the world of marketing. The point is that creativity can manifest itself in many different ways.”

“I haven’t yet seen a completely lost cause. In fact, some of the best ideas I’ve ever come across have been from the people working in professions where you’d least expect to see creativity. The TV companies and the advertising agencies aren’t always the most innovative and creative because often they’re just regurgitating what they’ve done before. It’s in other groups, like accountants, where people generate ideas that make you think: ‘Wow’.”

  1. Stop trying too hard

“Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explains that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. If you say to yourself ‘I must come up with the best procurement idea ever right now’, chances are that you’ll become stressed and nothing will come to mind. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

  1. Make room to be creative

Bannerman has observed that creativity is often hamstrung by legislation, regulations and an atmosphere unconducive to lateral thinking. “There has to be wriggle room in a team’s dynamic. If people are too afraid of getting things wrong, or if they continually feel that everything has to be 100 per cent perfect straight away, then they’ll fall into a practical mindset. They’ll only do what they know will work, what has been done before, and will endlessly repeat old patterns rather than contemplating new patterns.”

“Any part of an organisation can be creative by looking at how it can improve itself, solve problems and imagine where it wants to be in two to five years’ time. Creativity can manifest itself in many different ways, depending on the context – it could just be about improving processes, systems or structures. It doesn’t have to be about inventing the next iPhone.”

Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Understand Your World

Every procurement pro needs somebody to tell them the world weather forecast so they can figure out when they’re going to need an umbrella! 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Be Sure To Understand Your World Weather Forecast

Justin Crump, CEO at Sibylline thinks that procurement organisations need to become more worldly wise in order to better manage future risk.

At present, larger organisations might be competent at managing risk but often this is very much in silos. This makes it very hard to fully understand what they are facing as a result of global events.

Given the rate at which technology is evolving and how global events are impacting the world, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep up without considering risk in real-time.

Intelligence about the world we live in drives business operations and the better informed we are the easier it is to drive progress.

Justin urges us to gain a clear view of the world to measure against so the we can focus  our resources on what world means to us.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoy this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

The Art of Self-Mastery In Indirect Procurement

Self-mastery is a critical skill in indirect procurement but you might have to endure a few steep learning curves before you nail it. 

Join The Big Ideas Summit 2017 group to access all of last week’s discussions and exclusive video content.

Indirect procurement is a function with high requirements for stakeholder management.  Cultivating excellent stakeholder management skills means developing self-mastery – a key part of authentic leadership.

In the workplace, ‘Just being yourself’ doesn’t  mean  letting it all hang out, unfiltered. It requires a self-mastery founded in self-awareness. It means building on this to calibrate ones own reaction to and interaction with colleagues. I’ve had experiences from good and bad bosses along the way and I’ve made mistakes that have helped me learn to be a more authentic leader.

The blind spot of conviction

Early on in my career I was lucky to be part of a small, young team developing the, then new, idea of strategic sourcing in indirect procurement for a large bank.

We had an innovative boss, Harry, who inspired us with his passion for the new concept. And, with just 10 of us, and a supportive CPO, we were starting to make a big impact.

However, there was a new CFO who  didn’t understand what we were doing. He simply didn’t care about the hundreds of millions of savings the team was generating.  As you can probably guess, this was before the banking crisis!

Harry had a choice to make. He could have decided to keep a low profile and deliver value in other ways. After all, there were plenty of projects to work on that didn’t require massive change management and senior sponsorship.

Instead, he made an ultimatum to the new CFO, so convinced that he was right and that his arguments would be compelling.

It didn’t turn out the way he had planned. The team closed and disbanded one month later. Unfortunately, Harry’s lack of self-awareness made him naively unaware of the politics of the business and the consequences he might face.

Leading a team through change

The procurement management team I was working on at a large Swiss company was about to go through a major transition with the retirement of our charismatic CPO. He  had many great qualities but led by command and control.

His manager, Peter, knew we needed to evolve to be capable of running the business independently. The stakes were high for him due to a high level of outsourcing in direct procurement and high savings commitments in indirect procurement.

The first shake-up was a reduction of the team. Peter joined the meeting with the new smaller group. I didn’t know him well, and was nervous about what his expectations were.

He told us that we had to be ready to lead procurement differently as our new boss was not a procurement person. He admitted that our new team wasn’t yet ready for the challenges ahead but that we would be supported to grow and develop.

Over the next year, Peter joined our meetings regularly to give us input and encouragement. He didn’t discuss the pressure for us to become an independent team. He backed up the risks we were taking with new high change projects. He also gave his personal support with one to one time.

Much later, I asked him about that time and how much pressure there had really been. He told me he hadn’t been sure the team would make it and that the pressure from the CEO had been intense.

His self-mastery at that moment allowed us to have space to grow and successfully step up to the plate.

Not filtering and scaring my team

It was the end of summer and we were in the second year of our indirect transformation. The team had delivered the first year, but our credibility was far from cemented.

One of my team leads, Mary, revealed that her team’s numbers were not sure for the year. Worse still, we had recently submitted an updated forecast to senior management.

Mary and I reviewed her project details. She couldn’t answer all of the questions to the level I needed in order to be able to revise the numbers.

I was surprised at this; she was highly capable, but she hadn’t yet fully learned how to measure savings in financial terms or to appreciate the importance of forecast accuracy.

We were under a lot of pressure and I panicked.  Having scrutinised the details with Mary I understood the situation,  but the cost was high and I was unsuccessful in shielding my stress from the team.

Fortunately Mary followed up with me. She explained what the effect of my unfiltered actions had on her and the team. She felt undermined and made to feel foolish in front of her team and her team members themselves were frightened.

I had failed my team by allowing high pressure from upwards to go unfiltered downwards.

After apologising to Mary, we talked frankly about what had happened. She got more insight into what she needed to do and I agreed to never behave in that way again.

It was a deep learning experience in the importance of maintaining self-mastery, especially in high-stress moments.

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