Tag Archives: ISM2016

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”.

“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.

Alan Mulally – The Secret to Success in One Slide

“This is everything I know, folks” – Former President and CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally, shares the sum of his knowledge in one slide at ISM2016.

Alan Mulally

ISM’s keynote speaker Alan Mulally has one of those CVs that’s exhausting just to listen to. Alongside his nine-year stint as President and CEO of Ford, he served as Executive Vice President of Boeing, and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

He was named to the Google board of directors in July 2014, served on President Obama’s US Export Council, and the advisory board of NASA.

He was named in Fortune’s 50 Greatest Leaders list, voted one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009, and voted 2011 CEO of the Year by Chief Executive magazine. Mulally is also a fellow of the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. 

One Slide to Say it All

“If it isn’t a Boeing, you shouldn’t be going”, says Mulally. He worked at Boeing for no less than 37 years, notably as a chief engineer for the avionics and flight management systems for a number of major Boeing projects, including the 747 and 777. As CEO of Boeing Commercial, he launched the 787, and was at Boeing during the 9/11 attacks, horrified to see a commercial airplane being used as a weapon.

Boeing was shaken to its core by the event, with production dropping from 620 planes a year to 280. “Not many companies can sustain a loss like that and remain viable”, says Mulally. Eventually, Boeing returned as the number one avionics organisation in the world.

The average airplane has about four million parts, and at the height of a new project, you might have over one million people working on the design. This is where Mulally learned how to develop a skilled and motivated team, and his principles and practices around working together led him to success after success at both Boeing and Ford.

Mulally brings up a one-page chart with 11 bullet points.  “This is everything I know, folks”, he tells the audience, and he means it. Whenever an audience member asks a question, he brings this chart back up on screen, selects the relevant point, and talks to it. Here’s the list in full:

Principles and practices around working together:

  • People first
  • Everyone is included
  • Compelling vision, comprehensive strategy and relentless implementation
  • Clear performance goals
  • One plan
  • Facts and Data
  • Everyone knows the plan, the status and areas that need special attention
  • Propose a plan, positive, “find a way” attitude
  • Respect, listen, help, and appreciate each other
  • Emotional resilience – trust the process
  • Have fun – enjoy the journey and each other.

Making sure “everyone knows the plan” is achieved through colour-coded project charts. “Every Thursday morning, we’d link up everyone around the world and colour-code the charts”, Mulally says. “Red means we’ve identified a problem – which is great – and we’re working on it.”

Ford Motors Turnaround

Mulally took these colour-coded charts over to Ford when he took on the role of CEO at the behest of Bill Ford, grandson of Henry. There he found a very different culture, and at first, people didn’t “get” the colour coding. “We had about 320 different charts”,

Mulally says, “I explained the coding, and the business leaders went away and had their charts colour coded. At the following meeting, I was surprised to see chart after chart all colour-coded green”.

The organisation was forecast to lose 17 billion that year, yet there wasn’t any red or yellow to be seen. The problem, Mulally discovered, was a culture in which business leaders would hide problems, making issues disappear rather than highlighting them as opportunities.

When a leader named Mark Fields was finally brave enough to place some red on his chart (due to a major production issue), Mulally responded by clapping in the leadership meeting. “People were looking at me, looking at Mark, waiting for him to be fired”, he says. “They thought the clapping was a signal for some bouncers to come in and remove Mark from the room!”

But Fields wasn’t fired. Instead, Mulally treated the production issue as a rallying point, showing Ford’s business leaders how to come together to figure out the problem, and also demonstrating that he valued Mark’s honesty by seating him next to the CEO at each subsequent meeting. Mark’s charts went from red, to yellow, to green.

And the following week? 320 beautiful, rainbow charts.

Deep Trouble

When Mulally took over at Ford, the company was in deep trouble with the aforementioned $17 billion loss in 2009. Ford was sized for 26 per cent market share in the US, but only had 16 per cent, losing money on every brand and vehicle. Mulally responded by focusing on the Ford brand over all others and consolidating the nameplates down from 97 to 15.

He launched a restructuring plan to turn around the losses and market share, and his cost-cutting initiatives led to the company’s first profitable quarter in two years.

In 2006, Mulally led the effort for Ford to borrow $23.6 billion, mortgaging all of Ford’s assets to overhaul the company and protect it from recession. This decision meant that Ford was the only company of the “Detroit Three” (Ford, GM and Chrysler) that did not have to take a government loan during the automotive industry crisis of 2008–9.

Value of Procurement

Mulally recognised the enormous value of procurement, especially in his aggressive cost-cutting endeavours. He promoted procurement to a leadership position within the company – something which had never been done at Ford – and ensured all of the business units around the world were working together with procurement.

Suppliers were also a major part of Mulally’s turnaround, and Ford rose from a position of second-last preferred customer, to number three today.

Today, Ford is the number one brand in the US, and the fastest-growing car manufacturer globally. It builds the first, third and sixth best-selling vehicles in the world presently. Mulally attributes this success to his eleven-point slide – in the end, it’s all about building the right culture and motivating your people.

eISM – Introducing the Future of Learning

People don’t want a one-size-fits-all solution for their professional development. eISM aims to provide a set of flexible options to take e-learning forward.

eISM Learning on Demand

Whether skills are learned through small chunks, longer competency-based training, or direct job experiences, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to gaining career knowledge and experience.

ISM’s Senior VP of Programs and Product Development, M.L. Peck, understands this, and has made it the foundation of ISM’s exciting new eISM initiative. “E-learning is the future of learning – it’s how our customers are consuming information”, says Peck. “But just like face-to-face learning, it has to allow for individuals’ learning styles”.

That’s why ISM has come up with no fewer than three completely different methods for varied learning styles within its eISM offering: Just-in-Time learning, Self-Guided learning, and Guided Learning. It’s up to the user to choose the method that best fits in with their busy schedule and learning style.

ISM’s e-learning is designed to support ISM’s Mastery Model, providing the training needed to equip practitioners with the skills and certification to master various competencies and sub-competencies within the model.

The content itself is pulled from ISM’s impressive 101 years of supply chain leadership, drawing upon its global network of subject matter experts to create a remarkable library of digital knowledge.

Just-in-Time Learning

Peck talks about the “just-for-me, just-in-time, and just-enough” approach. For example, if you have a negotiation in an hour and need an answer immediately, all you have to do is search for your answer based on Mastery Model competencies and sub-competencies. You’ll find the answer they’re looking for in a short video of no more than 15 minutes in length (micro-learning). Information is delivered in multiple, engaging methods, including:

  • whiteboard animations,
  • live interviews (Q and A’s) with executives and leaders in industry,
  • short lectures from industry experts,
  • fun activities, games and flashcards.

Self-Paced Learning

Self-paced learning courses are longer, on average an hour in length each. Users are given access to a wealth of knowledge with which they can create their own schedule and work at their own speed. This method is ideal for exploring a broad topic, or for diving deep into a sub-competency.

Guided learning

Nothing will replace the benefits of face-to-face learning, but eISM’s Guided Learning comes close. It includes an online instructor and peer-learning, ideal for people who want to make contact with the subject-matter experts or who are uncomfortable with learning a completely new concept alone.

The facilitated courses range from three to five weeks in length, running five days per week, in which the learner logs on and completes an activity of approximately 40 minutes each, or participates in a 1-hour weekly webinar (to be viewed live or recorded). The facilitator sends reminders to complete exercises.

Getting started

For more information on eISM, including subscription and pricing, visit the Education Area on ISM’s website. The best way to start is by using ISM’s self-assessment tool, which will rate your skill-set against the Mastery Model sub-competencies and identify gaps in your knowledge.

From there, find the learning approach that best suits you, whether it’s small, focused micro-learning, longer self-guided courses or the facilitated classes. “People are craving content that address specific needs at specific times”, says Peck. “eISM offers our customers that choice”.

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

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

Strategic

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, and it’s very possible that our constant repetition of the term ‘strategic’ 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 the word strategic, 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”.

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”.

Stay tuned for more from ISM2016 in the coming weeks. You can find out more about the event on the ISM website.

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.