Tag Archives: procurement careers

Barclays CPO: You’re In The Driver’s Seat, So Take The Wheel!

Don’t just come along for the procurement ride! If you want to make it big as a CPO, you’ve got to get in the driver’s seat and take the wheel!

Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts  with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!)  

What are today’s CPOs looking out for in the high performing procurement leaders of tomorrow?

Accepting change is good. But it’s even better if you can embrace it and drive it!

Barclays CPO, Al Williams, is certainly looking for more in his hires than a simple willingness to tolerate change. If you’re in the driver’s seat, you’ve got to take the wheel and drive the agenda!

On the fifth and final day of Career Boot Camp, Al discusses how procurement can generate value, how the function should be positioned within an organisation and how he encourages his hires to think about positive change.

And, if you’re in the market for some new shining stars, find out what you can do to make procurement a preferred and enticing destination for the next generation of professionals!

Five days, five CPOs, five fifteen-minute podcasts to help you upgrade your procurement career. 

Featuring tips and guidance from the best in the business, each of our  CPOs will dedicate their week to coaching you on becoming the best procurement leader you can be!

On Day 5 of Career Boot Camp we hear from Managing Director and CPO Barclays Al Williams.

Need a little convinving before you sign up? Check out our teaser trailer below to hear what Al had to say in reponse to our quick-fire questions.

Grabbing The Wheel

What attributes is Al Williams looking for in high performing procurement leaders?

“We’ve been building out a new leadership team in our procurement organization so I’ve had an opportunity to interview and select people, both with internal, internal within the organization and external. And some of the things I’m looking for, in addition to what I just talked about around innovation and problem solving and that kind of thing, is their ability and their willingness to embrace change. Not just manage it and tolerate it but they actually drive it, right?

“I want leaders who are in the driver’s seat, sort of pushing the agenda, and not just along for the ride, and certainly not those that feel like they’re victims and end up kind of victims as a part of a larger process. Deriving, embracing and driving change. I would also say a collaborative approach is very important and it’s collaborative in two dimension from both inside the organisations and outside the organization and in the market.

“It’s very important that we’re not the land of no, especially at a leadership level.  I think people want to be a part of an organisation like that, that’s a problem solving and collaborative team.”

What’s Procurement’s Position?

How should procurement functions position themselves within larger organisations? It’s a question that all senior procurement leaders are asking themselves. For Al, the answer is three-fold.

“One is we need to make sure that we’re positioning procurement as a strategic, value-adding player in the business, and not transactional. If we act transactional, and behave transactional that’s how the business will treat us, and that’s how we’ll be perceived by the business.

“Second is of course making sure that we align to the key business metrics or the key business outcomes that are important to the overall business strategy. And that would include things like financial metrics. That may be, if you’re a public company, [understand] what are the key things that are important to drive profitability and align determined outcomes to those. I would say the same thing from a risk perspective as well, aligning to the organisational risk tolerance, risk temperament and any metrics that are associated with that. So that’s an important positioning.”

And thirdly?

“Procurement used to be consultative, it needs to be in a position of influence, it needs to be helping the business, it needs to be sharing perspective, market knowledge, helping shape strategy, at least from a spin perspective for the business. When I talk about helping the business, a good example is policy compliance. We tend to have to be the communicator of, and sometimes the police of, certain policies in our businesses.

“I think it’s very important that procurement is positioned as ‘Hey, we’re here to help you be compliant to the policies and to help sort of maneuver you through the mirage of steps and checks that need to happen'”.

Listen to Al’s full podcast when you sign up to Procurious. Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!) 

Already a member of Procurious? You’re automatically enrolled for Career Boot Camp! Click here to listen to Al’s podcast in full.

The BIGGEST Mistake Leaders Make On Their Way To The Top

Procurement leaders, listen up! We hate to break it to you, but life’s not fair. And neither is your procurement career! 

Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts  with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!)

How many times have you been told about someone’s promotion and thought “how did they get that job? I would have been great for that!” Rejected and demotivated, you head home, resolute to move companies. You pour a tall glass of wine and start polishing your resume.

I’ve worked with hundreds of CEOs, CFOs and CPOs. I’ve seen people rise to the top, sink hard and fast to the bottom and flounder somewhere in between – never quite gaining the momentum required to propel an upward trajectory on their career.

From my experience, the biggest mistake people make in their quest for the c-suite is believing that the promotion process is fair.

Life’s not fair, and neither is your career…

You can do all the right things but it doesn’t mean you are going to land yourself the next big job. Corporations are complex and corporate politics are tricky, which means you’ll never really see the full picture.

You might be a rock star employee who delivered on all your KPIs, participated in “extra curricular” activities, and can boast a strong and supportive network (you even know the CEO!) but it doesn’t mean you’ll be offered your dream role.

So why do highly qualified candidates miss out on the top roles? There are a million and one reasons and you may never know the real answer. Some of the reasons for rejection will be about you, others will be about the company.

Here’s a handful of reasons why you may be blindsided:

Things that are not about you

  1. A change in strategy direction (ie. they put in a marketing person because they want “customer focus” or an IT person because they want a “technology focus”)
  2. The leadership team has changed and you are perceived as being part of the “old regime”
  3. They want to find a leadership role for another high potential employee and this is the best opportunity at that time
  4. There is a bias in the selection process. Even though companies are becoming increasingly aware of unconscious bias, it still may exist. Thirty years ago my husband participated in a leadership conference for 23 participants, 21 of whom were first-born sons, 1 female and 1 other male…which was my husband! Alternatively there may be a conscious bias to improve the diversity of the leadership team.

Things that are about you

  1. You’re not perceived as having the right level of experience (whether you do or not is irrelevant)
  2. You’re not promoting yourself enough. This doesn’t necessarily require an elaborate self-promotion campaign.It can also simply mean delivering on the basics. For example, one CFO told me he went into his internal HR system and some candidates didn’t even have their CV up to date, or a photo on fil That will make it unlikely for you to be selected. If you only do ONE thing as a result of reading this….PLEASE update your in-house profile!
  3. You’ve upset someone along the line. In hindsight, the inappropriate comment at an important executive meeting or the impromptu performance at the Christmas party may have been a career-limiting move. I actually know someone who slid down the boardroom table at a Friday night drinks, which may (or may not) have been forgotten, except that his belt buckle engraved a huge scratch from one end to the other – which was all too apparent to the Directors on Monday morning.
  4. Of course, the obvious: you just aren’t qualifi­­­­ed for the role!

It’s a long way to the top

As the famous ACDC lyrics go, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll” – tenacity is key. Wait patiently, which is not my strong suit, ­­­ for “your time”.

There is a direct correlation between how quickly you bounce back from a career disappointment and how quickly you get promoted. If you’re going to thrive, you need to take a long-term view on your career and build up your career resiliency.

I’ve seen this time and time again. One of my favourite examples was a mentor of mine who was at one point in a heated competition with one of her peers for the CPO role. Unfortunately she missed out, but quickly changed her perspective, becoming the trusted 2IC to her former peer, now boss.

Within twelve months she was headhunted to become the CPO of an even larger organisation! And guess who one of her biggest fans was? Yep!The very same person she had been competing with just a year ago; former peer and now boss,the CPO. How circumstances change!

Remember your career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You need to build career resiliency. In the long run, your endurance will pay dividends and chances are, you’ll land the dream job when you least expect it.

Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!)

 

Not just about Trump’s Tower: Procurement in Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire

Azerbaijan has hit the headlines today with allegations that a Trump Tower hotel project in Baku involved a deal between the Trump family and a “notoriously corrupt” Azerbaijani oligarch with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

Trump, towers, and corruption aside,  Procurious recently interviewed one of our own community members, Fidan Amirbekova, about working in procurement in Azerbaijan – a tiny Caucasus state that has suddenly found itself in the international spotlight. 

With its unique cultural heritage, ancient origins and shared border with Iran, the history of the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan makes for fascinating reading. But what’s it like to work in Procurement there? Procurious member Fidan Amirbekova shares why the most important asset in Azerbaijani business is your personal network.

Welcome to the Procurious community, Fidan! Can you tell us a little about your country?

I live and work in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and a thriving city on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The town’s origins go back to Roman times, with the earliest written evidence of its existence dating from 84AD. Today, it’s an incredible mixture of ancient buildings and modern skyscrapers. The town’s most recognisable buildings these days are the iconic “flame towers” (pictured).

Azerbaijan, also known as the Land of Fire, is the largest of the three South Caucasus states and is bordered by Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, Turkey to the south-west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east. Our culture has been defined by our location at the cross-roads of Russia and Persia (later Iran), and Azerbaijan has been a part of both empires at different times in its history.

Although the country has a Shiite Muslim majority, Azerbaijan doesn’t have an official religion, and all the major political forces in the country are secularist. The official language is Azerbaijani, although many of us speak Russian and English as well.

What kind of organisation do you work for?

I work in procurement for Bakcell, the leading mobile phone operator in Azerbaijan. The telecommunications sector is one of the biggest and most innovative in the country, and the role of procurement is significant. I’ve worked at Bakcell for almost 13 years now, with six of them in the procurement department. Specifically, I’m responsible for Marketing and Sales procurement and specialise in services purchasing.

As a profession, procurement in Azerbaijan is quite new, but it’s growing rapidly. Most of the large companies (especially the international ones) require procurement specialists in their teams. There is no developed manufacturing chain in the country, so we need to import almost everything.

Are there any challenges involved with moving goods across borders?

Yes, there are sometimes difficulties with moving goods across borders, but experienced professionals can always find a way. Doing business here is about who you know – personal relationships play a very important role in every field in Azerbaijan. You will succeed if you have a large network – it doesn’t matter if your connections are business-related or personal. In my experience, a wide circle of friends and acquaintances solves everything. That includes online social and business networks like LinkedIn – and Procurious!

Do you source anything from Iran? 

There is some trade over the shared border between Azerbaijan and Iran. Personally, I haven’t yet had to source anything from Iran. The two countries have a shared history and there are many Azerbaijanis living in Iran, and vice-versa. We have stronger business and personal relationships with Turkey. Our languages are similar, and Turkish students come to Azerbaijan to study. We import a lot from Turkey, and there are many Turkish companies here, both small and large.

What pathways are offered to get into procurement in Baku and the region?

As I said earlier, procurement is relatively new here, although it’s growing fast. At present, none of our higher education institutions offer courses in procurement. There is, however, a small consulting company which represents CIPS in Azerbaijan and offers training courses and CIPS qualifications. Many procurement professionals here are actively seeking new opportunities and professional development, so having the CIPS qualification is becoming increasingly popular.

Overall, I think procurement has a great future in modern Azerbaijan. Businesses here understand that we can make a great contribution.

Procurious may be an English-language business network, but our community members come from all over the globe. We’re looking for more stories to build a picture of the unique challenges faced by procurement professionals internationally. If you’re interested in sharing your story, please leave a comment below.

How To Convince Hostile Stakeholders To Adopt New Technology

Simona Pop’s Big Idea provides a recipe for convincing even the most unwilling departmental heads to embrace new technology.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Deciding to adopt a new technology has historically been a pain in the ass. An expensive, dull, prolonged pain nobody wants to deal with. The problem I have is that those adjectives belong to OLD tech. Putting nimble new technology in the same pile with 90s software is like mixing vodka with milk. It may have worked for the Mad Men of the 50s but it is an unnatural association. (I watched Mad Men until the 5th series then lost interest, by the way.)

Here’s the gist of it: people need to be comfortable with the cost and potential risk of adopting new technology. How do you make them comfortable? By providing “proof of concept” and calculating these costs and potential risks. One simple guideline is the 10X rule: if you can expect a return of 10 times your investment, then it’s worth it.

However, with technology – especially if it spans across different departments – you must take into account that your gains will come from any of several improvements, or a combination of improvements:

  • Cost reduction
  • Efficiency improvement
  • Fraud prevention
  • Admin processing speed
  • Mobilising the workforce
  • Product/service enhancement
  • Competitive environment

Your gains will be the sum total of all factors. If adopting a new technology provides an improvement in one factor but it’s at the expense of another factor, it may not be worth adopting. This tends to limit everything to a financial view though. A far better formula includes non-financial factors, some of which will outweigh the financial ones. You need to also remember that some investments in new technology can require at least a year to show their true value.

Managing risk should also be incorporated into your analysis, but remember that you take a risk whether you adopt a new technology or not. The advantages a new technology provides may not be obvious – until a competitor adopts that technology and makes your competitive disadvantage clear. In that case, adopting a new technology reactively will put you on the back foot. Playing catch-up is never a good business move!

Risk Reduction Recipe

Let’s call it – new tech is the unknown. The unknown is typically scary to humans. And since I am all about the H2H in business, working to remove that fear is key to successful tech adoption.

One sure way to reduce the risk is to go for a taster: a proof-of-concept implementation. Starting small & early allows you to identify problems early when they are far easier and less expensive to correct. It also makes it easy to start over if the proverbial hits the fan.

When rolling out new technology across multiple departments, you’re guaranteed to encounter a mixed bag of responses. From enthusiastic stakeholders who “get it” straight away, to nervous – and sometimes downright hostile – departmental heads who are terrified of change, you’re going to have to manage them all.

Here’s the secret – rather than trying to beat hostile stakeholders into submission with the force of your arguments, ask the willing departments to do the job for you. Carry out a proof of concept with your supporters so you have the evidence required to overcome any objection, and go back to the risk-averse stakeholders with your advocates at your side.

Also keep in mind that both organisational and process changes will be needed when bringing in tech. Procedural changes are very common. The reason why you are looking at that tech is typically to improve current processes you have found lacking. You must be aware that tech is here to improve NOT replicate. Trying to fit clunky processes on efficient technology is not only frustrating but a complete waste of time and resource. Changes to previous processes will need to happen and you will have to expect some resistance to those changes. Again, human nature.

The mark of good technology for me is its accessibility and great user experience across the board (from top to bottom, from left to right). Because you are effecting change (and that’s difficult enough), the very last thing you need is that change to come in the form of clunky, pain in the ass – MS-DOS looking software.

In my quest to empower people through tech, one problem I come across a lot is: “How much resource do I need from our side because we really cannot spare anyone?” This question is proof of a bad reflex left over from dealing with old tech. The type of tech that takes a year just to implement, another year to train for and another to realise it’s not right for you anyway even though it is costing you serious cash. The type of tech that is SO unlike what you know and love in your personal life, it might as well be alien. A vintage alien at that.

Clear communication will help overcome the organisational and process challenges. When people get that you are in fact trying to empower them to work better and easier, they will want to be part of that higher drive.

As Richard Branson says: “Screw it, let’s do it!” Move quickly, find out what works and what doesn’t. Stalling, procrastinating of burying your head in the sand are NOT ways to avoid a pain in the ass.

This article was first published on InstaSupply.

Stay tuned for more Big Ideas from Simona Pop as we lead up to the Big Ideas Summit 2017!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

Back to School: Continuing Education Is Your Path to Success

Tired of being passed up for promotion? Want to further your career? Maybe it’s time for you to go back to school and continue your education.

education

So you spent your four years in university, got that business diploma, and got a job. Now what? Of course you can stay at the job you have and continue to improve your skills in the world of business. But as every aspect of business is constantly changing, many people with a bachelor’s degree may find themselves passed over for promotions because the ideal candidate has more education.

The simple fact is that the true path to success in any field is continuing education. Nowhere is this more true than in the business sector. Whether you’re working in finance or some other sector of the business realm, the importance of an MBA can’t be overlooked.

The good news is that getting that MBA is easier today than it’s ever been thanks to online courses from reputable universities with educators who know business administration inside and out. If you’d like to learn more about how working toward that MBA can improve your professional life read on to see just how impactful that degree can be.

Increased Salary

The most impactful reason to pursue an MBA is the simple fact that you’ll be more desirable to employers, and you can ask for and get an increase in salary. Depending on your chosen field, this can be in the range of 25-50 per cent more than you’re currently making.

Following the initial increase in salary, you can also expect to earn more over your lifetime with an MBA than if you stopped after earning a bachelor’s degree. It just makes good financial sense, especially if you plan to start a family.

More Opportunities Abroad

The business world isn’t limited to the United States. Business and financial hubs around the world like Hong Kong, Dubai, London, and Taipei are filled with companies eager to hire intelligent, dedicated employees. But there is a caveat. Most of these international companies all but require a master’s degree to even get a foot in the door.

Working abroad not benefits you culturally, it adds an impressive column to your CV. Additionally, in some countries, taking a job there can mean significant tax breaks. It’s for this reason that many people with advanced degrees now choose to work and live abroad.

You’re Not Limited to the Business Sector

Another great aspect of an MBA is that you’re not limited one particular industry. Finance, health care, education, and government are all eager to hire people with advanced degrees for a number of positions.

One of the key factors of the degree itself is that you’ll have the chance to choose sub-specialties. These areas of focus can put you in a better position to move toward other job opportunities. For many graduates this means they’ll be in a position to branch out and explore more varied job opportunities.

Increased Networking Opportunities

Many people say that, in the business world, it’s all about who you know and, in many ways, it’s true. An undergraduate degree in business and the process behind it doesn’t give you access to true business experts in the way that an MBA programme does. The connections that you’ll make during your MBA courses could prove to be very valuable.

Many educators who teach MBA courses do so in addition to regular jobs in the business world. If you’re a standout student and make the effort to meet and talk with your professors and their colleagues, you can find yourself in a great position when it comes time to ask for references and update your CV.

Taking the time to further one’s career through continuing education can seem like a daunting and time consuming task. However, many people who have taken the MBA plunge have found the hard work pays off in a big way.

There are so many types of MBA programme available, so do some research, decide which one is right for you, and start cracking books again. The rewards can be better than you expect.

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable.

The Glass Ceiling For Women In Procurement and Supply Chain – Myth or reality?

If the glass ceiling is a figment of our imaginations, why do so few women make it to the top? 

Procurious’ new group, Bravo, celebrates women in procurement- Join the conversation here.  

This article was originally published on Jennifer Swain’s LinkedIn profile

There’s a lot of talk about the glass ceiling for women. Do they really exist and what can be done about it? I decided to really give this situation some thought to try to understand WHY there are so few females in Head Of or Director level roles within supply chain, procurement and logistics.

Traditional Logistics

Up until fairly recently there were certain industries / vocations that were considered either man’s work or women’s work. The stereotype twenty years ago that girls want to grow up to be Nurses and boys to work as Engineers is now very outdated to most.  But it’s legacy does still live on in some businesses.

Logistics definitely comes under the former stereotype of being a “man’s job” and still to this day this view point can be found in the culture of some warehouse operations.  Granted, the page 3 girls plastered on the walls may have disappeared for the main.

But, I have witnessed on occasion women with more talent being overlooked for opportunities, with an extreme case where I was asked by one company owner how old the woman was as he was concerned she was going to go and have children in the next 12 months and he would have to pay maternity!

Numbers game

Possible due to the lingering perception of point one, it is a fact that far fewer women than men enter into a profession in Logistics and Supply Chain in the first place. Obviously then, it stands to reason that if the ratio of men to women in entry level positions is heavily-weighted to the male of the species, that as you move up the career ladder this ratio will still apply.

Biology

 I preface this by saying that I am possibly the biggest feminist I know (to the chagrin of my other half sometimes) but I am also pragmatic and, having had 2 kids myself, do believe that, for most women, having kids brings with it a reassessment of what is important and the need to have a work / life balance.

I have a number of male counterparts who I worked with earlier in my career who reached Director level before me – not because they were better than me, but because they hadn’t taken 2 years out to have a family. Of course, there are  stay at home dads too but it is less common. Crucially, it should be a woman’s choice how they manage family and working life and society needs to make this easier.

Lack of Applications

When I advertise on ANY platform, the ratio of male to female applicants can be as much as 40:1.  Now I appreciate that part of this is down to point 2 above, however I also feel there is much more inertia on the part of women to push their careers forward.

I feel that some women believe it is not worth applying for certain roles as they think it would be a pointless exercise and their application would be overlooked if there is someone with very similar experience and skills also applying and who also happens to be male.

It has also become apparent to me that men and women view a job description in very different ways.  A man will look at a job specification and highlight all the things he CAN do, and apply for the role on the basis that he may tick 70 per cent of the boxes.  A woman will look at the same job description and look at all the things they CANNOT do and NOT apply because they don’t tick 30 per cent of the boxes.

Now this I know comes across as a sweeping generalisation – something I am always very wary of, but I personally cannot come up with any other explanation as to the lack of applications I get from women and I know you are out there as we are connected on LinkedIn!

So, these are the main reasons why I feel there may be restrictions in place to women achieving the upper echelons in business.  More importantly, what can we do about it?

Improve the Talent Pipeline

We need to get more women into procurement and logistics.  We need to raise awareness to young talent at college or university as to what an amazing career in procurement and supply chain can be.  If more females take entry level roles, it stands to reason that there will be more females climbing the career ladder.  Secondly, equalling out the gender ratios can only help eradicate any sexism still lingering in the industry, which again will assist in creating equality in promotion.

Help to Stamp Out Sexism and the Glass Ceiling

I do appreciate that sexism in the workplace is a rare occurrence these days. Most professionals of both sexes are accepting, progressive individuals who judge people on their skills and experience, not their gender. However sexism DOES still exist.  I have experienced first-hand and I know my experiences are not unique.

It can feel like a scary thing to do to stand up to those who display sexist behaviour but there are procedures in place and help available to assist anyone experiencing this type of discrimination.  At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, if you don’t bring it to the attention of those who can do something about it, the glass ceiling situation will never get better, not just for you but for your successors.

Positive Mental Attitude

Cheesy maybe, but true!  This probably applies more to us ladies who are in male-dominant environment because we have to feel confident in our ability to push ourselves to move forward in what can sometimes feel like a hostile environment because of our minority status.

I welcome any application from people of any colour, race, religion or gender and if there are question marks around your suitability for an opportunity, this is something I will be happy to discuss with you and either put to bed any fears.

Procurious would love to hear your thoughts and comments on Jennifer’s article.  Is your procurement career being haltered by a glass ceiling?  Join the Bravo group  here to take part in the discussion. 

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

Stand By Your Women (…in Procurement)

You might not have to look far to find women who inspire, support and influence you throughout your procurement career.

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile procurement leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Kelly Sissons is a category lead for connected home and accessories wearables consumer products.

In this interview Kelly discusses the issues that affect her as a woman in procurement, explains why procurement is the perfect career for her and lists a whole host of inspirational women!

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

I worked as the procurement category lead to support the launch of Telstra Smart Home, a new consumer technology offering that is revolutionising the homes of Australians. This was both a rewarding and great accomplishment. I was involved in developing the procurement strategy, conducting RFIs to source new suppliers, products and services and establishing contractual and commercial arrangements. It was really exciting to see the impact of my work when the category launched in market.

It’s also extremely rewarding to achieve  positive business outcomes when working through complex negotiations. This includes conducting dispute resolution activities to improve relationships amongst stakeholders

What issues currently affect you as a woman in procurement?

Procurement is doing well to address the barriers woman face in the workplace such as sexism and discrimination. In saying that, I believe that there needs to be further initiatives to increase the number of women in middle and senior management positions. Organisations and procurement must ensure that they adopt and embrace flexible working cultures to allow women with family and caring responsibilities to choose to remain at work.

Another issue I have noticed, which is a reflection of society as a whole, is that when working with stakeholders (men and women) from other departments or organisations there are still gender biases to overcome.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

Sheryl Sandberg is a great influential world leader who placed a focus on some important issues that women face in the workplace. Her book Lean In helped me to understand that self-doubt is a common fear women face and one that I need to contest. I’ve learnt to have confidence in my abilities and to put my hand up for opportunities.

Recently I worked with a great leader, Deanna Lomas, who challenged me to dream big and to consider opportunities beyond what I know. She taught me the importance of establishing a personal brand and taking charge of your career.

My mother inspires me to be strong and empathetic and my friends help me to be brave, to laugh and to stay focused.

Aside from these women, I regularly encounter incredible women that inspire me in many different ways.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you? 

Procurement is a profession that offers a lot of variety. I am continuously being challenged and always learning, which I love.

I have enjoyed countless opportunities including working with world leading organisations and with people at all levels across the business, gaining exposure to new technologies and working on a diverse range of projects.

Early in my career I have accountability, the ability to influence business decisions and am making recognisable impacts.

In procurement I am able to work on initiatives that address human rights issues that I am passionate about. This includes increasing the use of indigenous companies in corporate procurement and ensuring that corporations are only engaging with suppliers that follow ethical practices in their supply chains.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be? 

  • Surround yourself with the right people

Always surround yourself with people that enrich your life, inspire you to be a better person, challenge you, empower you to grow and who will help you find success. When considering whether or not to take a job, ensure that your manager and the team culture embody these characteristics. When a job no longer provides these things, consider moving onto something new. Seek out mentors and a support network of people that want to unlock your potential and to help you find your success. Once you find these people ensure that you put in the effort to sustain relationships.

  • Seek out challenging opportunities wherever possible and don’t be afraid of failing

Never let yourself become too comfortable and always seek opportunities to challenge yourself. Stepping outside of you comfort zone means you’re entering a new learning opportunity and will experience growth. Don’t say no to opportunities or hold back because you’re scared to fail. Accept that failure is a part of life. If you plan and put in your best effort regardless of the outcome you will feel better for trying.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Three Economic Indices You Can’t Ignore In Procurement

Procurement professionals need the ability to understand – and react to – changes in inflation, employment and optimism.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

The interesting thing about procurement’s typical line of sight is that it very closely aligns with the terms of the sourcing projects we run and the contracts – and therefore supplier relationships – we manage. This might be 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, or 5 years long, but regardless of the exact length of time, you can be assured it is far longer than the changes being seen in global and local economies.

Since the summer of 2016, I have been the Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. It has been an amazing learning opportunity, and I am fortunate to be working with a career economist to learn to decipher and draw meaning from the data. There are two pieces to the report: 1. the indices (some seasonally adjusted and some not) which provide a monthly trend up or down as the economy contracts or expands, and 2. the narrative, which highlights some of the key figures and milestones and adds some context to the numbers.

You don’t have to be a professor to see the connections between procurement and economics, but it is easy for us to become overly focused on information that is internally available or provided by suppliers. Based on what I’ve learned, the following categories of information tie directly to procurement’s efforts and objectives. And although they may not often come up in internal conversations, they need to be present in procurement’s thinking and strategy development.

Inflation

Investopedia defines inflation as “the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling.” Most of what procurement buys tends to be based on pre-negotiated contracts, so we’re unlikely to see annual changes in prices based on inflation. What we might see, however, is a difference in the prices we are able to negotiate every three years. This will be especially true of anything we buy internationally or that has significant foreign-sourced materials in it because the relative purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar in global markets will be affected by inflation. But it’s not just an international issue – for any procurement team that reports into finance, keeping an eye on inflation will give you a benchmark for the minimum project-level ROI, as the alternative might be to just hold onto the cash if the project is expected to return less than 3% (the average rate of inflation) per year.

Employment

Higher levels of employment are usually considered a good indicator or economic growth and stability. From a procurement perspective, however, employment also tells us what to expect about trends in services-category spend. With an increasing portion of organizational demand being met ‘as-a-Service’, employment rates (and therefore costs) are critical to our cost to operate. For some industries, services are so important that even the factors driving alternate economic measures like ‘Prices Paid’ are services too – the New York Metro area is a perfect example of this, as are many other major cities. It’s why you must know the product/service mix in your spend before trying to figure out what approach to take. The other consideration relative to employment is talent availability. Higher employment means lower UNemployment (see how I did that?) and therefore less candidates available to compete for open positions. Luckily for procurement, we have a wide array of talent options at our disposal through contingent workforce programs. Striking an optimal mix of employment models presents an opportunity to maximize both costs and capabilities.

Optimism

The final economic index I’ve learned to appreciate is optimism – in the ISM-New York Report on Business we call this the Six-Month Outlook. In other words, as of today, how much better or worse do you expect things to be going six months from now. It would be unrealistic to expect the outlook to be more specific than a trend up or down, but even this insight provides important information for others watching the economy. The fact that this question is even asked is an indication of how special procurement’s perspective on the economy and business activity is. This perspective is due in part to our understanding of the organization’s anticipated demand levels and the prices we are paying, but also the conversations we have with suppliers about the conditions they are doing business in. Competition drives prices down, differentiation drives margins up, increases in demand drive prices up, and large increases in price may push buyers and suppliers to innovate together to come up with alternatives, and procurement has a front row seat for it all.

Many people in the business world watch the monthly reports on business, whether the ISM national reports or regional reports, like ISM-New York. If they value procurement’s perspective on the economy enough to wait for the numbers to be released each month and report on the findings, then we should have a greater appreciate for our own insight and do everything we can to deepen it.

 2017 could be a pivotal year for the procurement profession. The Big Ideas Summit in London will help lay the ground work for all of  the changes ahead. Our London event takes place on 23rd February and you can now register as a digital delegate now! 

Procurement Leaders: Don’t Be A Creativity Killer

Everyone is born with a lot of creative potential. So what’s been holding us back all this time from releasing our inner creative genius?

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Last week, we introduced James Bannerman as one of our Big Ideas speakers.  A creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, James  firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative.

To start unlocking creative genius within our procurement teams it’s important to first understand the reasons that creativity is often so lacking. What happens between childhood and adulthood that means the average person is so deterred from expressing their creative genius in the workplace? James has a good idea about what’s holding us all back and it often comes down to three things…

Labels

It’s all too easy to get categorized by managers, colleagues and even our own self-doubt. Perhaps someone has identified you as having a particular type of creative talent but written you off in other aspects. Maybe you’ve been discounted as a creative genius altogether! Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and areas to which they are more suited but in pigeon holing people, we are also limiting them. James believes that by labeling ourselves we are stifling our imaginations and he points out that often the best ideas come when we least expect them and from the people we least expect them from!

Organisational Structures

We’ve all had that one boss who greets every new idea with a perplexed look, a raised eyebrow or complete disinterest. Sometimes, it’s the age-old story of senior management wanting to keep things simple, avoid too much risk and a reluctance to alter the status quo.

Even within organisations who are sincere about wanting to innovate, it’s easy to discourage employees without even realising it, leaving a team of budding intrapreneurs fearful of getting it wrong or what their colleagues might say and too embarrassed to express their best and wackiest ideas. Organisations must create an environment of psychological safety that allows employees to feel comfortable to be creative even in the highly regulated environment of a workplace.

Time

Bannerman is keen to affirm that miraculous and fully-formed ideas won’t simply land at your feet. Instead, he recommends a technique called deliberate creativity:

“ If people had all the time in the world they could patiently wait for genius ideas to fall from the sky. In the real world of business, however, most people are time-poor and don’t have that luxury. That is why Edward de Bono – the author of Lateral Thinking – championed ‘deliberate creativity’.

De Bono showed us how we can use provocative mindtools to jolt the patterns of the mind, as and when required. Look at the highly-innovative organisation Pixar, for example, who appear to make great use of the Oppositions tool. If the rules of superheroes are that they have to be ‘young, fit and athletic’, for example, what do they do? They create ‘The Incredibles’.

Or if the rules are that ‘children are afraid of monsters’, what do they do ? They create ‘Monsters Inc’ where it is the monsters who are afraid of the children. Or if the last thing a chef wants in their kitchen is a rat, what do they do ? They make the rat the chef and create ‘Ratatouille’.

So if you’re looking for innovative solutions for your Procurement team or your organisational Supply Chain Management, ask yourself what might happen if you creatively questioned the habitual ‘rules’ ? The rules of cereal, for example, used to be that they were always eaten in a bowl with milk and a spoon. Questioning these rules, however, helped to inspire the invention of the ‘cereal bar’. Similarly, as Kelley of IDEO points out, for years high-jumpers used to jump forwards, but then – at the 1968 Mexico Olympics – Fosbury wondered what might happen if he deliberately jolted this pattern and jumped backwards, and now the ‘Fosbury Flop’ has become adopted around the globe.”

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!