Tag Archives: procurement skills

Upgrade: Be Tomorrow’s CPO, Today

Five days. Five influential CPOs. Are you ready to upgrade your career  at Career Boot Camp 2017?

Sign up to Procurious to access Career Boot Camp from 4th September. 

Do you dream of becoming the CPO of a top organisation somewhere in the distant future?

Are you putting in the hours today to make sure you’re prepared for tomorrow?

Procurement leaders of the future will need to be agile, focused and equipped to deal with all of the changes coming our way with the developments in cognitive technology and Workplace 4.0.

That’s where Career Boot Camp comes in. Our podcast series will help you to transform your career and your future. But only if you’re ready and willing to upgrade!

Five days. Five CPOs. Five fifteen-minute procurement podcasts – tomorrow can’t wait!

What Is Career Boot Camp? 

The Procurious Career Boot Camp, sponsored by Michael Page Procurement and Supply Chain, is a global professional development event for procurement and supply chain professionals. This series, featuring five, fifteen-minute podcasts, will be hosted right here on Procurious and has been designed to help the most ambitious professionals amongst you to upgrade your skill-set.

It’s an opportunity to hear from the brightest and the best in the industry in a format that is FREE and easily accessible; on the go or in the workplace, providing answers to the most common procurement questions you’re desperate to have answered!

20,000 procurement pros took part in Career Boot Camp in 2016. This year will be bigger and better!

Who’s involved in this year’s Career Boot Camp?

Explaining how to crank it up one notch at a time, why you need to lock up your data scientists and the art of failing forward, our career coaches in 2017 include:

  • Ramsay Chu, CPO Rio Tinto
  • Ninian Wilson, Global Supply Chain Director & CEO Vodafone Procurement
  • Fabienne Lesbros, CPO The Co-operative Group
  • Dapo Ajayi, CPO AstraZeneca
  • Matthew Friend, Associate Director, Michael Page Procurement and Supply Chain
  • Al Williams, Managing Director and CPO Barclays

How does it work?

The series will run for one working week with a daily podcast released on Procurious from 4th September.  You can access each new podcast, featuring tips, insights and guidance from the best in the business, via our eLearning area.

Each of our five CPOs will dedicate their week to coaching you on becoming the best procurement leader you can be! Matthew Friend, Associate Director, Michael Page Procurement and Supply Chain, will be providing his top takeaways at the end of each podcast.

Each daily podcast will also be accompanied by a blog article from our speakers and there will be vibrant group debates aplenty via our dicussions board.

How do I access Career Boot Camp?

If you’re already a member of Procurious sit tight until the 4th September. The podcasts will be  published in our eLearning area throughout this week.

Not yet a member of Procurious? All you need to do is register (it’s FREE!) here and you’re good to go!

You needn’t worry about the event slipping your mind either. We’ll be sending all of our members an email reminder the week before.

And, to make things even easier, we’ll be sure to deliver each podcast straight to your doorstep (straight to your email inbox!) as they become available so you won’t miss out on a thing!

When is it?

Starting on the 4th September, Career Boot Camp will run for five days. The podcasts will be accompanied by daily blogs from our speakers. When the series is complete, all five podcasts will still be available via the Procurious learning area, FREE of charge.

Is it really free?

Yes! Sign up to become a member of Procurious, and you’ll gain access to all of the Career Boot Camp podcast content, as well as all of the other resources on Procurious including featured classes, e-learning videos, thousands of procurement news articles, a curated news feed and a global events calendar.

Are the podcasts available to everyone?

Anyone and everyone is welcome to partake in Career Boot Camp and it’s totally, 100 per cent free to do so- simply sign up to Procurious.

Why should I do Career Boot Camp every day?

More and more procurement professionals are opting to develop their key skills and gain knowledge through eLearning and other online channels. In a fast-paced, technology driven world, innovation, agility and forward planning are essential if procurement professionals are to succeed and be future leaders.

Dedicating fifteen minutes a day to developing and progressing your procurement career can make the difference between standing still, or moving quickly into more impactful roles. Hearing from the best in the business will give you a valuable head start on what’s required of tomorrow’s CPO. At Procurious, we firmly believe that daily procurement learning is essential for career advancement. And 2017’s Career Boot Camp will help you get into the habit!

Sign up to Procurious to access Career Boot Camp from 4th September. 

If you’re already a member you’ll be able to access the podcasts in our learning area from the 4th September 2017. 

Are You Emotionally Intelligent? Here’s How to Tell

What exactly is emotional intelligence (EQ)? How can you determine if you have those characteristics? And why is it so important?

You’ve probably heard the term “emotional intelligence.” It’s come into vogue in recent years, with numerous books being written about the subject. Businesses are increasingly focusing on emotional intelligence and researchers are increasingly learning its importance.

What is emotional intelligence?

The term “emotional intelligence” (EI or EQ) was coined by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. Author Dan Goleman made the term mainstream in his book “Emotional Intelligence.”

Typically, EQ includes two related, but distinct items:

  • The ability to recognise, understand and manage your own emotions
  • The ability to recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others

 

The 5 characteristics of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is characterised by 5 distinct characteristics:

1. Self awareness

Those with high EQ are able to recognize emotions in the moment. One of the keys to developing EQ is being aware of feelings, evaluating those feelings and then managing them.

2. Self regulation

Everyone knows that emotions come quickly and with force. It’s rare that you have control over when we are hit by an emotional wave. Even the slightest thing can trigger something deep within you. However, if you have a high EQ, you can control how long that negative experience lasts.

3. Motivation

It’s very difficult to be motivated if you always have a negative attitude. Those who are full of negativity don’t often achieve their goals. Those with a high EQ are able to move toward a consistently positive attitude by thinking more positively and being aware of negative thoughts.

4. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to recognise how others are feeling. This is essential for functioning well in society and excelling in your career. A person without empathy will end up regularly insulting and offending people, while a person with a high EQ will be able to understand what a person is feeling and then treat them accordingly.

5. Social skills

The final characteristic of EQ is having and developing excellent interpersonal skills. It used to be that access to the greatest amount of information would allow you to succeed, but now that everyone has immediate access to knowledge, people skills are more important than ever. Those with a high EQ are able to wisely and skillfully navigate the various relationships that fill their lives.

How can you tell if you have high EQ?

There are various tests that can help you identify your emotional intelligence, such as the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 test. However, these tests have their limitations in that EQ is intangible, making it difficult to precisely measure.

There are a number of markers that accompany those with a high emotional intelligence.

Some of those markers are:

A curiousity about people

Curiosity comes from empathy, which is one of the most significant elements of EQ. If you are curious about people, you will also care about what they feel and how they struggle.

On the flip side, those with a low EQ don’t have any interest in others. They aren’t interested in what others think or feel. Their primary focus is on themselves.

A thorough emotional vocabulary

Remember, EQ is the ability to identify and understand emotions. Research done by Travis Bradberry, who is the author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” suggests that only about 36 per cent of people have this ability.

This is partially due to an inadequate emotional vocabulary that prevents people from properly identifying what they’re feeling. Every negative feeling is simply called, “Bad,” and every positive feeling is, “Good.”

However, those with high EQ can specifically name their emotions, which then allows them to deal with them in the most effective way.

A holistic understanding of themselves

If you have high emotional intelligence, you have a holistic understanding of yourself that goes beyond just feelings. You know what you’re good at and what you’re not. You know the people and situations that frustrate you. You also understand how to avoid or effectively navigate situations that will hurt you emotionally.

If you have a high EQ, you can tap into your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

Not easily offended

Emotional intelligence involves a thorough knowledge of yourself and the ability to control your emotions. Combined, this makes you difficult to offend. You are confident in who you are and are able to understand when someone is simply making a joke versus when they are degrading you. You don’t let people easily get under your skin.

An ability to judge character

EQ gives you the ability to read and understand people. You are in tune with their emotions, which then allows you to more readily understand their actions. You can tell the difference between someone having a bad day and someone who is a bad apple. The more you develop your EQ, the more skilled you become at making character assessments about people.

Not haunted by the past

A low EQ makes it difficult to manage emotions when they appear unexpectedly. When a past mistake comes to mind, it’s easy to get dragged down into discouragement and despair.

If you have a high EQ, you are able to think about past mistakes without letting the associated emotions overwhelm you.

Giving without expecting

Those with a high EQ are able to give without expecting anything back. Because you are constantly in tune with the emotions of others, you know the effect that a gift will have on someone. When someone needs something, you want to meet that need.

This giving attitude allows emotionally strong people to build deep relationships with other people.

An ability to handle toxic people

Toxic, difficult people will often draw a reaction out of you. You feel surges of negative emotions when you are around them and often lash out, which then hurts both you and them. Lashing out also fuels their toxic behavior even more.

If you have a high EQ, however, you can keep your emotions in check when dealing with a difficult person. You don’t allow your anger to boil over. You’re able to see multiple perspectives, calmly.

As Daniel Goleman said:

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Janae Ernst (M.S. ’17) serves as the marketing communications coordinator for Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies. This article was orginally published on the Cornerstone University blog.

Executive Recruiter: 4 Must-Have Attributes For Aspiring CPOs

Procurious caught up with Naseem Malik, Managing Partner at the Chicago-based supply management executive search firm MRA Global Sourcing, to find out what attributes recruiters are looking for in the next generation of top CPOs.

Naseem Malik has gone from sourcing goods to sourcing talent. After gaining 15 years’ experience as a procurement practitioner, Naseem turned his full attention to something he enjoys most – leveraging his network, connecting the dots and finding the best talent in the profession. Naseem is also a member of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership Committee, and has some excellent tips for getting the most out of ISM’s biggest event of the year. But first, Procurious asked Naseem for his views on what makes a candidate ideal for a CPO-level role.

Naseem, as a specialist in supply management executive search, what are the top attributes you look for in aspiring CPOs?

Based on the trends we’re seeing and what our clients have typically asked for, there are four stand-out attributes that we look for in a CPO-level candidate.

First, and foremost, they need to have a broad perspective. Companies are asking specifically for candidates from different industries to their own, as this brings about fresh, disruptive and innovate thinking.

Secondly, the candidate should be someone who can earn themselves a seat at the table with the CFO and CEO. They can do this by talking confidently about what they can bring to the business in terms of supply and market intelligence, data analytics, and leverage their own broad perspective. They should focus on the things that matter most to the C-Level – risk, compliance, and technological trends.

Operational know-how is also important, particularly change-management skills. Does the candidate have the emotional intelligence (EQ) to truly collaborate? Are they able to engage, influence, persuade and lead people in a global environment, including those that don’t report to them?

I’d like to add a fourth attribute here that ties the other three together, and that’s humility. Yes, you need to be able to talk confidently about your accomplishments, but this has to be balanced with humility and an awareness of your place in the corporate pecking-order. Humility will lead to credibility, which will pay off down the road.

 You mentioned that you got into executive search because of your love of networking. Can you share any tips for effective networking?

Everyone now needs to have a social presence, and continually build upon that presence online. However, without some sort of face-to-face follow-up, your online connections can be specious. To truly leverage the power of your online network, you need to meet people face-to-face at conferences, make phone calls and gather referrals. Face-to-face networking will help you grow you online network, and vice-versa.

Another piece of advice is to embrace the concept of “pay it forward”. Always see if there’s something you can do to help people in your network – for example, see if there’s someone who you can connect them with to help solve a challenge they may be facing. Again, it will pay off in the long-term.

What are you most excited about seeing at ISM2017?

Besides attending Procurious’ “Network Your Way To The Top” session, you mean?

As a member of the Conference Leadership Committee, I’m really excited about ISM2017 because every year we’re seeing the conference gaining incrementally in attraction. There are more people attending than ever, and I don’t think that’s only due to the prospect of meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World – it’s about the quality of the speakers, the excellent content and the companies attending (Apple, Google, Salesforce and others). The keynotes, including David Cameron and Colin Powell, are also fantastic. Personally, I’ve been involved in helping ISM find good speakers, great topics and promoting the event.

What are your top 3 tips for getting the most out of a procurement conference?

Network – take every opportunity you can to build your network at the event. After the event, follow up with all the people you’ve met, and also be sure to connect with the speakers or presenters you were most impressed by. Consider writing a blog article to share your thoughts and to keep the momentum going.

Have a plan before you go to the conference. There are a lot of learning tracks, lots of great presentations, but there’s only a finite number of sessions you can attend. It pays to have an attack plan before you go. You can target a specific learning track, or mix and match.

ISM’s Learning Tracks are designed to help guide delegates through the maze of options available. As a committee member, I have joint responsibility for the “Outside” track. Outside sessions are all about learning new and effective ways of improving your skills and establishing your relevance, including career-building, building your professional presence, honing your networking skills and building high-value relationships.

There’s still time to register for ISM2017, taking place in Orlando, Florida from May 21-24.

Planning to attend ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s top tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.

One Skill To Rule Them All

Want to know what it takes to really make it in the procurement world? Cognitive tech expertise? A firm background in supply management? Nope – 72% of the ISM and ThomasNet 30 Under 30 Stars agree there’s another, essential ingredient to success…

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them, what it takes to be a 30 Under 30 Rising Star and how they embarked on a career in supply management in the first place. We’ll be revealing all of our findings throughout this series of articles but first up, what key skills are the winners acing?

You can forget prioritising the development of your tech skills. It turns out that communication is absolutely the crowning glory of all procurement skills.

Communication is king

72 per cent of 30 Under 30 winners named communication as one of the top three skills that have been essential for their success, which is unsurprising given the nature of most procurement and supply roles. Nick Imison, Subcontract Administrator at Northrop Grumman Systems Corp,  reminded us, “You often have an extremely short period of time to capture someone’s attention, explain why you need to go down a given path and  effectively relay what it is you’re trying to accomplish.”

Corey Gutafson, Senior Buyer at Deluxe Corporation, explained that he had to hone his communication skills very quickly at the start of his career. “If I’d had to do a five-minute presentation when I was in high school, I might have passed out from nervousness.  But communication in supply management is HUGE! Whether it’s via email, on the phone, presenting online or in person, we’re always talking with many different stakeholders and suppliers. If you’re not a good communicator, you’re going to have a difficult time.”

Barbara Noseda knows a thing or two about communicating under different circumstances. As a Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson, she is very much in a global role which might mean she begins the day focusing on Europe and ends it with Africa. As such, she sees enormous value in being conscious of global differences and managing these, as well as being able to communicate effectively internally. “I’m a big fan of CQ (Cultural Intelligence) and I think it should be given much more importance. But internal communication is also important. As a sourcing associate, I often find myself talking with CEOs, having  to explain what I want and packaging it in a way that means they see the benefits.”

Know your data

“It might be cliché but in today’s world you have more data at your fingertips than ever, which means data analysis skills are crucial” says Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “It’s important to be able to manipulate data and use it to your advantage.” Indeed, 45 per cent of the 30 Under 30 Stars rated data analytics as one of the top three skills for procurement professionals.

Imison describes data analysis as the “ability to look at a given situation and provide some sort of useful evaluation, such as selecting the best path to go down from a financial perspective.”

But being great at data analytics isn’t just about … well,  being great at data analytics.  Gustafson has found his data skills have worked wonders for his relationships with senior team members. “It’s helped me develop some strong relationships with some of my older colleagues. I help them with analysing data and they can  help me with things like contract terms or negotiation tactics. If you don’t have tech savviness, it can take four or five hours to do a 20 minute job due to lack of efficiency.”

You can’t go wrong with a generous helping of these key skills either…

Some of the other key skills highlighted by the 30 Under 30 winners include:

  • Team work
  • Adaptability
  • Dependability
  • Perseverance
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy
  • Time management

It’s interesting to see that the majority of skills highlighted are “soft skills” (although we hate calling them that!)

Abhishek Dahiya, Chief of Staff for Global Materials Dell Technologies,  thinks it’s important to stay up to date with the latest developments in the industry. “An openness to learning things that are out of the scope of your job makes you perfect for that job!”

And, of course you can’t go wrong with a persistent attitude, even if it’s in the form of some good old-fashioned relentless pestering as Amanda DeCook, Sourcing Associate A.T. Kearney, points out. “Sometimes you have to have the confidence to just go for it; pick up the phone and cold call a supplier. It can be scary but the worst-case scenario is that they won’t answer. And if they don’t, embrace that can-do attitude and keep calling (whether it’s three or four times) until they do!”

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management. 

Best Of The Blog: Can We Agree To Stop Calling Them Soft Skills?

How did soft skills come to be known as this? And does calling them this underplay their importance in the modern procurement world?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Hugo Britt  in which he explains why soft skills are anything but!

The English language is full of misnomers. Just ask the killer whale (actually a dolphin), or the horny toad (actually a lizard). Once a word or phrase has entered common usage, it’s near-impossible to change it, even if the population generally understands that the term is misleading.

Which brings me to “soft skills”. I work for an organisation that provides training for procurement and supply chain professionals. As such this is one of the terms that I hear bandied about many times a week.

My argument is that defining this skill-set as “soft” actually devalues an essential part of every procurement professional’s toolkit.

To quickly summarise, soft skills are those used in dealing with other people. These include skills such as communication abilities, language skills, influencing skills, emotional empathy, and leadership traits. In contrast, “hard” skills – such as tendering or IT competencies – are readily measurable and (importantly) easier to train.

How Did They Come to be Called Soft Skills?

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has been able to pinpoint the first usage of this term.

The concept has been applied to business environments since at least 1936, when Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People was published. Carnegie’s work, which has sold a phenomenal 30 million copies to date, is essentially the definitive guide to soft skills. However, it stops short of actually using these words.

Recently, there seems to have been an explosion of articles and training courses focusing on soft skills, particularly in procurement. My theory is that procurement – having moved from back-office to business-partnership status only a decade or so ago – is, in effect, late to the soft skills party, and is currently playing catch-up.

It’s possible that the term “soft skills” simply came about as an antonym to hard skills. Perhaps it reflects the “softly-softly” approach, where managers choose to influence, rather than confront, and to make suggestions, rather than issuing orders. Whatever the reason, I believe it’s a misleading term due to the other connotations of “soft”.

These Skills are Anything But Soft

To my ear, “soft” means easy, pliable, or yielding readily to pressure. Yet a procurement professional with excellent communication abilities, who is adept at reading people, will be a “harder” opponent in negotiations, than a colleague lacking these skills.

Similarly, the connotation with “ease” is deceptive when it comes to trying to train for skills like change management or leadership. And quantifying the results of that training is more difficult still. Hence we’re hearing more and more that employers are hiring people based on their attributes (cultural fit, communication skills, willingness to change), recognising that hard skills can be easily picked up later on.

This has changed the approach recruiters are taking in job interviews. There is now less emphasis on hard skills, and more behavioural questions about how you would react in certain situations.

It’s worth considering whether, in the future, soft skills will become so vital, they’ll become a requirement for procurement roles. That situation already exists in some professions. Look at Medicine, where aspiring doctors are interviewed for qualities including maturity, communication, the ability to empathise and collaborate. Hugh Laurie’s Dr House, with his acerbic bed-side manner, would in reality never have gained entry into medical school, no matter how brilliant he was.

There’s a school of thought that when it comes to soft skills, you’ve either got it, or you don’t. Soft-skills training, therefore, is ineffective because you can’t change someone’s personality. Personally, I disagree because I’ve witnessed colleagues who have worked hard to develop skills like effective listening. There’ll always be hard cases, but the days of people dismissing these skills as “fluffy” or otherwise useless are over.

Three Alternative Names for Soft Skills

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, it’s nigh-impossible to change a term once it’s in common usage. However, if professional organisations, training providers, and the like, were to phase out the words “soft skills”, and call them something more accurate instead, we might see this phrase begin to disappear.

Here are three suggestions for a more accurate description of “soft” skills.

1. Essential skills: I’ve borrowed this one from ISM CEO Tom Derry, who also isn’t a fan of the term “soft skills”. Tom used the term “essential skills” when launching ISM’s Mastery Model to describe the many interpersonal attributes required on the journey to achieving accreditation.

2. EQ: “Emotional intelligence quotient” is the technical term for soft skills. I like this term simply because it contains the word “emotional”, which pretty much sums up what soft skills entail. Calling it a “quotient”, however, raises the argument that EQ, like IQ, is something you’re born with, and can’t be improved upon.

3. People skills: The simplest, and possibly the most accurate, alternative for soft skills is “people skills”. After all, every one of these skills involves dealing with people, while hard skills can generally be put to use sitting alone at your computer.

If you have other suggestions, or already use a different terminology in your workplace, please add a comment below!

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.

Learning the Fine Art of Creativity

We live in an ideas economy where creativity is the new currency. So is it possible for those with less artistic flair to learn how to get their creative juices flowing? 

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

Everyone’s A Little Bit Creative 

Many of us enjoyed a childhood spent imagining, innovating and creating whether we were painting pictures, constructing dens from cardboard boxes or inventing fantastical make-believe games.

Indeed, the vast majority of research into child psychology suggests that we are all born naturally creative but we subsequently endure an education system or working environment in which our imaginations are more or less stamped out of us.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. Of course, some adults demonstrate greater potential than others but by employing certain techniques and embracing our inner creativity, we can all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

In a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality will fall behind and die. James will be on hand at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London to give our CPOs and online delegates tips to release the creative genius in their teams.

Innovate Or Die

The maxim that organisations must innovate or die has never been more true thanks to rapid technology developments and fierce competition. In procurement, CPOs need to foster their intrapreneurs and work to achieve what Bannerman calls a ‘return on inspiration’:

“ It is easy to become fixated by Return On Investment in business, and often with good reason. The problem with traditional ROI, however, is that it is built upon ‘known returns’.

Creative Thinking, however, is more closely connected with ‘surprise returns’. You don’t always know what you’re going to get at the end of it – because creativity involves ‘the defeat of habit by originality’ (as Arthur Koestler once said in his 1964 classic The Art of Creation.

Yet, to those with an open mind, it can still be worth exploring the world of “return on inspiration”, as the ad agency Golley Slater referred  to it,  to see what comes out the other side”

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, Bannerman will be putting 50 CPOs through their paces as he introduces them to lateral thinking exercises.

“ During our interactive session we will look at the C.A.N.D.O. model – which I write about in Genius!  This pinpoints the 5 main ways to come up with new ideas, whatever the challenge and whatever the problem: New Connections, New Alterations, New Navigations, New Directions and New Oppositions.

Before we explain what they are, and how they can be used in the real world of work, however, we’ll start off with a few Lateral Thinking exercises.

Take the question ‘What do you lose everytime you stand up ?’ for example. Many people struggle with this question, because they approach it far too rigidly and logically.”Maybe you lose your balance?” or “Maybe you lose the comfort of your chair” etc… If you apply a little Lateral Thinking and spin the question around, however, it can start to become much easier. ‘What do you gain everytime you sit down’ ? You gain a lap!

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

Leaping into the Future – Better Have the Right Skills

Plan for the future. Look before leaping in head first, and understand what you need to know to handle constant change. It’s time for procurement to upskill.

10 lords a leaping

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…ten Lords-a-leaping.”

With birds, rings, and maids all behind us, we head into the final few days of our carol. You never know what’s coming in the future, so you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

Think about how the recipient of all these gifts would be coping. What skills (if any actually exist) would they need to manage the myriad presents they have received?

It’s a similar situation with procurement, and the future of the profession. The fundamental nature of procurement is changing, and professionals need to be ready to cope. For this, we need to be developing the right skill set for what procurement will look like, not what it is now.

And once we have the skills, we need to know how we, as individuals, can make a difference for our organisations.

Leaping into Action

The traditional skill set in procurement isn’t going to cut it any more. That much is clear. Throughout the year, our experts and contributors have been highlighting the change in skills expected of procurement professionals.

The basic skills of contract management, negotiation, and others, can all be taught. It’s an attitude versus aptitude decision when it comes to hiring new team members.

But hiring managers are looking for a new set of skills. Keith Bird, Managing Director of the Faculty Management Consultants, sees these five skills as critical for the profession:

  1. Learning Agility – procurement needs agile learners to keep up with the pace of change, or face obsolescence.
  2. Cultural Awareness – the ability to work with diverse groups of stakeholders, usually in cross-border situations.
  3. Information Management – knowing which data is good to use, and how to use it in a way that means something.
  4. Social Media Savviness – where would we be without social media? Procurement professionals need to be comfortable communicating in any medium.
  5. Creative Thinking – approaching everyday business challenges with an open mind and creative mind set.

On top of this, we need to stop viewing ‘soft skills’ as a luxury. These are generally skills that cannot be learned, but are just as critical for success. And once you’ve mastered these skills, you might even be able to take on the mantle of your team’s MVP:

Change the Skills, Change the Game

If that’s all got you leaping to your feet to sign up for training courses, then great! If you have ambitions to be one of the CPOs of the future, you’ll need to develop a variety of capabilities.

And once you have the skills, you’ll need to know how to apply them for success. Even if you aren’t heading to the CPO arena, you can still make a difference for your organisation. You might not be a ‘game changer’ (and that’s ok), but you can still make a major difference for your procurement team.

Not familiar with the concept? Think Branson, Gates, Zuckerberg – in fact, anyone who has turned a small idea into a major disruptor. We were lucky enough to get the expert view during Career Boot Camp:

Your individual strengths can bring change to your organisation. The beauty of it is that one skill set isn’t enough. To create lasting change, you’ll need individuals all bringing their skills to the party.

And while the party probably won’t include leaping Lords and dancing ladies, it’ll be a celebration of procurement’s evolution instead.

We’re nearly at the end of our 12 Days of Procurement Christmas. But first, we need to have a look at how the logistics of the carol come together. Like the Pied Piper himself, you need to make sure everyone is dancing to your tune.

Can We Agree to Stop Calling Them “Soft Skills”?

How did soft skills become to be known as this? And does calling them this underplay their importance in the modern procurement world?

House - Soft Skills

The English language is full of misnomers. Just ask the killer whale (actually a dolphin), or the horny toad (actually a lizard). Once a word or phrase has entered common usage, it’s near-impossible to change it, even if the population generally understands that the term is misleading.

Which brings me to “soft skills”. I work for an organisation that provides training for procurement and supply chain professionals. As such this is one of the terms that I hear bandied about many times a week.

My argument is that defining this skill-set as “soft” actually devalues an essential part of every procurement professional’s toolkit.

To quickly summarise, soft skills are those used in dealing with other people. These include skills such as communication abilities, language skills, influencing skills, emotional empathy, and leadership traits. In contrast, “hard” skills – such as tendering or IT competencies – are readily measurable and (importantly) easier to train.

How Did They Come to be Called Soft Skills?

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has been able to pinpoint the first usage of this term.

The concept has been applied to business environments since at least 1936, when Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People was published. Carnegie’s work, which has sold a phenomenal 30 million copies to date, is essentially the definitive guide to soft skills. However, it stops short of actually using these words.

Recently, there seems to have been an explosion of articles and training courses focusing on soft skills, particularly in procurement. My theory is that procurement – having moved from back-office to business-partnership status only a decade or so ago – is, in effect, late to the soft skills party, and is currently playing catch-up.

It’s possible that the term “soft skills” simply came about as an antonym to hard skills. Perhaps it reflects the “softly-softly” approach, where managers choose to influence, rather than confront, and to make suggestions, rather than issuing orders. Whatever the reason, I believe it’s a misleading term due to the other connotations of “soft”.

These Skills are Anything But Soft

To my ear, “soft” means easy, pliable, or yielding readily to pressure. Yet a procurement professional with excellent communication abilities, who is adept at reading people, will be a “harder” opponent in negotiations, than a colleague lacking these skills.

Similarly, the connotation with “ease” is deceptive when it comes to trying to train for skills like change management or leadership. And quantifying the results of that training is more difficult still. Hence we’re hearing more and more that employers are hiring people based on their attributes (cultural fit, communication skills, willingness to change), recognising that hard skills can be easily picked up later on.

This has changed the approach recruiters are taking in job interviews. There is now less emphasis on hard skills, and more behavioural questions about how you would react in certain situations.

It’s worth considering whether, in the future, soft skills will become so vital, they’ll become a requirement for procurement roles. That situation already exists in some professions. Look at Medicine, where aspiring doctors are interviewed for qualities including maturity, communication, the ability to empathise and collaborate. Hugh Laurie’s Dr House, with his acerbic bed-side manner, would in reality never have gained entry into medical school, no matter how brilliant he was.

There’s a school of thought that when it comes to soft skills, you’ve either got it, or you don’t. Soft-skills training, therefore, is ineffective because you can’t change someone’s personality. Personally, I disagree because I’ve witnessed colleagues who have worked hard to develop skills like effective listening. There’ll always be hard cases, but the days of people dismissing these skills as “fluffy” or otherwise useless are over.

Three Alternative Names for Soft Skills

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, it’s nigh-impossible to change a term once it’s in common usage. However, if professional organisations, training providers, and the like, were to phase out the words “soft skills”, and call them something more accurate instead, we might see this phrase begin to disappear.

Here are three suggestions for a more accurate description of “soft” skills.

1. Essential skills: I’ve borrowed this one from ISM CEO Tom Derry, who also isn’t a fan of the term “soft skills”. Tom used the term “essential skills” when launching ISM’s Mastery Model to describe the many interpersonal attributes required on the journey to achieving accreditation.

2. EQ: “Emotional intelligence quotient” is the technical term for soft skills. I like this term simply because it contains the word “emotional”, which pretty much sums up what soft skills entail. Calling it a “quotient”, however, raises the argument that EQ, like IQ, is something you’re born with, and can’t be improved upon.

3. People skills: The simplest, and possibly the most accurate alternative for soft skills is “people skills”. After all, every one of these skills involves dealing with people, while hard skills can generally be put to use sitting alone at your computer.

If you have other suggestions, or already use a different terminology in your workplace, please add a comment below!

Need help with your people skills or EQ? Want to get your procurement career in shape? Stay tuned on Procurious in September for our Career Bootcamp. More information coming soon!

Why Wait? Come to Training in Your Pyjamas

Have you ever had that nightmare where you’re wearing your pyjamas in class? With new training from ISM, your nightmare can be a reality (in a good way!).

Training in Pyjamas

I’m in training. I’ve got my laptop open on the table in front of me, a nice warm drink, and I’m waiting for the trainer to appear. A striking-looking instructor comes into view, walking slowly and deliberately in heels.

She’s wearing her ginger-coloured hair pulled back in a ponytail, quite a lot of blue eyeshadow and vivid red lipstick. She appears to have had eyelash extensions.

I sit up a bit straighter in my chair, before glancing down and realising with a shock that I’m wearing my pyjamas.

What is Micro-Learning?

But that’s okay, because it’s 9pm and I’m comfortably ensconced in a warm study in my own home. The kids have finally gone to bed and the dishes are done, so I’ve taken the opportunity to squeeze in one of ISM’s Just-in-Time Learning sessions, led by a flame-haired, animated instructor.

I’ve chosen a session called “Sourcing Strategy based on Forecasted Data”. At 8 minutes and 30 seconds, it removes my usual excuse about being too time-poor to invest in training. According to ISM’s Senior VP of Programs and Product Development M.L. Peck, this is what micro-learning is all about.

“People are craving content that address specific needs at specific times”, says Peck. “Micro-learning takes a ‘just-for-me, just-in-time, and just-enough’ approach”.

Training Essentials

This works for me, as my attention span seems to be diminishing rapidly as I grow older. The animated instructor’s voice has a slightly robotic quality, but she’s convincing enough.

She moves around the screen, gesticulating with one hands with the other resting on her hip. She (I’m not sure if the instructor has a name) even blinks and waggles her eyebrows as she drives each point home.

The instructor rapidly takes me through the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of sourcing – spot buying, buying to requirements, forward buying and speculative buying. As she talks, animated graphics appear and disappear next to her.

The content itself is drawn from ISM’s impressive global network of subject matter experts, who have created a remarkable library of digital knowledge.

The animation is interspersed with a video of Kevin from ISM, a (human) instructor who gives a real-world example of a restaurant owner who uses each of the four buying types as circumstances demand.

Sharing Essential Skills & Knowledge

Each Just-in-Time learning video has a different style. Some feature animated characters such as this, while others are led entirely by real instructors.

There are whiteboard animations, live interviews with executives and leaders in the profession, short lectures from industry experts, fun activities, games and flashcards.

This style of learning isn’t designed to be a deep-dive, but is a fast and effective overview of essential procurement skills and knowledge. Viewers can choose to explore further through eISM’s Guided Learning and Self-Paced learning options.

This particular video, however, is packed with fast facts, statistics, definitions from the ISM Glossary. It also includes real-world examples about sourcing strategies. By the end of the eight-and-a-half minute video, I have three pages of notes.

And what’s more, I even have time to sneak in another training video before my drink goes cold!

Learn More (in Pyjamas if you Want!)

Procurious now hosts three of the eISM Just-in-Time learning videos here on the website. Simply click on the “Learning” tab, or follow the links below to view:

For the full suite of eISM learning options, visit the ISM website.