Tag Archives: procurement teams

Is Procurement Full Of Psychopaths?

If one in five procurement managers are psychopaths, how should you manage them?

A recent study of senior managers found that one in five procurement managers are psychopaths.  No, this doesn’t mean they are likely to wear clown makeup and brandish a chain-saw.  But it does mean the organisations which employ them need to exercise caution if they value their reputation.

The study, published in 2016, was conducted by Simon Croom, a professor of supply chain management at the University of San Diego in collaboration with two researchers from Bond University on the Gold Coast. It consisted of a global survey of 261 supply chain managers working in industries with an average price negotiation budget in the range of US$50 million.

The survey was based on a questionnaire widely used to identify psychopathic personalities.  If found that 55 (about 21%) of the procurement managers surveyed had clinically significant ratings in traits which would classify them as psychopaths.  That’s about the same levels as similar surveys produce in prison populations.

Largely thanks to Hollywood, most of us think of a psychopath as a violent serial killer. And while some of them probably are, there is a much more dangerous version that we are more likely to encounter every day in the workplace. You might call them bullies, or micromanagers, or narcissists, or sociopaths.  I don’t feel particularly charitable towards them, so I go with psychopath.

They all share a common set of personality characteristics.  They can be among the most charming people you’ll ever meet.  They are also fearless and focused.  So far so good, but then it gets tricky.  They take big risks on impulse, feel absolutely no remorse, are callous, lazy, have a very high opinion of themselves, will always take credit for good outcomes and blame others for bad outcomes.

Psychopaths are drawn to careers that give them power over others, so jobs towards the top of an organization are inherently attractive to them.  And they will find those jobs easier to get because they are extrabodily good at telling employers exactly what they want to hear and will happily lie about everything including their experience and education.

If you want a go-getter procurement manager who could charm a dog off a meat wagon, then you might be wondering what the downside is.  A psychopath will shoot first and won’t even bother to ask questions later.  They are completely amoral, will lie and cheat compulsively and will leave nothing on the table. They are deal-makers. You might even be thinking these characteristics make psychopaths fantastic assets in the cut and thrust world of supply chain management.  Given that, the surprising thing about this study is not that 20 per cent of procurement managers are psychopaths, it’s that 80 per cent aren’t.

A psychopath may well be fearless but they will only look after themselves. Yes, they will face down a mugger but they will not protect you against that danger unless there is something in it for them. Yes, they will charge into battle but military units depend on every soldier being able to trust the man beside them. You cannot trust a psychopath to act in your best interests, only their own. They won’t be taking a bullet for anyone, no matter how fearless they are.

And this applies just as strongly to your corporate reputation.  A psychopath does not care how your company is perceived in the market unless it directly affects the deal he has on the table today.  They will not plan strategically and they are motivated by nothing but self-interest.  If he behaves dishonestly and trashes your reputation then that is your problem, not his.  If you are in an industry where you will only ever do one deal with any other counter-party and none of them ever speak to each other, then I guess you could get away with employing psychopathic procurement managers.

But reputation matters.  Yes, you could be the fisherman that takes every fish out of the sea, but if you want to be able to do that next year, you’d better leave a few behind.  There is always short term gain to be had from counter-parties in a weaker position, but if you let a psychopath exploit that party because they can, your reputation will be mud and you will miss out on the longer term gains that fair dealing and honesty can deliver.

If your procurement manager is in the 20%, then for the sake of your own long-term welfare, make sure you have strong systems in place to ensure they act fairly and honestly or you will ultimately be paying the price.

David Gillespie is a guest speaker at the Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October 2018, where he’ll help delegates understand how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. Interested in attending? Register here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

Understanding The Shape And Cut Of Procurement Organisations

Elaine Porteous clears up some common misconceptions about the ways  procurement  organisations can be structured, and demystifies some of the jargon…

Sergiy Bykhunenko/ Shutterstock

 Starting a new job can be both stressful and exhilarating. The people are different, the location is strange and the way they work is peculiar to that enterprise. There may be a seven-level procurement organisation chart or a loose, undocumented reporting structure to be navigated.  What is also daunting is the “in-speak”, the specific terminology which may be like a foreign language to you.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions about ways that procurement can be organised, and try and demystify some of the jargon.

An operating model is just the way the procurement function is set up to work.  Most companies start up being decentralised, unstructured and even disorganised until the workload grows.  As the functions expand and mature, there needs to be some form of formalising and centralising of the activities to consolidate the spend. Only then can we expect to make savings and reduce our risk exposure.

Centralised or centre-led?

Centralised procurement does have its benefits. It means more control over suppliers and contracts and it helps drive supplier diversity and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.  The risk is mitigated and skills development is made easier, expanding capabilities.  However, it can become a very bureaucratic and expensive cost centre. Too much data and not enough information can cause loss of focus and poor service to stakeholders.  People at the centre do not always understand regional and local supply markets and consumption patterns.  If “central” means the US and the region is Papua New Guinea, there may be cultural challenges too.   As procurement organizations move on and mature, over time, many of them become centre-led, taking some time to decentralise personnel and day-to-day operations.

Figure 1: The procurement journey

Image:  www.zycus.com

Wherever your organisation is on this curve, it is helpful to know what it means to be where.  There is no one best structure. The way your organisation works is influenced by the external supply market, the end-users needs and the overall company strategy. You just have to ride the wave.

Centre-led procurement organisations concentrate on defining strategy and policy for both their direct and indirect procurement.  Corporate spend can be fully leveraged on strategic commodities and services which are well-suited for centralized sourcing.  Non-strategic categories not suited to centralized sourcing can be handled by the individual business units or regions.

Centre-led procurement uses a category management structure which supports the rollout of sourcing and contracting plans to business unit and regional level.  The type of set-up is often called a hybrid model.

Category management means the bundling of third-party spend into buckets to extract more value.  The main aim behind category management is to aggregate the internal demand and achieve economies of scale by contracting the best suppliers at the lowest price.  In its best form, it involves an active category manager to roll out category plans, strategic sourcing and supplier management initiatives.

In a centre-led organisation, a global category manager would set the strategy for the category group, e.g. transport logistics, and for the sub-categories (also sometimes called commodities) within that group:  road, rail and air transport, freight forwarding, port activities and courier services.  At regional or divisional level, the category plans are followed and executed locally to achieve the best results for the organization.  This is the ideal but it is rarely implemented in full. Some categories are really challenging. Marketing services, technology and professional fees come to mind.

Cross-functional teams (CFTs)

To be effective, a category needs to be managed using one or more cross-functional teams.  A cross-functional team comprises representatives of key divisions and business units that work together, with procurement, to achieve the best results for the organization in that category or commodity. Although extensively used in strategic sourcing, CFTs are being used increasingly and successfully across process improvement, product development, quality assurance and the assessment of suppliers.    

The benefits are well-documented:  a more robust outcome, transfer of skills and learnings, improved internal cooperation and sustainable relationships.

Global organisations that run virtual CFTs have special challenges.  With the application of innovative methods and up-to-date online technology, it is now easier and more effective.

Whatever the operating model or the make-up of the CFT, the satisfaction of stakeholders and end users is paramount.  A stakeholder is anyone that has a vested interest in the outcome of your project or action.  He or she could be any one of these:

  • An internal departmental executives, manager or end-user
  • Another procurement team member
  • A co-opted subject matter expert
  • A supplier or a subcontractor
  • A member of the media or a regulatory body

Stakeholders are capable of influencing the success or failure of a project.

The model is not cast in stone

As a procurement organisation matures, it is likely that executives will revise and adjust a hybrid or centre-led structure so that it stays aligned to corporate objectives and continues to deliver value.  The best model is always the one that delivers results through open lines of two-way communication and uses processes that are flexible enough to take into account regional and cultural differences.

Team Approach: How Procurement Pros Can Procure Talent Better

What’s harder than finding top talent for your procurement team? Finding the RIGHT talent!

The only thing harder than finding top talent in the current candidate driven market is to find the right talent. Especially those individuals that have the technical and collaborative skill-set required to be successful with today’s ever-growing list of expectations from Procurement practitioners.

In our recent experience with several clients we have witnessed organisations building teams from scratch due to newly undertaken Procurement Transformation initiative. There are many cases of leaders bringing along a key player or two with them, or sometimes executives will hire consultants or a trusted managed service provider (MSP) to help supplement their efforts. This got us thinking a bit more broadly about whether companies should consider hiring teams instead of individuals as they are undergoing transformations. Based on our experience, we would say yes to this option. The three main benefits we see to this approach are immediate impact, decreased conflict and increased collaboration.

Team Players

Companies increasingly want skills that are difficult to assess in job interviews but can be easily seen in a team setting environment. According to the World Economic Forum, following are the 10 skills most sought after by companies in 2020:

  1.  Complex problem solving
  2.  Critical thinking
  3.  Creativity
  4.  People management
  5.  Coordinating with others
  6.  Emotional intelligence
  7.  Judgment/decision making
  8.  Service orientation
  9.  Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Subjective and biased candidate selection process

One of the many pitfalls for hiring managers is the subjective and biased candidate selection process. There is still a tendency to over-rely on the tough interview questioning and ultimately hire candidates that either look like us or come from similar schools and backgrounds. So, think of the impact if a Director or VP was hired that could bring on a team of people he or she knew well. Imagine a leader who knew exactly where to deploy resources to maximize their benefits, such as specific commodity expertise or management of key supplier relationships. This hiring manager would leverage the hard data they have on these preformed teams and position them to hit the ground running.

Conflict amongst team members

Another scourge facing employers today is that of conflict amongst team members. These conflicts are the leading cause for employee disengagement, burnout, turnover, lower productivity and creativity, etc. By hiring teams that have a history of successfully functioning at a high level, organizations increase the odds that their new hires will have the reservoir of rapport and goodwill to accelerate positive results. It’s analogous to why Procurement prefers early involvement when it comes to advanced engineering of products/services, so they can help stakeholders engage with the best suppliers. It’s a lot more difficult to select and negotiate when you have built your product specs around a specific supplier’s capabilities and technologies rather than vice versa.

Superior collaboration

And finally, there is the benefit of superior collaboration that comes from being part of a high performing team. Imagine how an empowered team would feel knowing that they have been hired en masse as the “A-Team” when it comes to the mission critical nature of their jobs. It would be an intense, yet collegial environment where they would almost be joining as insiders and delivering tangible value. Just this past year we have witnessed a couple of examples that are in stark contrast as it relates to hiring and building out groups. Company A was a CPG leader in the Midwest US and brought on a Head of Sourcing that, in less than two months, created and filled several roles. These were all filled with former direct reports and colleagues from her past two companies. Not only did the team come in firing on all cylinders in a new environment and deliver immediate results, this hiring manager was promoted to a newly created senior level position within 7 months of joining the company. Company B hired a leader that had the perfect experience on paper, but in his transformation journey he’s been a lot less successful. This was partly because he didn’t assimilate into the company culture and insisted on getting rid of most of the current employees on his team. Even though he had over 20 years’ experience with good companies, he failed to bring over a single person he has worked with in the past. His leadership style and reputation became a barrier to his and ultimately his department’s success.

While every company will have its own unique set of challenges surrounding types of candidates and expertise being sought, this team-hiring approach is certainly not a panache for all companies. But the ones that take the risk and try a novel approach to combat the challenges of procuring talent just may gain an advantage over their competitors that have not yet confronted the new reality in sourcing for the best.

The Struggle is Real: Building Effective Procurement Teams

The struggle might be real but, according to VSP’s CPO, the solutions are many when it comes to building the most effective procurement teams! 

The conversation around talent shortages in the procurement space has been going on for five or ten years now. I’ve come to realize that the real problem is not the lack of ready-to-go procurement talent, it is hiring managers’ inability to see a future procurement pro in a law student, a finance professional, an engineer or yes even a sales person.

An investment is required to grow non-traditional sources of talent into procurement professionals, but the end result is often a better rounded team. A procurement team should be comprised of diverse talent by design in order to speak the language of the business.   A homogeneous team will have its own inherent challenges – one being that innovation is harder.

How you build your team depends on the market conditions you are in and the skills or talent profile you are hiring for. Depending on the availability of qualified candidates, you may allow someone to work virtually or look to other disciplines to bring a new resource in and then round them out. But to simply say ‘there’s a talent shortage’ and do nothing about it is a naysayer’s approach. Get creative.

Cross-Functional Procurement Talent

At my prior company, I had an engineer playing a procurement role. I had somebody in finance on the team. I had attorneys on the team. If you restrict yourself to an artificially small portion of the talent pool by insisting upon a fixed skill set you’re naturally going to have hiring challenges. Just keep an open mind.

My philosophy, regardless of the skill set in question, is to hire the best resource you can find, train them, and invest in them. If they stay, they will become successful procurement professionals and if they leave they will be well informed enough to serve as advocates for procurement.

But thinking differently is not just about where we source talent, it affects the skills we are focused on. Procurement will quickly loose relevance if we don’t proactively prioritize soft skills in our hiring practices. Look at the traditional competencies for a procurement professional: the ability to negotiate successful outcomes, the ability to read and redline a contract, the ability to build relationships. In my opinion, soft skills are now more important in procurement than some of the technical skills we have emphasized in the past.

Taking Risks to Incorporate High Performers

All good managers want to put people into roles that will challenge them in a healthy way. I’ve put people in roles that I knew would be hard for them, and I was authentic enough to say, ‘This is going to be a make it or break it situation for you. Grab the opportunity, and I’ll invest in you. If you are successful, wonderful, if not I’ll be your best reference.’ The reality of the situation is that you have to release people if they aren’t a good fit, even when it is a tough decision. But that is not a reason not to make an effort to bring non-traditional backgrounds and approaches into procurement.

In my experience, there is more than one kind of high performing professional. Some lack engagement and become a challenge, but that is not hard to handle. Complacency is a bigger problem. Having a pep talk with people that are no longer motivated is challenging. You have to educate people on what the opportunities are for them. By understanding what’s important to them (work life balance, career development, etc.) you can sort out what motivates them.

The same approach works for building relationships with internal stakeholders. Sit with the business, understand what their challenges are, look at the opportunity from their perspective. I think demonstrating that appreciation makes you more effective. Each of us needs to appreciate the culture we are in and operate within that culture: the culture of procurement, of the company, and of the industry as a whole.

Human behavior is interesting. If somebody has confidence in their ability to do something they’ll gravitate towards it. A lot of individuals are focused on transactions; they are tactical. You can’t just go in and anoint somebody and say, ‘Now you’re strategic.’ You must develop their capabilities and create the expectation that they are no longer in their former role. Otherwise, a week, a year, two years into the process they will gravitate back towards those transactional responsibilities. Being a leader in the procurement space requires us to adapt and be flexible.

What’s Next for Procurement?

I’ve watched procurement gradually shift away from a focus on tactical or technical capabilities to more strategic responsibilities and the development of soft skills. I’ve seen it, and I’ve lived it. The organizations that have not gotten on that bandwagon of their own accord are no longer relevant. That shift has occurred, and technology has been a key enabler in making that happen. When people talk about applying robotic process automation (RPA) or AI within the procurement space, the first steps have already been taken, and we’re trying to figure out how we can further leverage it. Perhaps, through sourcing tools and decentralized buying, procurement’s next incarnation will be as an overseer of technology and broad business outcomes.  Procurement’s role will be centered on value creation in a consultative, advisory role and less about compliance and transactions.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

Best Of The Blog – Neurodiversity – Your Secret HR Weapon

A lack  of understanding about neurodiversity has meant those with a neurodiverse profile have historically endured stigmatisation and struggled in the workplace. John Floyd explains why, and how, this is changing and what we can do to accommodate and embrace differences. 

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 about people with neureodiverse profiles, and the unique assets they can bring to your procurement organisation. 

We know the best performing teams are made up of a diverse group of people, whether that be gender, age, ethnicity or educational background. And Headmaster of Bruern Abbey, John Floyd, has just thrown “neurodiversity “ onto the list of must-have employee profiles, to help strengthen and enhance team output.

Recently rated by Tatler as one of the best Prep Schools in the UK, Bruern Abbey specialises in educating boys with dyslexia and dyspraxia. It is the only preparatory school of its kind in the UK and John Floyd is its outstanding headmaster.

John is a firm believer that learning difficulties, or learning differences, should not preclude academic success. In fact, after developing the right learning strategies at Bruern, many of the boys from go on to some of the best senior schools in the country.

Unfortunately, not everyone with dyslexia or dyspraxia is lucky enough to go to Bruern Abbey. Education systems around the world aren’t necessarily set up to accommodate those with neurodiverse profiles such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. Of course, this extends to the workplace as well.

It is estimated that:

  • 5-10 per cent of the population has dyslexia,
  • 5-10 per cent of the population has dyspraxia
  • 5-7 per cent of the population has ADHD
  • 1 per cent of the population has autism

People with neuro-diverse profiles (and there’s a lot of them!) learn differently, think differently and apply their skills in alternate ways. As John succinctly puts it, “The term neurodiversity means that someone has a brain a little bit different to the majority of people”

Turning their differences into a virtue is a great opportunity for any team leader.

Diversity wins out

Organisations are starting to realise that employing people with neurodiverse profiles and optimizing their approach to work is great for business.

A few examples include:

  • MI5’s sister service GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters) employs more than 300 employees with neuro-diverse profiles and are actively recruiting more.
  • Organisations such as Microsoft and EY are trialing programs to recruit individuals with neuro-diverse profiles such as Asperger’s.
  • Last May the Labour party in the UK decided to appoint a shadow minister for neurodiversity.

Employers recognise that employees with neurodiverse profiles might offer heightened analytical skills, lateral thinking and a more naturally investigatory mindset than their peers.

How do you manage neurodiversity in your  teams? 

Everyone in your team will have different strengths and weaknesses. The opportunity for you, as a leader, is to optimize every member of your team to allow them to reach their peak performance. The key is to determine who has which strengths and to tailor the opportunities and development to suit that individual.

If you’re expecting a prospective employee’s CV to land on your desk with a neurodiverse label plastered across it, think again!

As John pointed out today, “If you start to see some badly written emails from a team member, you’ll know you shouldn’t assign them to write the press releases. But there will be a whole host of things they can do for you, and probably do better than anyone else!”

John gave a few examples of areas in which those with neurodiverse profiles might particularly excel.

Get them to do the interviewing

Dyslexics often have highly developed and fine-tuned listening and oral skills. They are the most studied of all neurodiverse profiles.

Compensating for having potentially struggled with reading and writing throughout childhood, many of them develop excellent verbal and listening skills.They are likely to be a resilient bunch and great under time pressure. Dyslexics  have learnt how to work well under stress.  having been up against it ever since they were first asked to do school-work.

It could be worth relying upon them to conduct interviews with prospective employees. They might be the most socially engaging person on your team and the most capable at listening to, and evaluating, a candidate.

Let them solve the problems

Adults with dyslexia and Dyspraxia quite literally think differently and are good at cracking codes or seeing patterns in problems that those who read with ease would overlook. They’re also great at re-inventing, re-evaluating and thinking laterally.

Give them the time-sensitive or juggling tasks

A number of adults with forms of neurodiversity such as ADHD can deal with juggling a number of tasks at high speed. It’s what they do all day anyway. For most of us it would be exhausting!  They might come up with too many ideas and try to execute them too quickly but they’ll never run out of steam and they’ll be utterly committed.

John concluded his talk today by urging us not to hesitate in employing somebody with a neurodiverse profile. They’ll be grateful to be employed, they’ll be your most resilient team members and they’ll work diligently.

You can guarantee that they’ll be thinking differently about something long before you’ve even entertained the thought that there could even  be an alternate option.