Tag Archives: teamwork

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Like the Breakfast Club banding together to overcome Assistant Principal Vernon, life is much easier when we collaborate. And procurement should be no different.

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This year will be the year of collaboration in public sector procurement – you heard it here first! In the past, collaboration may have proved to be a step too far for some for various reasons. However, the challenge the public sector now faces is the need to use collaboration and collaborative procurement to share resources and find new, more efficient ways of working.

Procurement professionals are stretched thin. On one hand, we’re trying to keep a handle on all the transactional tasks required to facilitate procurement. On the other, we’re trying to influence and input to strategic decisions that could shape the professions future. So it’s critical that we are using our time wisely and using all the tools at our disposal.

Collaboration can take many forms, but one thing is for sure – the public sector could be much better at it! Go back and look at your projects, tenders and contracts from 2018. How many of them did you start from scratch? Did you have, and maybe reject, the opportunity to work with other procurement teams? Did you approach other authorities or public sector institutions to see if you could get a copy of their documents?

The Breakfast Club started out the same way. They all considered that they were too different to get along, that they had nothing in common. They all approached the detention task as something to be done in isolation (or not done at all). It wasn’t until they started talking (collaborating) that they realised that they could work better together. And in the end produced one assignment for all of them that did the same job.

Let’s Get Collaborating

Collaboration should be both an internal and external activity. From the outset of any project or procurement exercise, procurement should be involved and working closely with their internal stakeholders to define requirements. Once these requirements are known, it’s time to open up the field to the wider audience and see who has done this already.

Public sector procurement, as we have already said, spends a lot of valuable time and resources creating new documents that someone may, and probably has, created in the past. This is where the real benefit of a framework lies. Frameworks, Dynamic Purchasing Systems and other collaborative procurement opportunities can help reduce the time spent on administrative (read: non-strategic) tasks, saving money and freeing up resources.

This is the same even if you happen to be the Authority or public sector body setting up the framework itself. As with many of these things, putting the time and work in at the start can help to create savings and benefits further down the line.

Time vs. Inflexibility

A framework provides a list of pre-qualified suppliers, usually against a Lot with a specific scope of requirements, from which procurement can run mini competitions, create call off contracts or even direct award business.

From a buyer’s point of view, there’s no requirement to advertise opportunities under the framework, even if they are above OJEU values, on top of potential economies of scale and less time spent between identifying a need and fulfilling it. For suppliers it reduces the burden and costs of applying for tenders and potentially increases the possibility of winning business by focusing in on a smaller market.

However, this is not to say that frameworks aren’t without their drawbacks. For buyers, the main issue is that once the framework is in place, it’s not flexible in response to changes in the market. Neither new suppliers to the market nor previously unsuccessful supplier can access the framework and tender opportunities. This means buyers could be missing out on new solutions or have a framework whose scope is lagging behind new developments.

Suppliers face the possibility of spending significant time and money getting on the framework to not get any returns. Although they are on the framework, contracts may be awarded without competition, or not placed through the framework at all.

The Players

None of these drawbacks should put you off looking at using frameworks if your procurement needs can be met with them. There are a few big players in the public sector when it comes to collaborative frameworks all of whom are worth a look at.

  • Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – essentially the procurement arm of the Cabinet Office, helping UK-wide authorities and public sector bodies procure a huge range of requirements. With spend of £13 billion in FY2017-18, CCS states that its frameworks have delivered over £600 million worth of savings for its users.
  • Scotland Excel – owned and funding by the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland, Scotland Excel has the same aims as CCS, but works to focus on the requirements of Scottish members and public sector institutions. However, they work increasingly with CCS to ensure access for all public sector to the widest range of frameworks available.
  • Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) – owned by 13 English Local Authorities, YPO has around 100 frameworks and 30,000 products, covering everything from Utilities to furniture.
  • Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) – jointly owned by 6 English Local Authorities, ESPO offers a range of UK and EU compliant frameworks (worth £1.7 billion spend in 2017-18), as well as an extensive product catalogue.

These are just a few of the names you will inevitably come across when looking for a public sector collaborative procurement framework. The beauty of these organisations is that, despite crossover in the types of frameworks, they collectively cover pretty much anything you might want to buy. All the frameworks are easily accessible and open up a corner of the supply market for whatever your requirement is.

Shop around, see which framework suits you and your organisation the best and go from there. And if all else fails, look and see if you can set up something yourself. You may even be able to help your fellow public sector professionals (or work with them) to collectively meet your requirements.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

How To Make Your Company More Honest (And Why It Matters)

It’s a fact that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. So how do you motivate your teams to perform with greater integrity?

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There is ample evidence that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. And while almost every company says they are honest, many do not create and support a culture of honesty.  The research tells us there is one key thing any company can do to ensure we are honest at work. 

According to annual research conducted by global accounting firm EY, 97 per cent of businesses say it is important that they operate with integrity. Businesses want to be honest for one very simple reason.  Their reputation is on the line.  Almost all of them rate customer perception as the most important reason to behave honestly, with public and shareholder perception coming a close second and third. 

They believe that honesty, or at least having your customers, shareholders and the public believe you are, is key to successful business performance.  Obviously, acting with integrity makes it easier for organisations to operate by reducing scrutiny and fines,  but there are other much more important ways that honesty improves business performance.  Dishonesty also has a direct impact on the bottom line.  A recent study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that about 5 per cent of a business’s annual revenue is lost when that business is struck by dishonest acts such as asset misappropriation (theft and skimming), corruption (bribes and conflicts of interest) and financial statement fraud (misreporting sales and expenses).

Besides those direct impacts, honest organisations attract the best employees and customers. We would all prefer to do business with an honest seller or buyer and we would all prefer to work in a place that has a reputation for integrity.  While the impact of better customers and employees is difficult to measure, there is little doubt both improve the bottom line. Every year Ethisphere ranks the World’s Most Ethical Companies and compares their performance to their competitors.  Their research shows that over the five years to 2018, the World’s Most Ethical Companies outperformed the US large cap sector by 10.72 per cent.

So, the benefits are clear.  But according to the EY report one in six companies still undertake fraudulent and corrupt behavior. Its not for lack of policy.  Almost all organisations have implemented anti-fraud and corruption programs and 95 per cent say their senior leaders set examples of good ethical behavior. 

The problem isn’t lack of desire for honesty.  The problem is getting everyone to actually behave honestly.  There is however one key thing every organisation can do to drive a culture of honesty, remind us we are honest.

The research on cheating and lying tells us that it doesn’t take much to remind us that we are all, at base, honest people who are happier if we behave morally. Once we remember that, we generally behave that way. The most effective method to remind people of this is to prompt honesty at key moments. Usually these little prompts are cheap and easy to implement, and most important when we are tempted to fudge things a bit. Professor Dan Ariely from Duke University has spent more than a decade putting people in situations where they could lie and seeing if they do.  His research demonstrates that people don’t lie more just because the reward for lying is bigger and they don’t lie less just because the chance of getting caught is greater.

When people don’t have to lie to a person face to face in return for the reward, they cheat a lot more.  Making us deal with people face to face halves the chance of dishonesty.  And we are also more likely to be dishonest if we think everyone else is being dishonest and conversely more likely to be honest if we think everyone else is honest.

But the real kicker, was the one thing that stopped almost all the lying.  It was simply reminding us that our workplace has code of honesty before we are put in a situation where we might be tempted to be dishonest. Bizarrely the studies showed that even something as simple as getting people to sign the top of the test (before they lie) killed the cheating. If they signed the bottom, after they lied, they cheated as normal.

When this was implemented in a large-scale trial of insurance applications, the results were even more impressive. Researchers from the Harvard Business School decided to see if signature placement on insurance forms changed the level of honesty in disclosure. The results showed that customers self-reported 10.25 per cent more miles when they were asked to sign the declaration of honesty before they filled in the form. This would amount to an insurance premium being on average $97 more costly per car depending on whether the form was signed at the top or the bottom. Even at a significant personal cost, people were more inclined to be honest if they declared honesty before they filled in the form.

Of course, the other way to stop people lying is to do what they did in the control state of the study – check everybody and everything all the time. But who really wants to work in a police-state? Life is so much easier if you can trust people to be honest. 

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

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.

You Don’t Have To Be A Procurement Genius

So you think you’re some kind of procurement genius? In this day and age, there ain’t no such thing and that’s ok!

We all like to think we’re geniuses, that we can single-handedly solve all the procurement problems of the world.

We now know that the concept of the ‘solo genius’ is largely a myth. True creativity comes from collaborative partnerships such as Jobs and Wozniak, Lennon and McCartney, or the Wright Brothers. Even the most famous ‘solo’ geniuses – Einstein, Newton, Mozart – didn’t operate in a vacuum, but built upon the work of countless others. Today, we’re lucky to live in a world where all the answers and ideas we need are only a click away.

Let’s face it, procurement’s most pressing issues (slavery, child labour, unsafe work practices, exploitation, neglect for the environment and copyright) are too big for any one person, or even any one company, to solve alone.

Even at the best of times, working in procurement can be a lonely place, even when we’re working as part of a team. You might be the only person managing your category in your company, in your industry, maybe even in your whole country!

Clambering out of Einstein’s basement

If you have a problem that you can’t fix and need some breakthrough thinking, don’t be like Einstein and barricade yourself in a basement waiting for genius to strike.

Remember that you are part of a vast, virtual, global procurement team full of millions of talented professionals with ideas – help is only a click away.

Get yourself out of isolation, onto the global playing field and ask the universe for inspiration.

Solving the world’s problems, together.

Over five thousand Procurious members visit our discussion board every month to share ideas and offer advice to their peers. Our blogs spark debate, with members feeding their own commentary and ideas into the global community.

The three hottest topics on Procurious in the past two years have been the Tianjin Port disaster, the Trump election and, most recently, the Grenfell Tower fire.

We are still seeing the ripple effects of these events with high levels of member engagement and interaction within the community; the feeding back of vital intelligence on alternate sourcing, suppliers, freight, logistics, on-the-ground contacts and changing regulations.

The hurried and helpful responses to these challenges by the global procurious community has proven that many hands make light work of disruption.

It’s clear that we want to talk online about the issues affecting procurement and are keen to help each other. It would seem that global “team procurement” is alive and well – but are you part of the flow?

Leveraging the Power of 23,000

There are now 23,000 Procurious members across 145+ countries, all with different strengths, weaknesses and experiences. Somewhere, out there, is someone who has had the same experience as you and some wise words to share.

Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd is the beauty of social media. By building your online presence and contacts you can craft a network of thought-leaders, influencers, and experts around you, to provide fantastic ideas and insights.

Even if you have a truly unique problem, there will be someone who can provide a fresh perspective that creates a lightbulb moment for you.

Take the lead

As a successful leader, you don’t have to have all the answers – but you do need to have the best questions….and know who to ask for the answers!

Whichever business icon or “genius” you admire – whether it be Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Elon Musk………you know they are not the only person providing the brain power to conjure their vision, there are teams working day and night to deliver the dream.

Like me, you’re probably “blown away” (pardon the pun) by the rapid progress of the SpaceX program. But as you admire Elon’s vision, just remember this is not solo genius, no one talented employee finding all the answers – there have been thousands of people working over decades to get these game-changing rockets to the launch pad who have been collaborating globally online to solve a millions of small and large challenges on the journey to space.

It’s exactly the same story in procurement. Behind every apparent genius (aka Global CPO), there’s a team of procurement pros behind the scene helping come up with solutions. Even if you don’t have a real team helping you – you have a secret weapon – you can consult your global team of procurement buddies to help you find the answer.

Be the smartest guy in the room

To shockproof our profession and become the smartest guys in the room, we need to move out of our silos and work together.

Procurement needs to be ahead of the curve – to be agile, to be savvy and to be bold. We are the avengers, the rock stars, the movers and shakers negotiating the deals that guarantee supply, quality, cost, ethics and sustainability. But we can’t do it on our own.

When you’re next faced with a challenge or struggling with the beginnings of a great idea. Don’t just sit there. Do Something. Get online and ask questions. The answer is only a click away.

Collaborate to proliferate!

Make it happen!

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.