What can board games teach us about procurement?

What can board games teach us about procurement?

I was listening to a HBR podcast a couple of weeks ago and it highlighted several parallels between games and business strategy

What can board games teach us about procurement?

We have probably all played Monopoly at one time or another (it was a Christmas staple in my household)… Well, when it was first designed it was meant to be a teaching tool to teach players about the evils of monopolies and private land ownership (property is theft?!). As such this article discusses what can we learn from the modern version of Monopoly…

The article also suggests that other board games centre on creativity, innovation, teamwork, empathy, and resource management but also emphasize outcomes more closely resembling the collaborative wins that have become so desirable within and between organizations.

  • Pictionary comes to mind as clearly requiring observational and empathy-based skills
  • Cluedo (or whodunit) helps sharpen our deductive-reasoning skills.
  • Trivial Pursuit, especially when played with teams, can teach us the value of diverse knowledge sets

Next I want to talk about Game theory. We teach game theory on our advanced negotiation programs and one of the takeaways is to understand the type of game for negotiation you are in. From a business point of view companies can succeed spectacularly without requiring others to fail. And they can fail miserably no matter how well they play if they make the mistake of playing the wrong game.

The game of business is all about value: creating it and capturing it, at the Faculty we take our clients through the value matrix, a tool designed to help business and procurement speak the same language, HBR talked about a value net to identify customers and who the players are. There is a tinge of Porter’s 5 Forces (unsurprisingly really) to it but it’s worth a read. Take a step back, consider who the players are in your procurement or organisation, and then decide on the type of game you want to play.

Talking of strategy, according to My Purchasing Centre: Over 95% of purchasing or supply management organizations do not have a long-term strategic plan

Many of the plans that are completed are done once, and then put away in a ring binder or on a hard drive – never to be referenced again. My Purchasing Centre provides some tips on creating and living the strategy:

  • Create a vision and mission statement that aligns with the organization’s vision and mission
  • Be bold and make sure people realize that you are aiming for supply management not traditional bureaucratic purchasing.
  • Try to gain a broad consensus and gather input from surveys, one-on – one meetings, research and as many employees, suppliers and customers as possible
  • Keep it dynamic, up to date and a living document

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to this particular article that examines the strategic decisions surrounding extending the scope of procurement. It suggests that there are three main questions that need to be asked:

  • How will your customers and procurement staff collaborate?
  • Do your procurement professionals have sufficient category expertise to add value?
  • Are there enough skilled procurement professionals within the team to handle the volume of buying?

The article goes onto say that until recently the answers to these questions have been routine: policy, process, technology, hiring, and training. However, the reality of execution is more complex.

However some of the learnings can be applied into designing our internal strategies for greater collaboration with the business. For example, it mentions that strategy documents comprising more than 50 pages in length rarely resonate with the internal stakeholder.

I think the key thing with all strategies is applicability; rarely does one size fit all. In today’s volatile environment where economic, political and technological change runs rife, greater flexibility and agility is required in our strategic choices – making the games we decide to play and enter into all the more important.

Thanks for reading. You can subscribe directly to the sources I have identified here and nothing is my copyright. If you wanted to discuss more, please feel free to contact me via Procurious, or follow me on Twitter @gdonovan1971.