Ever been to a therapist and felt like they’ve read you like a book? Uncover their secrets in this article and harness your own superpowers. Got a big meeting or negotiation coming up? Learn how your adversaries and your team tick to make sure you stay in control.
My partner has a superpower.
When he opens the front door to a stranger he can tell what kind of day they’ve had, how they feel about themselves and what they think of him. He’s a therapist, and honing these skills day after day through years of human interaction have saved him (and his clients) hours of questions and warm up chit chat.
He can cut straight to the chase and use their shared time in the most effective way that meets their needs.
They often feel relieved, understood and grateful that they don’t have to take the first step of opening up and being vulnerable.
It gives him a steer on what tone he needs to take, what topics they may need to explore and what the weather is like in their emotional forecast.
A therapist has an arsenal of tools ready to deploy – this super quick scanning ability means he’s on the front foot and taking charge before he’s even said hello.
Master your own superpowers
The good news for procurement and supply chain pros around the world is that these skills can be learned. We’ve all seen the TedTalks and infographics reminding us of how much we communicate nonverbally through posture, eye contact and even vibes. A therapist’s superpower helps to demonstrate how much untapped potential there is in the way we hold ourselves and once you learn the signs, you can feel like a mind reader.
Imagine walking into a negotiation clocking every single person in the room based on the seats they’ve chosen to sit in, the set of their jaw, their gaze (fixed, nervous, darting around) and the colours they’re wearing. This includes your own team as well, it can help show who might need a bit of support, who’s at risk of spilling the beans and who might be the over-sharer.
Having the best negotiation plan in the history of procurement does not mitigate against the might of the ever unpredictable human being. We’re people, not machines and that means we can be unpredictable but paradoxically we will often have a billboard above our heads announcing our inner emotional state. We just need to learn to read the signs.
Experiment in your everyday life
Start practicing in your daily life by observing people around you. Look at how people hold themselves, their posture, their eyes, their energy levels, their expression when they’re talking to someone else. You can do this in the lift, on the bus, in conversation with a loved one and when you’re walking down the street. Observing people is not the same as judging, don’t make this mistake. It’s important that you are approaching this exercise from a place of detachment, objectivity and kindness.
David Attenborough ain’t got nothing on you
Once you’ve narrated your own nature documentary about humans you’ve stared at on the bus, then progress to unpack what they’re telling you nonverbally. Start to think about what the expressions might mean, what they could be communicating and what this means for you.
Posture: slouching, or intensely concentrating – furrowed brow, arms crossed
Look at the symbol beneath the gestures. Slouching conveys being relaxed but too relaxed comes across as unreliable. Concentrating can come across as angry which can put you in the box of “unapproachable” Arms crossed means the person is not buying in to what you’re saying or they feel defensive
The slouchy person can’t be relied on to win people over when the razzle dazzle is needed but would be good to talk to before you do a presentation to make sure you’re feeling relaxed
Fast talking and being overly friendly may indicate someone that feels the need to have everyone like them.
A people pleaser can be great for assisting with establishing connections and winning people over but they may not be best placed to head to head on the details or key issues.
The ultimate survival guide (we got you)
Follow these neutral gestures and postures to ensure you’re the cool, calm and collected procurement pro at all times.
Always sit up straight.
Relax your face and voice. A tip is to take a big breath, smile, put your tongue behind your top two teeth (and keeping your mouth closed) exhale gently but firmly, it’s a great way to calm yourself down on the spot.
If you’re a fidgeter, then restrict yourself to only one item on the table.
Maintain direct, but relaxed eye contact. If you smile it will soften your gaze.
Be comfortable in silence and don’t feel the need to fill the space.
Level up and feel the power!
Got a huge presentation or meeting to nail? Then lock in these two strategies from Forbes:
Power priming. Think of a past event where you were successful, recall this event and spend time in that feeling. Soaking yourself in this feeling means you can recall it when you need to.
Power pose. There is a lot of research that shows if you strike a particular pose like standing with your legs and arms wide open for 2 minutes, it will stimulate the hormone linked to power and dominance (testosterone).
Follow our body language hacks to ensure your negotiation or big event goes down as a winner.
Do you have any tried-and-true strategies? Comment below!
Many leaders had been looking forward to physically reconnecting with their teams for the first time, whom they may have only seen virtually for the last six months. However, the government’s recent announcement means this may now be delayed indefinitely.
It may have been hoped that a return to a form of ‘normality’ will signal an end of their leadership challenges, yet the recent setback means that managing their people is now the biggest concern.
Over the past two months, Tom Graham, a Consultant within Berwick Partners’ Procurement & Supply Chain practice has been speaking with Chief Procurement Officers across the globe, from a range of different sectors to discuss their leadership concerns during this next phase of the crisis. The discussions focused on the complication’s leaders may face as we enter the next stage of the crisis in addition to the part office-based, part-remote way of working at some stage in the future. Together, they discussed the concerns leaders have with re-engaging their teams, how management styles must change and the mental fall-out after a period of isolation, health and economical stress.
A remote/office combination
When I began to write this research piece, the focus had been on the partial return to the office. Yet the UK government’s recent announcement demonstrates how difficult it is for leaders to plan, manage, and motivate their teams.
Over the last six months, the word ‘unprecedented’ has often been used. From the discussions I’ve had it now looks increasingly likely that the long-term effects on leadership will also be unprecedented in scale.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP
As the crisis roles on, the potential for team disengagement intensifies. CPOs are aware of how imperative it is that they are able to quickly re-engage with their teams, recognising that a lack of engagement could have major implications on the success of their future strategies. A recent report from McKinsey, “COVID-19 and the employee experience – How leaders seize the moment”, stated;
“Organizational responses are having a tangible impact on employees. Compared with respondents who are dissatisfied with their organizations’ responses, those who say their organizations have responded particularly well are four times more likely to be engaged and six times more likely to report a positive state of well-being”.
However, many leaders will find themselves in a challenging situation, needing to set a clear path of direction whilst not having all the answers to all their team’s questions.
One CPO explained the challenges they had faced with motivating a team who had experienced mental fatigue; a peer from a national retailer corroborated that their team has also sought answers and long-term reassurances which they cannot give, leading to a negative impact on employee motivation. McKinsey’s report states: “leaders need to help rattled workforces believe in the future”. One procurement leader believes that this should be one of their biggest concerns, as they look to strike the balance between keeping good practices in place, whilst adapting their approach as we enter a period of increased outbreaks. The combination of lockdown fatigue and a physical disconnect from an office and colleagues will, or may have already, accelerated disengagement. Leaders need to act swiftly to reconnect, re-engage and motivate a team which may have lost members, enthusiasm and direction.
Rebuilding employee loyalty, whilst not physically connected is a major concern for nearly all leaders. McKinsey’s report once again raised this point, “It would be a mistake to assume that the camaraderie that has sustained many employees early in the crisis will endure long term. Leaders need to take active steps to ensure continued relationship building, particularly for remote workers.”
Across the board, there are overwhelming concerns centred around how the current or future, mixed office and remote dynamic will impact team culture and long-term engagement with the business. A CPO from a major retail bank discussed the on-going challenges they have faced in preserving team culture when working remotely, a concern which has been reiterated by senior leaders in the pharmaceutical sector (they discussed the concerns around dilution in connection points between their team members). Previously, the office environment may have facilitated this, but the sense of being together as a team, is near impossible to create in this hybrid world. One CPO explained how some staff have voiced that they have felt a loss in ‘connection tissue’ to the organisation, where as another explained their concerns around the ability of a team to challenge leaders remotely, questioning whether this new way of working may result in a lack of diversity of thought.
As we enter the next stage of the crisis, organisations must adapt to building teams and onboarding people in a way that they feel connected to the culture of a business. The concerns around erosion of social capital during onboarding processes were raised by one CPO from a global consumer goods company, with a procurement leader from a global entertainment’s organisation wanting to know when we will see an increase in employee’s mercenary mentality. It is predicted that as staff feel less connection to an organisation, we will see a spike in salaries as organisations battle to attract talent.
The loss of personal connection will be exacerbated as teams find themselves out the office or in at different times and regularity. Potentially, this may create even greater division within the workforce and in some cases, presenteeism is now more of a premium than ever before, with certain team members feeling that a commitment to the office in a time of crisis, will accelerate development opportunities.
Leaders must quickly learn how to successfully (and fairly) manage a physically divided team. It is imperative that those working remotely are not put at a disadvantage compared to those in the office. Concerns from across sector were around the ‘offline’ or ‘coffee conversations’ that could be missed by those who are working remotely, with 86% of those spoken to being airing concerns. Across the board, there are concerns around ‘accidental exclusion’, with one-to-one calls leading to decisions being made that have not been co-ordinated with the team which can cause certain members of the team to be forgotten about. This was confirmed by one CPO who raised concerns around some staff feeling their views would not be heard.
Yet a formalised method of communicating does not solve all problems, particularly around individual connections to leaders and the business. Whilst virtual coffees and spontaneous conversations have reduced some challenges, they have not replaced office small talk. Leaders from both chemicals and insurance businesses stating that ‘golden rules’ need to be created, with the key point being meetings should either be virtual or physical, but never a mixture.
One CPO felt that more personal desk conversations were often a major motivator for their team. Video conferencing and virtual coffees no longer felt natural and could often feel contrived which again could negatively impact engagement and productivity.
For many, working remotely has highlighted greater inequalities in a team, with the CPO’s we spoke to explaining that younger generations will feel a greater impact on their lives than those more senior in the business. The lack of social benefits and often more challenging, remote working conditions could ultimately lead to a more divided work force.
Throughout the crisis, we have seen introverts and extroverts handle the crisis very differently. Leaders have needed to home in on their facilitation skills, ensuring that both parties can equally contribute to discussions.
The methods used by leaders to engage their teams are going to be tested like never before, with McKinsey stating that ‘mental and physical fatigue is now people’s default’. How leaders will overcome this will be a major hurdle.
One CPO explained his concerns around how they will overcome this, citing a historical reliance on social engagements with the ‘party pot’ being a default tool to create comradery. Yet there are concerns that this may not be possible in the short term and no longer suffice in the long-term, with leaders having to find new ways to rebuild team relationships without the adequate training or prior experience.
LEADERSHIP STYLES & BEHAVIOURS
Leaders must ensure that their management style is fit and ready for a hybrid way of working. Overwhelmingly it was agreed that leaders must adapt to managing through results and outputs however a CPO from a major retailer explained more focus must be placed on performance management and development, which can easily be missed when working remotely.
How leaders will objectively measure performance, with many of their team working remotely is an area of concern for some. It was commented that different team members living environments, would make it difficult to fairly measure performance in a standardised manner.
Leaders must be authentic and lead from the front. Managing through presenteeism, must be ignored. Concerns were raised from leaders of pharmaceutical and financial services business who believe mid-managers that are not experienced in managing through outputs with too many leaders being inexperienced in effectively managing remote teams.
The EQ of leaders has been tested throughout the crisis and must continue. Team members will have been impacted differently during the crisis and several CPO’s stated it is essential that their junior managers suspend judgement and develop greater observation skills of potential issues, showing greater empathy.
Managers must develop into leaders and understand how to get the best out of their teams in a period which is still not ‘normal’. A procurement executive from a global insurance organisation stated that leaders must recognise that there is nothing ‘normal’ about what we are going into and must appreciate that for many the next period is a transient phase. Managers now need to understand how to get the best out of individuals, empowering them to make independent decisions. A CPO within the chemicals sector believes that greater training must be provided around having more honest conversations, considering language and cultural nuances when communicating with multi-national teams.
Purpose in the workplace
Executives from across sector are now reviewing the purpose of the office. As Deloitte discuss in their paper ‘Workforce strategies for post COVID-19 recovery’;
“It is important to remember that transformative change can be difficult and unsettling for many workers. Whilst some may prefer working from home, others may be uncomfortable or unproductive outside the traditional work settings. How leaders accommodate and balance these divergent expectations will help define the future of trust in their organisation.”
There are concerns from across sector as to how being away from the office and your stakeholder community for a sustained period may impact business partnering and the involvement in decision making. Concerns exist as to how social capital can be built upstream when working remotely.
Several leaders explained that certain members of their team have struggled to virtually replace ‘informal coffees’ with their stakeholders.
There are serious concerns that working remotely may have stalled individual’s professional development and stifled creativity. Leaders from both the retail and pharmaceutical sector believe that a lack of sidebar conversations will have a negative impact on innovation.
Maintaining team cohesiveness and connectivity currently – and when 30%-60% of an office may not return – will be extremely problematic. Some believe that we are under the illusion that collaboration has been successful, when the reality is that teams have rallied together during crisis.
A sector wide response has been to look into creating more collaboration areas. Yet the practicality of this has come under question, with the CPO from a leading manufacturing organisation stating that most offices are not currently built to support this, and group size restrictions still apply. With many businesses looking to ‘survive’ during the crisis, it is therefore unlikely that fit out projects or new office space is a realistic priority.
Many employees are likely to seek clarity towards their job responsibilities, particularly if some of their colleagues have been made redundant. An executive from a leading food and beverage organisation stated their concerns in the blurring of roles, with individuals wanting to increase their responsibilities and value to the business.
An executive from a leading hospitality business believes that the crisis may see a broadening of roles and required skill sets longer term. This may have an impact on the external talent organisations look to recruit, or the training and development programmes put in place internally.
The mental health fall out as a result of the pandemic is the overwhelming concern for leaders from across sector. 96% of those spoken to raised concerns around the mental health issues forthcoming of their team members. During the early stages of the pandemic, the World Health organisation issued a statement that noted “elevated rates of stress or anxiety” caused from lockdown. Leaders unanimously felt unprepared and untrained to suitably tackle the topic as we return to the workplace.
A CPO from a leading retail bank stated their concerns on how their teams would adapt to life when they get back in the office, raising concerns around their team’s loss of perception of self, and acknowledged that spotting signs of mental health concerns may have been challenging remotely, yet much more apparent in person.
A recent study suggested that extroverts are more likely to struggle when adapting to life back in the office. It was claimed that the common question of ‘what have you been up to?’ could prompt anxiety, with extroverted team members feeling that they have failed to adequately answer the question with ‘nothing’. An executive from a chemicals business agreed that this is a major concern.
A recent study conducted by the University of Manchester and University of London, called ‘Lancet Psychiatry’, described the mental health inequalities caused by lockdown, “with people living with young children showing greater increases in mental distress than people from child-free homes”. It continues:
“The greatest increase in mental distress was seen in young people aged 18 to 24 and those aged 25 to 34”. It goes on to find, “new inequalities in mental distress have emerged, with those living with young children and those in employment at the start of the pandemic being at risk of larger increases in mental distress”. It concludes, “Our findings suggest that being young, a woman, and living with children, especially preschool age children, have had a particularly strong influence on the extent to which mental distress increased under the conditions of the pandemic.”
The mental health fall-out will be an ongoing issue. A CPO we spoke to explained, “‘humans like a beginning, middle and end and we are in the middle with no end in sight”. This is something leaders must monitor closely with time. The Lancet Psychiatry states;
“As the economic fallout from the pandemic progresses, when furloughs turn into redundancies and mortgage holidays time out, the researchers say mental health inequalities will likely widen and deepen and must be monitored closely so that steps can be taken to mitigate against a rise in mental illness”.
This is a concern for many leaders who recognise that further job cuts and a recession, will have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of their teams.
A CPO from a leading insurer, stated that it is imperative that team members feel that they have more to offer than just ‘the day job’. Leaders must have the confidence to ask difficult questions, showing authenticity and concern. McKinsey’s recent report, titled ‘Communications get personal: How leaders can engage employees during a return to work’ they state;
“It provides a historic opportunity to overcome the stigma of mental and emotional health as taboo topics for workplace discussion, especially the feelings of isolation and shame that are attached to job losses and other employment casualties.”
Leaders must learn how to manage their own mental health and wellbeing. Nearly all spoken to agreed that measures needed to be put in place to mentally support the leaders too.
As we enter the next phase of the crisis, leaders are going to be tested in ways they have never been tested before. For organisations and functions to emerge from the crisis strongly, it is imperative that leaders find solutions to the multiple problems they may face. Engagement, management styles and mental health are all going to be on-going issues. Organisations must build new strategies, whilst rebuilding team culture and togetherness. Whilst we may be coming towards the end of one crisis, without the right stewardship, businesses may be hurtling into another.
Make your new tech project a success with these tried and tested tips.
If you’ve managed a new technology project before, then you know the tech is the easy part.
People are the challenge (and I mean that in the nicest way possible!)
Luckily, people and projects follow predictable patterns – no matter the size of your company.
So here’s the playbook you need to make your new project successful. It’s the same one I’ve used to help dozens of companies like Credit Suisse and Honeywell launch systems on time and on budget.
And it’s yours to steal.
Step 1: Get the right people in the room
The most successful organisations are those that get the right people in the room from day one and keep them engaged the whole time.
Who are the right people? It’s likely a mix of people across your organisation. Obvious inclusions are senior level decision makers. You also need to get the best technical brains in the room who understand the legacy system better than anyone else.
You need people who really understand your business – warts and all. Why are things done in the way that they are? What is the history? What are the processes? Are they defined in flowcharts and documents?
You might think your own processes are well-documented, but they need to be really specific for the design phase (i.e. do emails/reminders have to be sent at a particular stage and what happens after X number of days; who do we escalate to?)
Next, you need to spend significant time making sure everyone understands and agrees the objectives of the new system. You need the people who hold the purse strings to agree, so you can get resources in place.
And prepare for scepticism – especially from people who have been around a while. These long-time employees have seen it all, and they might carry hard feelings from previous projects that didn’t live up to the promises.
So don’t be quick to dismiss those who seem negative; sometimes they are the key to understanding why something was done in the past, and to identifying where complexity can be removed.
You’ll find if you address stakeholder concerns early on and make sure everyone feels heard and understood, you can get them on board and keep them there. And who knows? They could become your biggest ambassadors for the project.
Plan for pushback
No matter how great your new system is – or how much time and money it will save the company – you should expect pushback. Most humans hate change.
So approach their concerns with sympathy; after all, it can be hard to learn a new system.
And don’t forget about potential pushback from your suppliers. I often have customers who struggled previously with getting suppliers on legacy procurement systems.
Avoid that chaos by bringing your key suppliers in early.
For example, Maxim Healthcare struggled for seven long years to get suppliers on their legacy system. The suppliers pushed back en masse against the terms they had to accept, and possible fees faced by the vendor’s supplier network approach.
So when they asked us to help them launch a new system, we put suppliers at the centre. Their suppliers were thrilled with the friendlier terms and approach. The result? Maxim Healthcare launched a shiny new P2P system in eight weeks with more suppliers than they acquired in the previous seven years.
Define requirements and objectives
Before you go shopping, do the important work of laying down requirements and objectives.
Think of it like painting a room. The actual painting goes quickly; it’s all the prep work that takes the time.
Now is the opportunity to review your old processes and see if they’re still serving your company.
Get into the detail at the design phase and understand that documenting your processes will help to work out what you are doing now and where you can find efficiencies, cost savings, and better user adoption.
Everyone in your stakeholder group should agree on what your company needs in a new system. That will save you from scope creep (and many headaches) later on – when changes will be infinitely more expensive.
Once you know what you’re looking for, scrutinise different technology providers. Make sure you understand what is possible now with current technology.
At this stage, your provider should act as a friendly interrogator, questioning any areas they find in your processes that could be simplified. However, the act of removing that complexity is up to you. Will you make the most of the new technology you are paying good money for?
Look at the whole puzzle
A system may seem perfect in isolation, but you need to understand how it fits with the rest of your company set-up.
After all, you’re looking for a seamless flow of information, a consistent user experience, and a unified data model that supports 360 degree visibility of suppliers and activity.
None of that is possible if your company systems aren’t compatible.
Also understand how the new tech system you choose can grow and change as your company changes.
Some systems are too rigid to support those changes, meaning you could have a redundant system on your hands after only a few months.
And you should also consider how other existing company systems could change in the future. Are any of them due for an upgrade soon? Stay close to your CIO so your company makes the most of tech investments.
Allow for flexibility
Successful projects allow for flexibility in timing. Things will change and bumps will come up over the course of your project – no matter how precise your planning.
That’s why we use a hybrid agile/ waterfall method on our own projects (and encourage customers to use the same).
What does that mean? The waterfall approach is to build the system and then show it. Agile means to build as you go.
Instead of choosing one over the other, we use both methods. That brings a nice balance of predictability with a level of flexibility to address unforeseen or evolving requirements.
At the design phase we try to lock down 80% of requirements and in this way we still maintain 20% for a level of flexibility. Though as mentioned earlier, it’s wise to get as specific as possible.
You might be surprised how quickly a project can come together this way. Take the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for example. They needed the ability to upload bid submittals electronically, and we helped them launch the feature in just one week.
Nailing down exactly what you need will make the actual build phase go quicker. And building in contingency time means you won’t get caught off guard when you reach a hiccup.
Send in the A-team
You need to take people off their day-to-day work and give them the time to focus on this project.
Have dedicated project team members who solely work on launching the new system. They should be able to answer business and technical questions, and to report back on user issues and gripes.
This is especially important during the early stages of the project, but no less important throughout the entire process.
The best way to mitigate issues is to plan for them by making sure that you have enough and the right resources.
Once the procurement system is rolled out, it’s key to keep the same team engaged so a knowledge exchange to the support team can take place. They should stay put for at least a few weeks after launch to ensure a smooth transition.
Successful project teams are always communicating.
At the start of any new project, I set up monthly steering meetings at the executive level. There are weekly project status meetings with project leaders, Ivalua, partners and clients to share what has been done, the challenges and what’s planned for the next week.
We put any roadblocks or risks on the table and take a realistic health check on the overall project status.
I also schedule “Work in Progress” reviews to keep everything on track and spot issues a long way off.
These checkpoints allow us to confirm we are headed in the right direction, and we can take some feedback to adjust it when needed.
You can do this
To summarise, when you managing a new tech project of any size, there are the three keys to success:
1) Know what your goals are, and make sure these are communicated to your internal teams and to the companies you are working with.
2) Have the right people in the room.
3) Complete a robust, open and transparent design phase to get what you want and guarantee that your organisation gets what it needs.
How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful? In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.
How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this second article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of communication.
Communication is the act of transferring information from one person to another. It is an extremely important skill that anybody who wants to thrive in the modern world must have and continually improve.
All the great leaders were also great communicators and it is a skill you can learn and develop. It is one of the greatest tools you can master. To be skilled in the art of good communication means you have the ability to get people to want to be on your side and help you. It also gives you the ability to get people to do what you want, which is why you must use this skill towards good only.
Communication is not just about talking. It is about speaking to others in ways that inspires them and makes them feel important in order to get them to want to be around you and work with you.
But how do you accomplish this? The answer is to communicate with positivity and enthusiasm. Positivity and Enthusiasm are addictive and powerful energies. When people hear others communicating with enthusiasm, they too feel enthusiastic and are drawn to them.
Talking about things that inspire you will make you communicate with enthusiasm automatically. You will feel more positive about the things you are talking about and the people listening will also start to feel more positive.
We live in a world where negative communication is all around us on a daily basis. This can be used to your advantage as people would far prefer to listen to people taking in a positive way and when you communicate positive things, you will always have a greater audience than people who communicate negatively.
Your job is to change people from expecting negative things to positive things, to be positive and to think in positive ways. When they listen to you using positive words and phrases in your communication you will find more and more people wanting to listen to you and to work with you because they realise that there’s something about you that is different… in a good way!
Using positivity and enthusiasm in your communication will result in you being able to build positive relationships with people and to be very successful in business as well. Talking to others in ways that make them feel important will ensure they hang on to every word you say. They will feel good and they will be there to help you achieve your goals and objectives.
Making others feel good about what you say is easy once you have the necessary skills and experience. You will become a real driving force for them. Always look for the positive side in situations and only talk about positive things. There are positive things in everyone and in every circumstance and it is your job to find them and to talk about them. If you should find yourself beginning to talk about something negative, stop yourself and change your communication back to only positive things.
When talking, there are some important things to consider. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Keep it positive at all times and constantly try to “spark” up your conversation. Your posture and body language is also very important and are things that will influence listeners. They might not even know, but subconsciously we all can read body language and posture even if we don’t think about it and it affects the way we deliver a speech. No matter how positive your words may be, if you have poor body language or posture, people might not see your speech in quite the positive way you intended. They are all part of great communication and you must be careful to ensure all three are seen as positive.
During your conversations it is extremely important to listen. Ask people questions about themselves and let them talk. They will appreciate it. In this day and age, everyone is trying to talk and get their voice heard. People often talk over other people without listening, you will surely stand out by being the one who takes the time to listen.
Take time to listen and only talk positively and you will become a great communicator. You will gain many admirers, friends and business acquaintances that will help you achieve your aims and goals. “The one who masters communication has the power to lead the world any way that he wishes”
The Hackett Group’s, Nic Walden, explains how to improve your ROI through engaging and clear communication.
Most stakeholders say that consistent delivery of core services is the principal requirement to consider procurement as a trusted advisor. Although many organisations are capable of filling this role, most are still viewed by internal customers as sourcing experts (i.e., focused on negotiation and supplier selection), or worse, as gatekeepers or simply administrators. In fact, only 29 per cent of procurement organisations are viewed as valued business partners by key stakeholders.
Does It Matter? Absolutely!
Analysis of Hackett benchmarks shows as much as a 2.5X ROI can be achieved from elevating the role of procurement, and aligning the goals and expectations of procurement teams to that of the business. That’s a hefty bump in savings or broader value terms in anyone’s language.
At Hackett we measure ROI as total cost reduction and avoidance divided by the cost of the function. As an example, professional sourcing teams can deliver strong savings performance when looking at percentage terms only, but when compared to the level of resource investment (i.e., ROI), they come up short.
Why Leave Money On The Table?
Let’s assume we have the capabilities to operate at a higher level (closing the capability gap is itself another discussion). One reason for misalignment is that procurement teams struggle to communicate their capabilities. Ineffective communication with internal customers, suppliers, and colleagues also causes confusion, delay, or leads to incorrect assumptions of what procurement can and cannot offer. With this in mind, Procurement teams face three main challenges to elevate their role:
Perceptions on historical performance cause resistance to change.
Internal customers are unaware of what procurement can offer.
Undergoing a major transformation results in confusion and inconsistencies.
The result is that successful procurement teams go to great lengths to build a compelling brand image, supported by a well-defined vision, services that meet or exceed expectations, and a formal measurement program to ensure ongoing improvement. If these steps are not taken, procurement groups can plateau in operational efficiency and effectiveness despite having the capabilities to operate at a much higher level.
Launching a New Procurement Brand
Defining a brand is an important concept for procurement because it makes their purpose and identity more comprehensible for stakeholders. The Hackett Group has outlined four major activities (understand, define, create, engage) that make up a successful brand transformation, supported by ongoing internal input. Everyone has a role to play in communicating and utilizing procurement’s new brand for effect: leadership, sourcing, buying, and operational teams.
Understand what is most important to internal customers and stakeholders
The brand should highlight procurement’s desire to support stakeholders and its ability to act as a valued business partner. This means having a solid understanding of what is important to stakeholders. For example, they might want more help defining requirements, to run credible and achievable projects, to manage difficult supplier conversations, to bring new products to market faster, or reporting. Most often, they just want procurement to excel at delivering core services.
Define procurement’s brand-management strategy
This is the time to clearly develop a clear vision and simple set of guiding principles to communicate goals, followed by defining procurement’s roles and responsibilities, and to make this information easily accessible to procurement and its stakeholders.
Other activities include:
Delineate the services that procurement provides to internal customers; ensure these align to their needs and requirements. Take this opportunity to de-prioritize or reshape what is not valued.
Provide clear definitions of the activities and tasks performed for each support service, along with the service levels provided (e.g., meeting frequency, cycle time, error rates).
Determine which business segments and departments that procurement can support.
Match staff and skill sets to procurement’s services.
Create marketing materials and share initial communications
Now we match the desired stakeholder experience with procurement’s future behaviors. Since people respond differently to various methods of communication, consider creating an “omnichannel”, personalized stakeholder experience to allow broad access to the procurement process and enable the ability to buy/pay from all locations and get real-time information. Common activities include:
Develop a new brand identity, including a name, mission statement, a set of values and goals, and even a logo if desired.
Determine the way communication with internal customers and stakeholders will be handled, such as email, phone, in-person support, chat or robotic tools.
Deploy an intranet portal that lets internal customers communicate with procurement and conduct self-service activities. Consider setting up a similar site for suppliers.
Develop marketing materials for various stakeholder groups, making certain that overall messaging is consistent.
Define and document any related changes to the organization, such as new employee titles.
Engage and continually communicate with all stakeholders
Multiple channels of communication should always be open for both internal customers and suppliers to reach out, get questions answered, or further develop relationships. There are various ways to engage with stakeholders, not all of which make sense for every company. Some of these activities include:
Face-to-face road shows with business executives, such as ongoing conference calls or one-on-one calls
Face-to-face road shows with middle management / operations followed by regular calls to ensure procurement is meeting objectives
Regular emails that include policy updates and metrics showcasing procurement performance
Nic Walden, Director Procurement and P2P Advisor, The Hackett Group works continuously with senior executives of the world’s leading companies to provide top performance insight, research and networking. Nic is a regular speaker at conference events and a regular contributor to social media and online blogs.
Making significant changes in a business can be challenging and is often especially difficult in big companies where it’s hard to get your voice heard, and break through protocol and resistance at the top.
We firmly believe that every procurement professional has a unique vantage point in the industries, communities and businesses they work in. Your Big Idea, inspired by some of the amazing experiences and insights you have, could be the one to change the face of the procurement profession.
Red-Tape and Resistance
However, getting your ideas heard and implemented is often easier said than done. Change can be implemented more readily in smaller businesses or start-ups, where there are fewer employees and greater flexibility, and roles are more diverse or interchangeable.
In big companies there is more red-tape and resistance to change. It can be difficult to make your voice heard by the right people when there is a fixed hierarchy and more stakeholders to consider. If you want to be a game-changer in a big company, having communication skills and the confidence to assert your innovative ideas is key.
As for the people at the top of these organisations, it’s their task to ensure they are inspiring intrapreneurship and considering the potential for great ideas to come from anyone, and anywhere, whether it be a graduate or a supplier.
People at the top need new ideas and new perspectives, so the chances are they will appreciate an employee taking the initiative to pitch an original idea. If you are fortunate enough to have this opportunity, don’t be complacent. Prepare, rehearse and ask for feedback from colleagues and friends.
It is crucial to deliver a slick and compelling pitch, which captures the attention of those listening. How you sell your idea, and convey your passion for it, will make all the difference.
Your audience needs to know what is so great about your idea, how it stands out, and if it will be worthwhile. You should consider how this change can be implemented within your organisation, and how you can measure its success.
What problems does this idea solve for your business? If you can’t articulate these points in a concise and convincing way, your voice won’t be heard and your ideas will be discarded, no matter how fantastic they are.
Commitment to Your Big Idea
Excellent communication, despite its importance, might not be quite enough to seal the deal with your Big Idea. It often takes greater persistence than just one great pitch.
Big companies, and those at the top of those big companies, can be averse to change and reluctant to take risks particularly if the change proposed is a big one. Chris Lynch, CFO at Rio Tinto, believes that, in larger companies, “the bigger the idea, the greater the resistance.” A flawless business plan might not be enough to relieve any hesitancy your employers have.
Your confidence, passion and perseverance are key. If you give up at the first hurdle, your idea can’t have been worth fighting for, and colleagues or employers will doubt you ever had the courage of your convictions.
Additionally, you can demonstrate your drive and commitment by doing your homework. Don’t get caught out by not being up to speed and seeming unprepared. Make sure you’ve done the background reading, made contingency plans and considered every eventuality. Again, your audience will be impressed by your motivation.
It can take years for an idea to come to fruition within big companies, and you might face a series of hurdles along the way. Don’t give up on yourself or your ideas. Keep dreaming big.
It is not solely the responsibility of the employee to push for change in large organisations. Senior decision makers and those at the top can help by being encouraging and harvesting intrapreneurship.
Even if one particular idea doesn’t tickle your fancy, the person pitching it is someone to be encouraged and supported as a future innovator and game changer. These are the people on the inside who can think outside existing limits, the ones with the creative skills to reinvent companies and drive change.
As far as procurement goes, there is always room for the intrapreneurs who will become leaders, influencing entire organisations and developing breakthrough solutions for a variety of organisational issues.
A Big Idea Can Come from Anyone
It doesn’t matter if someone is experienced or inexperienced, a recent graduate or a long-term employee, they can still contribute a great idea to a large company. The best ideas could come from someone or somewhere you least expect.
As procurement professionals it is important to listen to our suppliers as much as our employees. No enterprise is an island, and collaborative change can be the most rewarding of all. Our partners on the outside can see what we on the inside can’t, which is why it’s important to heed the advice and suggestions suppliers make. It is a valuable approach to perceive suppliers not simply as an expenditure but as value-adding co-workers.
As the pace of change increases in business and procurement, and new trends and technologies are developed all the time, organisations cannot afford to be close minded when it comes to new ideas. You never know what you are going to hear if you open your door and create a culture of innovation in your company.