To transform procurement, stop thinking about procurement

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IanGeorge.jpgMaking a significant impact on an organisation and its key stakeholders is statistically likely to end in failure: it is a pattern that has been repeated for decades and the reasons are many and complex. However, by applying some key strategies, the potential for success can be improved significantly, writes Ian George, from the Procurement Leaders Network and Transformation Lead at ProPar consulting, in this month’s SmartProcurement.

Organisations (public, voluntary and private sector) that have applied the techniques below tend to deliver more than they thought possible in time frames that were a fraction of those previously experienced.

Mental models
The 10 000 hours to mastery rule (Ericsson) is not the only determinant of successful leadership. Leaders in procurement also need mental models to guide deliberate practice (the desire to improve) by reflecting on what they do and constantly striving to do it better. This is the difference between strugglers, managers (who get things done) and leaders (who improve what is done).

Question: What does my organisation need and how could procurement support it?

The transformation roadmap
Moving from ‘A’ to ‘B’ needs a strategy, not just for defining the desired outcome, but also for blending the art and science that moves processes and people forward. Most people do not like change, yet they are the key determinants of success or failure. Engaging individuals on the journey can make progress quicker and often multiplies the impact felt by the organisation.

Question: What would a transformation roadmap look like for my procurement organisation?

Spheres of influence
The psychology of change is personal but also transcends individuals, putting the spotlight on how groups interact. Patterns of interaction in successful transformations repeat with stark regularity. Learning these patterns and where on the continuum your own organisation sits means the analysis of situations can be rapid and the application of appropriate response strategies more certain.

Question: Who are my key stakeholders and when do I need to engage them?

Marginal gains
David Brailsford has made popular the concept of achieving success through the aggregation of marginal gains. Put another way, taking small steps as quickly as possible – but no quicker. If procurement officials know where they are heading, and are aware that people do not like change, and they know how to engage groups of stakeholder to deliver success, then they have the essence of a robust strategy for transformation. The real challenge is creating the right mix and targeting the critical few priorities.

Question: What are the capabilities I need to build into my processes and people, and when?

Making a difference
Procurement sits at a pivotal point in any organisation, between customer and supplier, with the ability to influence both financial and operational performance.

Having someone help you disrupt one’s thinking is important (how one thinks now is what got us into our current situation). Being part of a network of leaders who also share a similar need to implement meaningful change and are experiencing the same challenges is also important.

Procurement practitioners can learn from each other and pick the best solutions to take back into their own organisations. The key difference that will define great leaders from merely good leaders is the translation of ideas into action.

Success comes from taking small steps as fast as possible.

Ian is a Former Supply Development Manager for BMW Manufacturing (USA) and
Former Head of Procurement Strategy and Development for Philips Electronics (The Netherlands)

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