16 October 2003 | David Arminas
Purchasers must do less managing and more leading if they are to ensure their company is a winner in the fast-changing global business environment.
René Carayol, business guru and author of Corporate Voodoo, told delegates at this year's CIPS Premier Conference that purchasers needed to take risks and go outside processes to inspire the people they lead.
In his opening address at "inspiration2action" last week, he said: "When I was a board director, procurement was amateur-like. Now it is professional and vigorous.
"But my feeling is the pendulum has moved just a little too much. We have become a nation of managers, although really good managers, but in a world where all of our customers are demanding leadership."
Purchasers should challenge their well-developed processes.
"Process alone will not give you appropriate answers," he said. "Everybody can have bullet-proof processes. What about those judgment calls, thinking the unthinkable, breaking out of the pack?"
Carayol, who has worked for Marks & Spencer and PepsiCo, warned that globalisation means the competition is no longer in the UK's high-streets but in places such as India and China.
And manufacturing is suffering from overcapacity, allowing customers greater choices.
This means procurement, as a strategic business process, is even more important, but relying on these processes is dangerous in an age when speed is essential.
"Timescales have collapsed like never before. Your business ain't gonna wait three months for an answer. You need to act. So there is a balance between due process and a judgment call."
Carayol said he admired the leadership of Sir John Stevens, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the subject of his first television film, which was shown in August. Immediately after becoming commissioner in late 2001, Stevens cut through moribund processes in a then-demoralised force to show that people mattered most.
He visited local forces and made decisions immediately in front of officers, bypassing decision-making processes.
Stevens put some noses out of joint, said Carayol, who urged purchasers to be similar role models: "It's not what you say, but what you do."