Language barrier costs procurement support

24 September 2010

26 September 2010 | Natalia Da Silva

Procurement's lack of popularity among stakeholders is caused by a poor choice of language, organisational hierarchy and a tendency to hide behind the rulebook, according to the chief people officer of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

Speaking at the CIPS Conference 2010 in London on Thursday, Angela O’Connor said there were very few organisations where procurement was as seen as key by stakeholders. “Support services are not very popular,” she said.

Language had become a barrier to closer working relationships, O’Connor said.  Procurement professionals tend to use too many acronyms, leaving stakeholders uninterested and unable to translate. She said that this came from “insecurities that as a service we are not good enough”.

The perception of procurement is also lowered by sending very junior team members to deal with very experienced managers, she said.

“It’s not about being hierarchical, but you don’t send someone with no experience of the business world into the office of an experienced manager with a difficult issue. We can pretend hierarchy does not exist but we know it does,” she said.

There is a tendency in the profession to look for “mechanistic solutions for emotional issues” when trying to help other business units, O’Connor said. “You can either be an enabler by listening or a blocker by reaching for the rulebook.”

She said: “The skill of the procurement professional is to try to get people to change their mind by working with them.”

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