Misplaced aspirations

12 April 2011
The law of unintended consequences shows no sign of being repealed. Take the example of the introduction of UK university fees. The expectation that they would be driven by market competition is failing to turn into reality. When MPs voted to allow raising fees, their belief was most institutions would settle for £6,000, with £9,000 being the exception. However, there appears to be more exceptional cases than anticipated, with 18 of the 130 qualifying institutions have declared at £9,000 with many still to announce their decisions. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the provisions made for those universities charging more than £6,000, relating to intake quotas for state school graduates, do not seem to be working as expected either. The universities are stating that there are not enough of these students achieving the right grades to meet the entry requirements. So what has this got to do with supply management? I believe this is a good example of where not understanding reality and market drivers leads to the opposite of what is intended. In a professional procurement process, we would aim to address this by deep category knowledge and understanding our business drivers. Even this can be derailed, though, if we try to contract for a new set of behaviours without understanding how we achieve the organisational and market change required to realise it. Being aspirational is something to admire, but only when twined with realism and a solid plan for how to effect the change.   A royal holiday Those of you living in the UK are no doubt looking forward to the group of Bank Holidays straddling the last two weeks in April. For those not based in Britain, the country’s lucky inhabitants have an 11-day period, from 22 April to 2 May, where they only have three actual working days. There are Easter, a Royal Wedding and a May Day Bank Holiday to thank for this happy turn of events. This is obviously good news for those individuals, like me, who live and work in the UK. Understandably, many people are making plans to best use this time, and have decided to take the full 11 days or longer away from work. After all, it presents everyone with a great opportunity to immerse themselves in DIY, go away on holiday or just take a break from work and spend time with friends and family. No doubt many of you will have been talking to customers and suppliers based outside the UK about how to best manage this time. After all, the Royal Wedding is a somewhat late addition to the holiday calendar and the impact of people taking the full week off won’t have been planned for when contracts were signed and deliverables agreed. So as you prepare to take the end of April off, spare a thought for those colleagues who will not be able to revel in all this free time, or who are working long hours to meet deliverables either side of the holiday period – and, of course, enjoy whatever you decide to do!
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