Passion with purpose

1 November 2011
At the recent CIPS conference, Ellis Watson, a veteran CEO with an impressive CV, called for procurement practitioners to display passion in everything they do. “Step up and take your message out to the business,” was his plea. I’ve been thinking about this and reached the conclusion that passion is not enough. Passion for what? For your profession? Not enough. For your ‘kitbag’ of procurement tools and templates? Not enough. Passion for your shiny new IT system that aggregates spend data and promotes contract compliance? Not enough either. Indeed, Watson was particularly scathing about procurement technology, singling it out for attention as something of a distraction. Technology is not the answer he asserted; and I agree with him. No amount of technology will secure support and commitment from stakeholders unless it pushes their buttons. It’s a familiar message, but procurement exists to serve the interests of the business, not itself. It is passion about the downstream impact of procurement’s contribution that is worth getting worked-up about. Even then, it’s not enough. Passion is nothing without INTENTION. In the end, procurement and its stakeholders have to do things, preferably together. It is intention that gets people into a room together, to share experience, knowledge, insight and to enthusiastically engage in the creative process that results in workable strategies for categories, key relationships and those stakeholder-sponsored initiatives that aim to grow the top line. It is intention that turns a desire for greater value capture from the supply chain into concrete plans for action that are destined to deliver. And it is intention that transforms a key supplier relationship into one that delivers tangible value improvement, not the feel-good-factor. You’ll know when procurement is fulfilling its purpose when stakeholders are beating a path to your door with intent to draw on your expertise to help them achieve their objectives. Operate with a passion for that and you might be on to something.
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