In 2003 a Harvard Business Review
panel concluded that “despite years of process breakthroughs and elegant technology solutions, an agile, adaptive supply chain remains an elusive goal: maybe it’s the people getting in the way”.
This illustrates an undeniable truth; business plans, whether focused on growth, contraction, acquisition, integration or even business as usual are based on strategy and hard numbers, but their success depends on people and capabilities. This has a particular resonance for the procurement function as the both the technical and often, more importantly, the soft skills of the team, can have a huge effect on both the actual and perceived results.So how do you make sure the people, and their capabilities, are fit for whatever purpose the business has in mind? How do you identify in advance, and maybe on a global scale, where capabilities may fall short so you can do something about it? A common phrase in the world of UK fast moving consumer goods companies in the 1980s and 90s was “if you can’t change the people, change the people”, but it is our experience that without taking the time to understand the capabilities that are needed, there is no guarantee that a new team will be any more equipped to deliver.
This has been well illustrated on a current assignment at a UK hospital, where the existing team are achieving significant results compared to those achieved historically. This has been through a combination of capability development coaching, an increased emphasis on stakeholder engagement and a new culture of empowerment.
In the recent Shaping the future research
carried out by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
, the need was identified to build capability across organisations at an individual level, instead of just employing short-sighted talent strategies focused on generic areas such as leadership and communication. The market is catching on; over the past 12 months we have seen an upsurge in demand from clients to create the most appropriate organisation to achieve their business goals, with role definitions based on required outcomes and capability specifications covering both general and technical areas.
While the recruitment of a small number of high-level managers can have a catalytic effect, sustainability comes from making the most of people already in the organisation. Organisation, roles and capability must be aligned with business strategy, gaps should be identified against this framework and prioritised development plans put in place to give people the training and experience they need. Without this, people are a constraint; with it, they become the main driver of ongoing success.
☛ Tom Woodham is a director at Crimson & Co