For procurement with impact, it’s all about the team

23 February 2018

From picking the right people to benchmarking performance, CIPS interim group CEO Gerry Walsh has some key pointers for a group dynamic that delivers

During my career I have held a number of procurement roles, with various different reporting lines. In some roles I have been a member of the board; in others I’ve reported direct to the CFO. I don’t believe either model was more effective in influencing procurement within these organisations. Those of us in the profession can be overly concerned with where procurement sits within an organisation, rather than the value of procurement itself.

Delivering great value through innovative and creative solutions creates a positive feeling throughout an organisation, which in itself promotes the power of procurement. One representative on an organisation’s board cannot create such passion and positivity about procurement; the real influence comes from a whole team demonstrating its value. And that is down to a few core guidelines.

Selecting talented individuals is absolutely key. The CIPS president, Sam Walsh, advises bringing on board people who can fill the gaps – both in your own knowledge and skills, and those within your wider team. It takes a confident leader to recruit people who are perhaps smarter, or have more skills and knowledge than they themselves, but these are the wisest and most successful leaders.

Many CPOs I speak to are struggling to secure good talent, but it is often a lack of soft skills that’s the issue, not a lack of procurement knowledge. Too often, advertised jobs require experience of particular sectors, but I would urge business leaders to be bolder. Sector knowledge and procurement skills can be taught; it’s fresh perspective and the ability to think outside the box that make a difference.

As well as getting the right people in place, it’s important to let them shine. Give your team the responsibility and the credit for their successes. A good leader is able to delegate, draw on talent and allow others to excel. It is the power of your whole team and the impact they make on the wider business that will promote procurement’s reputation as being critical to the success of an organisation. There is no greater compliment than receiving good feedback about your staff.

It’s also crucial to know your stakeholders. In 2014, Marks and Spencer won a CIPS Supply Management Award for its innovative approach in this area. It mapped its procurement team using the Insights Discovery Personal Profile methodology, then mapped its stakeholders, with a view to matching the ‘right’ procurement business partner and stakeholder. In procurement, we are often criticised for being too focused on process. Fabienne Lesbros, CIPS board member and CPO at The Co-op once said: “Give them the cake – they don’t need the recipe too!” Talk your stakeholder’s language and you’ll get the pitch right.

As a leader, you should constantly be looking outside your organisation, sector and region to seek best practice and innovation to benchmark yourself against. This will put your performance into context, and can help you implement new ideas. You should, though, blow your own trumpet too: you want people to hear about your team’s achievements, so get the word out. ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions, and articles in internal newsletters or on intranets are a great way to do this.

Finally, badges of honour can play a part. Recognition from others will help reinforce and confirm that you’re doing a great job. This could be by ensuring your team are fully qualified and up-to-date with their Continuing Professional Development, obtaining recognised standards such as ISO, BSI or the CIPS Procurement Excellence Programme Standard, or by achieving a professional or industry award. And the CIPS Supply Management Awards provide a fantastic opportunity to be measured against other procurement teams, so I would encourage you to enter this year – and to look at the case studies of previous winners (at bit.ly/wins2017). The judges, who are all leading CPOs, see hundreds of innovative and creative solutions submitted across all regions each year, so make sure you’re in the frame to be included in 2018.

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