Turning the spotlight on behavioural skills

We are in need of a new breed of professionals in procurement. Taking on the role of value architect will require a different set of skills

When I look at the most successful outcomes I have achieved as a CPO they have always centred around a high level of trust, not just at an organisational level, but at the individual level. In procurement teams, successful collaboration has centred around this key attribute, reinforcing the belief in the collective value over the sum of individual parts.

These elements will grow in importance for procurement professionals, as procurement takes on a new role of value architect. 

With the emergence of the chief digital officer comes a whole host of new tech, from artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, and the many data scientists following in their wake. They are invoking a need to reshape functions and roles around the organisation. Procurement is an imperative, and the call from business will be for us to change our ways, reinforcing and bringing to the fore people skills. 

By taking on the role of value architect, we will not only reposition but increase the importance and relevance of what procurement and supply chain management can do organisationally. Trust, collaboration, fairness and emotional intelligence will be the new entry ticket. Value architects will be known for value creation, not simply cost saving, with skills based on social, decision and behavioural sciences.

These skills align with the World Economic Forum’s seven skills for the future, which are predominantly behavioural, and include critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, influencing, adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, assessing and analysing information, and curiosity and imagination.

In many advanced and developed organisations, procurement has been very effective at taking out cost, probably to the point of saturation, so a changed approach is needed to deliver even more value. It will be our role to build bridges and translate contributions from experts and the wider supply chain, facilitating innovation, and articulating value over cost savings. We will be the aggregators of the best of what is available, showing where and how intervention can contribute and creating the architecture to enable it. And we will socialise the use of the systems, encourage talent and be guardians of reputation, constantly recalibrating expected behaviour benchmarks.

And we will be the creatives who exude the entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen of a start-up leader, with critical thinking skills.

As part of my recent research into behavioural procurement I have looked at successful cost reduction projects involving behavioural intervention. In one case, airline pilots were told their fuel consumption was being monitored, leading to a dramatic improvement in fuel efficiency. Taking parallels from this intervention, I looked at how a retail business could reduce electricity consumption, and was able to design a flexible approach that encouraged a greater number of employees to engage in the project. It involved everything from easy reporting and offering a number of alternatives, to competitions, awards and photos.

Through this research, I have also conducted surveys and talked to leaders about behavioural procurement. This has shown that as leaders we are not good at innovation – anecdotally, global CPOs say we are bounded by system and process. So, building an ecosystem of collaboration and learning may for some feel uncomfortable, but then no change is without challenge.

Like the process of delivering innovation (yes, it does follow a process) procurement and supply chain leaders need to manage the shift to a new model of value delivery. The size of the prize is big but will not be served by incrementalism. 

Now is the time to create a new value proposition for the function that will continue to make it relevant to the businesses we serve. We have a responsibility now to help our workers embed this revolution.

David L Loseby FCMI, FCIPS, FRSA is author of Soft Skills for Hard Business, £27.95. SM readers can claim a 20% discount by quoting code LOSEBYSUPPLY, and ordering through Andrew.young@cambridge-media.com. 

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