The leaders on this year's Procurement Power List are great examples of how procurement has the ability to influence and drive change, says Malcolm Harrison, group CEO, CIPS.
This month we announced the 2019 Procurement Power List, a list of the most influential leaders in procurement who are raising the bar and driving the profession forward by stretching the boundaries of what procurement professionals are achieving.
They are leaders who are an inspiration to others, and who strive to improve the capability of their teams. Everyone on the list is demonstrating the great impact procurement can have within their organisations; whether that is directly enabling business growth, increased innovation – through digital disruption – proactively embracing the sustainability agenda, shaping and developing supply markets or improving their communities through a focus on social value.
When we compiled the list we were looking for CPOs engaged in major change or transformational projects, whether that was the positioning of procurement within their organisation or driving the ethical sourcing or sustainability agenda.
But in addition to this they all have credibility within the wider procurement community. They don’t just deliver; they have a reputation for delivering in the right way. They have a reputation for delivering through their people and for developing their people to be great professionals.
Leaders must build a reputation for delivering first and foremost. Delivery is where it all starts – and a lack of consistent and clearly communicated delivery is often the reason it all ends. For leaders in procurement and supply this must include delivering value, which often is about savings, but is increasingly about risk mitigation, improving sustainability or delivering business growth through supplier innovation.
We have to make sure that we measure value and that those measures are credible and validated. That’s the bedrock; without this reputation you have nothing to build on.
Then we must build on our ability to influence and drive change – and I mean influence as opposed to whether we have a seat at the top table. The best leaders in procurement achieve through their legitimate ability to influence rather than through their position.
Influence is more important than position and we must work with business partners, seeking to align with them rather than confront them. Yes, the best leaders challenge the status quo – they believe there is always a better way – but it is challenge with the aim of improving rather than with the aim of being combative.
Good leaders in procurement and supply have gained a breadth of experiences and always think business first and function second. They bring strong functional leadership and understand the context and culture in which they are operating.
They understand their organisation and its strategic goals and how their function can bring value to their business. They continually seek to improve, they are inquisitive and decisive – based on the facts in front of them.
One of the great sayings I learned while in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall was the concept of “speaking truth unto power”. So when the facts don’t align with the policy of the minister, inform the minister what the facts are. Early in my career I was taught to “confront the brutal facts” and if the facts change, that might mean you need to change your focus, your targets, your strategy.
Above all, for me leaders need to exhibit both confidence and humility and know how to balance the two. We want leaders to have confidence to take tough decisions and exhibit humility, to listen and be brave enough to be honest when they did not get it right. This has always held me in good stead both when I have worked in procurement and supply and when I have led organisations.
The work these leaders are doing is helping to build a stronger connection linking procurement and supply with the boardroom. The Procurement Power List is another way to not only celebrate your successes, but to showcase leading-edge procurement to the wider business community.
You will be hearing more about these leaders through SM and events throughout the year. I hope you, like me, will follow them with interest.
The Procurement Power List 2019