This Week in Procurement

TWIP: Baby Out with the Bathwater

Regular readers know two things about me: I publish an installment of This Week In Procurement (“TWIP”) every week and I am a die hard fan of the Bantams, Bradford City’s football club (soccer to you Americans).

Last week I did not publish a TWIP. Sincere apologies for both being absent and for not even sending a note.

This week I turn for inspiration to my ever-so-frustrating Bantams.

Making Choices

To put it mildly, my Bantams have had a challenging 2018.  We won 3 times in 22 attempts.

So, it was decided in January to hire a new coach, one that would turn our fortunes around. We hired a “big name” coach with experience in getting teams promoted from our level. A professional who would make wholesale changes to turn around our fortunes. To make way, a club legend was given the boot, but the die was cast and the choice made: out with the old and in with the new.

Leaving a Mark

Despite our new approach, results didn’t change. Last week the new coach was let go and this statement found its way to the team’s website: “On the managerial front, our preferred criteria is that the Head Coach we appoint must have the proven ability to develop a team over a longer-term period and, most importantly, to improve each individual player within his squad.”

Reading that, it hit me: the way the team initially dealt with the poor performance was just like so many of the restructures I had been through or seen up close.

My team brought in someone from the outside (i.e., a proven manager not tainted with the underperformance of the existing team). He had a number of demands (e.g.,infrastructure, support staff, players) to get us promoted next year, many made without consideration of my team’s budget. I liken this to a newly recruited CPO wanting the best technology, the most experienced or historically successful category managers / sourcing specialists, or a large team of consultants. It’s an expensive, all-or-nothing, approach.

When we finally said “no” to these demands our new coach walked away.  Apparently, he could not produce results without the things he asked for. It puts me in mind of how we often blame our tools for our coming up short when what would be more productive is to take responsibility and be creative.

When embarking on procurement transformation, we often preface or justify our restructuring with the notion that the existing team isn’t good enough. Actually, I think it is worse than that; we assume that the team is the problem: “if they were so good, how come they couldn’t produce the promised results?” It is easier, the common thinking goes, to get rid of the team (or a substantial number of the players) and just start fresh.

This time round, The Bantams are taking a different approach.

I share Brian Bancroft’s perspective on team transformation (he discussed it with me recently). It is clear that teams and individual players underperform all the time. What is less clear is why we must jump to the conclusion that most (all?) of the players on a losing team are second stringers and should be swapped out. I suspect there is more power in asking the question: “what’s missing the presence of which would make a difference?” and then looking for the answer(s) in process, responsible strategic goals (i.e., generating value to the organization beyond savings), leadership and mindset.

What I wonder is how many of us support this approach. If what we are hearing from our Palambridge clients is any indication, more than a few. So, if there is a potential transformation in the near future, I encourage taking up the challenge and following the example of my beloved Bantams: go against the status quo, have faith in the intrinsic quality and professionalism of the existing team, building and evolving from that foundation using the resources at hand.

Generating Fulfillment

Some questions to ponder:

  • What is one thing I take for granted about the team I play on?
  • What is one thing my stakeholders take for granted about the procurement team? What do they take for granted about me?
  • What is one thing I take for granted about my stakeholders?
  • Do I see my personal accountability as a strength, a weakness or an opportunity? Why?
  • Would I rather educate the market or be educated by it?

Being a Catalyst

As always, if you come across an article, whitepaper, video or podcast that you would like to share with your fellow catalysts, please send a quick email with the details. I read every email and am eager to read yours.

This Week in Procurement

This Week @ AOP

I spent a couple of days on the road a couple of weeks ago at the Coupa Inspire 2018 conference in San Francisco.  Inspire is an event I always try and make – to get insights into Coupa’s latest offerings, to catch up with peers, friends and clients, and to be inspired by fantastic keynote speakers which this year included Alison Levine and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

While on site, I had the opportunity to sit down and record this week’s podcast with Coupa CEO, and AOP alumni, Rob Bernshteyn.  Over the past couple of months, I have observed Coupa using the term “Community Intelligence” more and more, and it was a key feature of Rob’s keynote. I am very bullish on the impact that we can have in procurement by combining our collective insights end experiences – in fact, it is a key driving force behind AOP. I was interested to learn how Coupa is harnessing the opportunity that community intelligence brings, and how we as procurement professionals can apply this concept to our day to day work.  Listen in to the pod, here.

About the author

Philip Ideson

Philip Ideson is passionate about the role that procurement professionals and leaders can plan in creating competitive advantage for their organizations in ways that go beyond the traditional value proposition.

Philip founded Art of Procurement as a way for the procurement community to learn from each other, increasing the impact they have on their organizations. In 2017, he co-founded Palambridge, a virtual platform of procurement experts, technology, and intelligence. Palambridge provides a broad range of flexible procurement solutions, available on-demand.

Prior to Art of Procurement and Palambridge, Philip enjoyed a career that spanned the procurement value chain, working across three continents for organizations such as Accenture, Procurian, Ally Financial, Pfizer and Ford Motor Company.