The Case for Procurement Hazing (Part 2)

In the first installment of this series, I covered a brief history of ritualized hazing activities, beginning to build the case for what I believe is a need for procurement hazing, to truly welcome those who are worthy into the profession and create a bond worthy of a lifelong career. In terms of hazing implements, I'm not talking about keg stands here, or branding a recruit with a hot metal implement. No, my point is that professional hazing, done right -- and certainly not called by its name! -- could bring significant benefits to the industry, not only furthering the careers and bonds from those already within it, but creating a mystique about it as well.

Procurement hazing, unlike in the military or fraternities/sororities, should not just be about informal or secretive activities (though certainly I could see certain individual companies developing a mystique around how they do things like forecasting and category strategy that would informally brand those who worked in the environment as a member of that secret commodity society for life). In the UK, my colleague Peter Smith often reminisces and waxes eloquent about his days working at Mars Confectionary, and all the elements of manufacturing, commodity management and the like he had to learn as a young recruit straight out of university (including driving a forklift, I believe!) I've seen Peter in action when he meets a former Mars colleague -- perhaps even in a meeting where he's never come face-to-face with this person before -- and a certain degree of respect is afforded each way, along with a quick tail of how the "old days" once were. But back to the broader subject at hand: how do we create the benefits of a "hazed" procurement universe without the nastiness? I see three steps, and I'll tackle the first one in the remainder of this post.

First, it will come as no surprise that I believe the procurement -- and perhaps the broader supply chain -- industry needs a certification process and award distinction that is globally known and respected. This will require a process that truly results in reaching a level of distinction after a certification is awarded where the designation can be career transforming, life a CFA (especially in the case of a candidate without a top-tier MBA and a long track record already).

Globally, ISM or CIPs is probably best positioned to deliver this. I hope one of them (or another new entrant) does. But such a designation should not serve as an extension of a CPSM, which while recognized as a designation signifying a solid foundation of knowledge, is not exclusive nor transformative for those that hold it like a CFA. We need a designation that MIT, Wharton, and Stanford MBA students worry about in their operations research classes, quivering in fear for the Level 2 exam they're planning to sit for in the year after graduation (and requires studying outside of school for over a number of years to pass all the levels).

In creating the benefits of a "hazed" society, the mystique associated with the process -- beyond all the long nights of studying -- is as important as the knowledge imparted by the test itself. Moreover, the testing process creates a culture of curiosity outside of just the test takers who want to see how their colleagues are doing (it's not unlike the crowd of TV spectators in the Hunger Games who feel that they're also participating through the talk show commentary). Indeed, we need a certification that requires the equivalent of completing a multi-staged series of marathons, including all the sacrifice involved.

Next up on the hazing list of suggestions: the apprenticeship.

- Jason Busch

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