Words are powerful, and can obviously be used to convey meaning and exert influence. This is not just in mission statements or presentations, but also even in job titles. No matter who you are and what you do, there’s always an opportunity for a terminology upgrade. If you are the lead IT buyer in North America, you are really the Chief Technology Procurement Officer, Western Hemisphere. If you are in charge of procurement reporting, you are the Procurement Analytics CoE leader. You get the idea. This goes all the way up to the CPO. I always loved going into cross-functional executive client meetings where the firebrand “CPO” magically transformed into a placid director of purchasing. As a joke, I was going to call myself Spend Matter’s Chief Procurement Research Officer, but then decided that only about seven people would understand the jest.
Conversely though, I’ve found that the best CPOs tend to lead confidently, but humbly, through leadership-by-example in a meritocracy – not an aristocracy. When I was at AMR and first met Dave Nelson, he was already a “procurement guru” (although I’m sure he’d likely wince at that title), but he really struck a chord when he said that HE was looking to learn from a new sensei (Japanese term for ‘teachers’). This willingness to constantly learn and listen is a true hallmark of excellence, and this same principle applies to procurement vendors (Zycus is one that comes to mind for me).
So, listening is key, but again, words can be powerful. The trick, though, is to convey a strategic mindset without making it look like you’re over-reaching. For example, a few CPOs will list that they are members of the Procurement Strategy Council on their resumes. I never have understood this since it merely says that you have the discretionary budget to spend tens of thousands of dollars – i.e., your ability to write a check gets you into the ‘club’. There are many such organizations, and for vendors who are looking to host an event or community designed for senior executives, you merely need to add the “sizzle to the steak” and play my version of procurement buzzword bingo and create a three-worded title, and pick your favorite combination of power words from the following list:
- Who you are attracting. Choose from the following: Procurement, CPO, Supply, Corporate, Executive, etc.
- The core power word. Choose one of these: Excellence, Executive, Leadership, Strategy/Strategic, Power, Value, etc.
- The cohort. Finish with one of these: Council, Board, Network, Forum, etc.
Add some powerful agenda items (with a nice McKinsey-esque font), a great golf venue, and some private peer networking, and you’ll be well on your way. I’ll be writing a lot more in the future on “procurement CRM” and how to apply CRM best practices to the ‘services business’ called procurement.