A Fine Cuisine Approach To Procurement: Be a Modern Top Chef, Not an Old-School Line Cook

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There is no perfectly prescriptive cookbook approach to leading the transformation of a procurement organization. So I won’t offer one. However, the chefs who create the best cuisine continually challenge themselves to be students not only of the trade (i.e., the terminology, processes, tools, etc.), but also of the art. They seek inspiration from each other and from influences outside the profession. I believe that the best CPOs act similarly. They must master the trade and ensure that their staff does the same, but they are not line cooks, and they do not mechanically follow a cookbook.

Having worked with so many different heads of procurement, I’ve come to know the difference between the managers (“line cooks”) and the true leaders (i.e., master chefs). When you watch them firsthand in the kitchen, you begin to see the common themes and approaches they take as they transform their “raw materials” and their operations. I get the same inspiration reading Modernist Cuisine (which is about the science and art of modern cuisine) and watching Food Network programs such as Iron Chef, Chopped, and Restaurant Impossible.

Iron Chef is about learning from the best of the best in applying the most advanced methods. Chopped (and even Julia Child’s The French Chef) is about applying and expanding the best practices (e.g., don’t wash raw chicken in the sink – you’ll just splatter germs) to your environment. Restaurant Impossible is about quick-hit transformations to elevate the cuisine, improve performance of the business, protect the stakeholders from unsafe practices, and build new capabilities that will inspire future success.

I will try to take a page out of Robert Irvine’s book and write a short multi-part series on how to transform any procurement department. It will not be beautifully laid out and laden with McKinsey-esque fonts, mellifluously flowing diction, bubble-headed stick figures, fancy terminology, name dropping, or deftly woven case studies from sponsoring vendors. It will also NOT be a recipe for a certain type of dish (i.e., a re-jiggered n-step sourcing methodology). But, and audacious as this may sound, it will constitute advice to take or ignore at your own discretion (and is the type of process and logic that I walk my practitioner clients through).

I only mention this because a few years ago I had a good chuckle reading some stuff from CEB (great organization by the way – so please don’t sue me). Plastered all over it were the words, “This research does not constitute advice.” This is where a true advisory firm (whether membership-based or project-based) will differ from a peer-networking focused research organization. Although we at Spend Matters do some light touch membership-based advisory in our premium PRO offering, we are a new media firm focused on content and community. That said, we certainly don’t shy away from advice (and have the non-defamation insurance protection to back it up!)

So, let’s get to it.  Here is Part One.

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