Change Management and Procurement: Sitting Down with Paladin’s Barb Ardell

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For those who love delving into such topics as total cost savings, inventory reduction and transactional efficiency in procurement and supply chain, there’s no more fluffy a topic than change management. But when the right change management programs sit alongside either targeted initiatives or broader transformation programs, the potential overall impact of efforts can be magnified considerably – and most importantly, sustained over time.

In the coming days on Spend Matters, we’ll share an interview series with one of my personal favorite people in the sector, Barb Ardell, vice president and Influencing Change practice leader at Paladin Associates. Barb has been around procurement for decades – and is not the type of person you think who would change tracks from quantifiable savings efforts to change management. But she has. And the sector is a better place for it.

Spend Matters: What is the relationship between change management and procurement transformation?

Barb Ardell: Change management is an important enabler for procurement transformation. Typically, a transformation will involve new reporting structures, new roles and responsibilities, new processes and new technology. That’s a tremendous amount of change. Effective change management will ensure that the organization realizes the desired results on time, on budget and with the desired quality. It will also ensure that the change is sustained over time.

SM: Why do procurement transformations usually come up short?

BA: Traditional change management takes very much of a project management approach. It addresses things like strategy, systems, process and structure. All of these are necessary, however, they are only the “tip of the iceberg.” Traditional change management leaves us wanting in terms of the degree, the speed or the sustainability of the change delivered.

What’s typically ignored by traditional change management is what’s below the waterline of that iceberg: culture, norms and status quo behaviors – that organization resistance – that undermine and impede your change.

Think about technology implementations. Typically, the technology is relatively straightforward. It’s getting people to adopt the technology and do things differently that presents the challenge. Organization change is really just the sum of individual behavior changes. This is where Influencing Change focuses.

Stay tuned as our interview with Barb continues. Up next: Why do we still ignore change management and what’s next for change management?

Voices (4)

  1. Barb Ardell:

    Tom Jackson: Thanks for your comment. I agree that it’s ideal for the CPO to have a seat at the upper management table. However, we can’t always rely on a push from the top, and often pressure from “on high” will merely get compliance, if that, rather than a passionate commitment. People at lower levels also need to be successful at influencing others over whom they have no power. There is a method and skills to do this effectively. It’s called Influencer.

  2. Barb Ardell:

    K Peterson: Thanks for your comments. I certainly agree on the importance of management support. And most change efforts address that. One opportunity this is often missed is getting Opinion Leaders onboard. These individuals are not typically in the hierarchy. Rather, they are individuals within the organization who are well-connected and well-respected. The reality is that you don’t get to decide whether they influence your change effort. They will, either for or against you , so you better get them on your side early on.

  3. Tom Jackson:

    Procurement is becoming increasingly integral to the success of supply chain operations and is delivering great value in return. In addition the increase in importance, the way procurement professionals do business is changing. Rather than just trying to cut costs across the board, there is now an emphasis on developing relationships with suppliers to create a mutual benefit and leverage supplier expertise. Often times a supplier will be able to assist with producing data driven solutions because they are an expert in their own fields. I believe that every company needs to integrate a CPO into their executive level of management. Having the freedom of a C-level position to devote to improving supply chain operations can bring an immense amount of value back into a company. This can also help with change management in the entire procurement structure. Having a CPO to drive reform through a supply chain can be a powerful agent for change.

  4. K. Peterson:

    I agree with Barb Ardell that in order for change and positive improvement of the procurement process to occur, the transformation has to be supported by management and begin at the people level. When evaluating possible processes that can be improved and how, first look at the current organization culture and structure to determine how a new process should be implemented so that it retains the support of management. People tend to resist change, so it might be a good idea that upper-management be consulted for process changes. Management feeling like they contributed to the changes will lead to them being more supportive of the new processes, and by following the lead of management, other people in the department will be less reluctant to the new practices as well.

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