Procurement Lessons From the Cast of Friends

friends dglimages/Adobe Stock

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Nitin Khandelwal, manager, consulting, at GEP.

I am a huge fan of the NBC sitcom Friends. Who isn’t? Such has been the craze of the show and the characters that even after 12 years of the show getting off air, it’s still a part of our daily lives and conversations and it still runs on our TV with high TRPs.

There is never a dull moment on Friends, but was the show all about situational comedy? I believe we as procurement professionals have a whole lot to learn from each of the characters on the show. Let’s analyze the most important trait of each of the characters and the association of those traits with various procurement skillsets:

  • Monica Geller: Monica was the gel that was used to bind each of the characters on the show. A strong headed character who was very competitive, liked to be in control, detail-oriented, people pleaser and had excellent planning and organizing skills.
    • Project Management — Managing and executing projects within stipulated timelines is what procurement does during the majority of its time. Procurement should try to get involved in a project right from the beginning to add maximum value to the final result. Procurement should ideally manage the four cornerstones of effective project management — scope and objectives, cost, time and performance.
  • Ross Geller: Ross was the most intelligent, book-smart and mature geek on the show, but was socially very awkward. He would always put others’ interests ahead of his own. He would have logical solutions to most of their problems. He was the best person in the group to look to in regards to math and science.
    • Category Knowledge — As a procurement professional, one should ideally have the category knowledge for the product/service one is sourcing. Having category knowledge provides the sourcing professional the edge to draft the category strategy, understand the market, develop the RFP (if required) and conduct effective negotiations. However, due to the technicalities involved in certain categories/commodities, at times it may not be practically feasible to understand the entire scope, but most experienced procurement professionals prefer to gain as much category expertise as possible before they start sourcing it.
  • Pheobe Buffay: Pheobe is one of those underrated characters on the show who was the bridge between Monica and Rachel’s conflicting personalities. Also, since she had a dark childhood, she was extremely flexible with all the changes happening in her life and around her, unlike most individuals.
    • Change Management — Let’s accept it: No one likes change. However, procurement is the department in any organization that brings about changes in people’s operational lives quite consistently, and this may be the reason that some senior operational folks may not be big fans of procurement. Therefore, we need to ensure that the affected individuals are convinced that there is a strong reason for change and try to work with them to remove any obstacles.
  • Chandler Bing: Chandler is the perfect individual to have at the workplace. He is smart, innovative and has a sense of humour (though a tad too much at times) with good interpersonal skills. With his wit and sarcasm, he had the ability convince and influence people.
    • Persuasion and Influence — Procurement should be able to influence business decisions by providing different perspectives and scenarios to one problem. Each business division would prefer a solution favouring their objectives, but procurement should be able to evaluate both qualitative and quantitative results and present the same in a transparent way to influence all business stakeholders
  • Rachel Green: Rachel was the only character who showed significant personality development over 10 seasons, from a spoiled girl to a fashion buyer, a responsible mother and a committed girlfriend. She was a character who was willing to follow her passion and take the road not taken. She was never afraid or hesitant to show off her skills, beauty, dresses or anything that she was good at.

    • Promote Procurement’s Contribution: Even in today’s mature business environment, procurement is still considered a support function, especially in European and Asia Pacific geographies. It becomes imperative to promote the value addition and contribution that procurement adds in achieving the overall business objectives. Procurement should proactively highlight its strategic importance through their business conduct, improving business relationships, building capabilities and effective marketing of the function. The long-term goal should be the alignment of all business functions, including procurement.
  • Joey Tribbiani: Joey’s character didn’t develop much over the course of the 10-season run and was the only character who didn’t end up with a happy ending (technically) like the others. Joey was spontaneous, very comfortable in social situations and an extrovert. But, he always had a sensitive side to his personality, be it the love for his friends or ladies or food.
    • Stakeholder Management — The most important trait as a procurement professional is to ensure that our stakeholders (both internally and externally) are delighted. We, in procurement, deal with stakeholders (both old and new) from multiple departments, namely engineering, legal, finance, logistics, marketing and HR, and all of them can have different business/project objectives. Procurement should be able to create that personal and professional rapport with all stakeholders. Also, supplier relationship management is something that procurement should prioritize, as well as being sensitive towards the suppliers’ business interests as well.

I am a passionate procurement professional and I try to imbibe any procurement lessons from all walks of life, be it TV sitcoms, kids, family and friends or even on dates. I am pretty confident that every procurement organization will be able to efficiently deliver and the collaboration can be as successful as Friends if each and every team member successfully takes on a few or all of the above characteristics.

For more strategic thinking on procurement, visit the GEP Knowledge Bank.

First Voice

  1. George Papanikolopoulos:

    Great post Nitin – Procurement very much needs to learn how to promote itself and show the business how it adds value

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