A Seat at the Top Table – Board representation is about you AND the procurement function

We introduced our new paper “A Seat at the Top Table” the other day, available to download here, and written by Ed Cross, Executive Director of Xchanging Procurement Services, and me. As we said last time, we start by looking at what type of organisations give the best chance for procurement people to have a decent chance of making it to the top. Don’t join an investment bank if you want to be  a main board procurement person!

We then suggest that it is both the importance of the area being represented by a Board appointment (the function, geography or whatever) AND the qualities of the individual that determine whether the person has a chance of making it to the Board. Why do so many “communications” VPs get to the very top? It’s not because they run huge departments or manage huge budgets often - perhaps because they’re really good communicators and impressive people themselves!

However, we’re not looking in this paper at the question of how procurement as a function can be recognised as deserving of the seat at the top table – we are focusing here on individuals. And, as we say, the personal angle is critical:

“If procurement doesn’t already have that board representation, then the board has to want both and the function and you personally to step up to that level. And in some sense, the individual may be the primary driver. Even if there’s recognition that procurement is important enough to deserve a seat on the bard, it won’t happen if the CPO is not personally credible”.

We then move onto the three typical  roles of a board member. In broad terms, they are:

1. They are there to represent their business unit, functional specialism, geography or similar element of the overall organisation.

2. They are expected to contribute to the overall business strategy, issues and direction of the organisation.

3. They fulfill some sort of governance role, which may even have regulatory or statutory drivers.

(In my experience this is true even of non-executive roles, where the third role may be stronger but the specialism is still usually important).

So they are the three roles to think about in terms of positioning yourself for future success. And next time we feature the paper here we’ll dig into those three in more detail, and get into just how procurement people can demonstrate their readiness to operate at this top level. But do download the paper now. We’re confident any senior or ambitious procurement person will find it interesting and, we hope, useful!

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