Being a CPO – five things I wish I’d done as a procurement leader (part 2)

Here is the second post in our series relating back to my time as a CPO.  (I was European Procurement Director for the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation in the early 90s, then became Procurement Director for the Department of Social Security, and my final CPO role was as Group Procurement Director for the NatWest banking group).

My purpose is very much to help others. I think I’m most unlikely to do a CPO role ever again, so I’m hoping some readers might avoid some of my mistakes – and even learn from the odd success!

No. 2 - I wish I’d been more sociable with my senior peers and colleagues. 

Looking back, I think I was reasonably effective in the formal stakeholder management situations – giving a presentation to the Board or the like. But I could have been better in terms of that senior stakeholder management if I’d cultivated my relationships with some key senior colleagues better. I’m particularly thinking about my time at NatWest and I’m talking about the CIO, the Group Property Director, CFOs and COOs for the major divisions of the bank – the people who were critical to the credibility, acceptance and indeed performance of my procurement team.

What brought it home to me was when NatWest found itself in the takeover battle with RBS and the Bank of Scotland. In adversity, the senior managers got to see each other much more often, and I got far closer to people like the CIO than I had before, and actually ended up with a good relationship with him and most of the others. But why hadn’t I got to that point earlier? A little natural reticence, maybe the fact that most of the people were a bit older than me and I hadn’t been with the firm long... I don’t know.

But certainly one thing I could and should have done was the “fancy a beer sometime” tactic. Or coffee, lunch, whatever. Of course, we would have talked work, even if we had gone to the local pub. But just to get into a less formal situation might have helped in having some of those potentially challenging discussions about working together, roles and responsibilities and so on. To chat about the tensions between IT and procurement, or how we could do a better job to support the retail bank change programme would have been useful to all parties.

Because however brilliant our category strategies or engagement roadmaps, relationships do still matter, and nowhere more so than in how we interact with our critical internal stakeholders. And I could have done better.

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