Celebrating Cynics – don’t believe me if I tell you, don’t believe a word

We’ve been celebrating cynics in this series, looking at why procurement people need to be aware and switched on in areas such as cartels, monopolies and where conflicts of interest might prevail. In our post today on the topic, we look at simply not taking what you read or hear at face value.

What we mean by that is the issues around believing what we are told in a procurement and supply chain context, without objective verification or evidence. That covers a multitude of sins, from selecting suppliers to performance management, but again a touch more cynicism might help in many cases.

It all starts when we read promotional material from potential suppliers. That software firm’s website saying their product has “a long track record of successful implementation in major customer firms” can mean anything from a SAP-like market dominance to something that we sold a copy of a few years back to a now-bankrupt furniture maker in Aylesbury.

The same thing applies but with additional importance when it comes to supplier selection processes. I’m sure all our experienced readers will know that assertions in tenders and bids really need to be supported by facts and evidence. Tell me where and when you have done this before, not just that you think you can do it for my firm. There’s no doubt that exaggeration and sometime seven outright lying happen all the time in bidding situations – get your cynics hat on when y sit as an evaluator!

Then we come to performance management once a contract is in place. The issues with the UK’s Ministry of Justice prisoner tagging contracts were an example of suppliers providing information that was vital in the context of contract performance measurement and indeed payment. Whilst the MoJ reacted well once they realised there was a problem, for too long information from suppliers had been accepted at face value without enough in the way of checking or digging beneath the surface to validate what was being provided. A few more cynics again would have been useful.

And we haven’t even got onto individuals and HR situations. I remember being involved in recruitment some years back and receiving what looked like a good cv. On the list of previous jobs, it said “Purchasing Manager – Dairy” for a particular firm and period. Fine, except that had been my exact role at that exact time! It was an old colleague of mine actually from a somewhat different area, exaggerating his importance and wanting to have a more procurement focused cv.

Actually, one great plus with the digital world is that LinkedIn and other tools make it harder for people to lie on applications. But even so, keep your wits about you, and like the other areas discussed here, always look for transparency, supporting evidence and clarity when we’re considering any information or data from anyone.

First Voice

  1. Nick @ Market Dojo:

    This can equally apply in the other direction as a supplier when you receive an RFP through the door asking for a gazillion users and list of features as long as your arm! Cynically you can’t help but wonder whether such an organisation will even use a fraction of what has been asked for. Still, can’t blame them for shooting for the stars and settling for something more realistic once the responses come back.

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