CIPS Licence for Procurement Professionals idea – further thoughts

Not only have we had lots of intelligent and interesting comments on Spend Matters about the CIPS Licence to Practice idea, I’ve managed to have a few discussions on the topic – off the record generally – with people in and around CIPS.  The message I’m getting is that perhaps this isn’t a “policy” quite in the sense that I would understand the word. I’m being told that “this is about getting the debate going”, or “we want to explore these ideas further”.

However, I’ve also seen in the last few days for the first time the full CIPS “White Paper” as it’s called on the topic. And that doesn’t use the language of further discussion and debate – it says things like “this Programme will require government intervention to ensure standards are met” and “We are already in discussion with a number of CEOs of major multinational organisations who are fully behind this proposition”.

So I think CIPS owes it to its members to be clear on this. Is it a policy that has been agreed as the CIPS official line? Or is it a thought-provoking idea that we need to discuss further in our community and decide whether it becomes official CIPS policy? It seems to me there is quite a difference between those two positions – you won’t be surprised to know I’m in favour of the second.  It seems to me that this should really have been a CIPS “Green Paper”, which is a more consultative, open-ended government paper, rather than the more definite "White Paper" which is often a pre-cursor to new legislation.

I was asked in the course of these discussions why I was so against the idea of the Licence – or was it more about simply being a good story for Spend Matters? The answer is both of course, it is a great story for us to feature, but I am fundamentally against the idea for two main reasons. First of all, I just can’t see that it could ever work, for a number of reasons – see our list of questions here.

And secondly, I don’t think it shows CIPS in a particularly good light or positions the Institute correctly from a strategic point of view.  I think there are other things CIPS could and should be doing to help organisations improve their overall procurement performance that are more practical and more clearly valuable. The Licence looks too much like a bureaucratic, protectionist, trade union (literally) proposition, even if that is not how it is meant.

But I fully accept that there is worthwhile discussion to be had. I don’t like the idea of legislation, or overly formal licences, but I’m right behind the idea of making the “Chartered” status mean more for individuals who have it or get it.

And I support what I think are David Noble and his CIPS colleagues’ underpinning objectives. I believe they are looking to strengthen the professionalism of procurement; to get greater recognition of the importance of procurement skills, knowledge and capability; and to help organisations avoid supply chain and procurement disasters.

It’s hard to disagree with those and I certainly don’t. So, I’m not going to stop opposing the Licence idea, but I’m happy to take the debate forward. Given that it does feel like we’re at some sort of inflection point for procurement, how should CIPS respond to that, in order to benefit the profession, organisations, its members and the wider world?

First Voice

  1. Phoenix:

    In the old days, a proposal like this would have been properly debated and, eventually, decided upon by the old CIPS Council. There may have been a recommendation, perhaps a strong one, made by the CEO, the serving President and the Board of Management, but the ultimate decision was the responsibility of the superior body. Nowadays, our lean, mean and modern Board of Trustees takes these decisions, in theory at least. You can forget the intervention of the Congress, which, well-meaning and honourable though its members are, has no executive authority.

    I’d very much like to know whether this policy (or whatever it is) has been debated by any part of CIPS’s internal decision-making structure, or whether there are plans to. And, if not, why not?

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