Dr Ian George on Procurement Transformation – All One Team

Continuing the theme of Procurement Transformation, we’re delighted to feature the next in the series from Dr Ian George, a senior partner and practising consultant at Agile Partners. In this post he looks at teamwork. 

Taking an organisational perspective always tends to highlight the need to manage the interdependencies between various stakeholder groups. Although this approach is generally accepted as a principle of good practice, its implementation is still far more ambiguous. The strong emphasis on short-term operational problems and the ongoing love affair with departments and organisation charts tends to galvanise discrete areas of the business into action, often reinforcing the disaggregated approach that a functional perspective creates. HR’s desire to classify individuals and highlight difference is compounded by Finance’s preoccupation with budgets and the resulting competition within the organisation for scarce resources. Surely every enterprise should be fighting its external competition, not itself?

To make the shift toward a team-based approach requires a fundamental shift in the strategy used for resolving performance issues. Although problems often need to be resolved quickly, emphasising strategic benefits as the primary driver can have the effect of creating convergent, rather than divergent, solutions to the task at hand. This enables the development of team working by creating mutually aligned imperatives. When people understand how problems are only ever robustly solved by addressing their root-cause, visualising the relationships they have with each other and the impact this can have becomes a powerful force for transformational improvement.

By building this into organisational strategy, the effect of pursuing aligned functional objectives can be to bring functional groups together and combine their competency sets. It may even be possible to develop this concept further by deliberately trying to blur external boundaries resulting in networks of customers and suppliers that work together. Value that flows across enterprises? Now there’s a thought.

This enlargement of the concept of team working raised the significant issue of who should lead the team. Tradition dictated that it should be the strongest ‘customer’ based organisation, but logic and the systems view promotes the concept of leadership being based on dominant (relevant) core competencies. This implies that the leadership role migrates between organisations as the nature of each initiative dictates and progresses. Heard it all before? Then why is it so rare for people to trust each other and work together as a group of adults with a common purpose?

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