Dr Ian George on Procurement Transformation – Governance

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. 

As a young man I went through a period of standing up and being counted for the cause of truth and right. After being shot down for the umpteenth time, a wiser sage than I took me to one side and said “You don’t have to play the game, but you do have to know the rules.” Governance defines the framework, ways of working and behavioural norms that the organisation should be encouraging to support the development of a process-based improvement culture and constantly evolving operational environment.

In today’s world significant change is almost an imperative. As such, a defined governance should be used as a core resource for leaders and followers alike. The organisation needs to understand how to position and use its people where they are able to make the greatest contribution. This is a constantly moving game of chess if the enterprise is to keep pace with emerging needs. Counter to historical trends, 'experts' should be encouraged not to take a leadership role. Instead, their role should be to mentor and support the development of a sustainable business, through its people and practices. The role of leader needs to fall to those who will take others along and build them up to do ever greater things.

Because people are a bit unpredictable, processes need to be put in place to act as an organisational framework that enables the flow of value and information between its connected parts. These are often seen as constraining and therefore given lip-service. However, it is critical to develop key processes and guiding principles to which the teams and leaders can reference their actions and progressively develop both their own and the organisation's competencies. The balance needs to be very much in favour of enabling innovation and empowerment, but within a structure that protects the organisation from making critical mistakes or descending into a state of chaos. Over time, many organisations will modify these principles to reflect the evolving nature of their own enterprise. Unless actively managed this can be detrimental if it allowed to reflect and therefore reinforce incumbent bad, or out of date, practices.

After a lifetime of adversarial and dysfunctional relationships, particularly between customers and suppliers, there needs to be a period of ‘retraining’ for both parties in the nature and practice of productive relationships. As time goes by and relationships mature governance can become an advisory, rather than mandatory, resource being superseded by a natural evolution of collaborative engagement. This is a natural space for Procurement to own, requiring a robust understanding and demonstration of the prevailing governance as continual opportunities to bend expectations in pursuit of short-term gain (just this once, I promise) risk derailing the whole initiative. Suppliers know the rules and how to play the game; those that don’t rarely last long enough for us to remember them.

First Voice

  1. Trevor Black:

    What a pleasure to read a focused and commonsense article. Such a refreshing change from the trendy gobbledegook nonsense that is overwhelming our profession and turning off the people we are supposed to be serving.

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