Educating non-procurement colleagues – is 15 minutes enough?

It's always good when you get a conference speech that creates a bit of controversy in the audience. Even interesting and well-presented sessions can sometimes feel a bit smooth and uncontentious, with everyone violently agreeing with the speaker.

At the recent CPO Event, we had some impressive speakers, but the ones I enjoyed most were those that caused some raised eyebrows. One came from Trelleborg AB, a global engineering group focused on polymer technology, with headquarters in Trelleborg, Sweden and approximately 15,000 employees, and a revenue of 27 billion SEK (2009).

Trelleborg is a highly devolved company, with hundreds of small business units. So procurement is necessarily devolved, and not every factory or unit has a professional buyer in place. So Jonas Olsson, the VP of Group Purchasing, has had to address both the devolved nature of the busies, and the large number of stakeholders who aren't professional purchasers but have a major influence on the process - or may even be the de facto buyers in their own space.

He’s done some neat marketing of the function, developing a real “brand image” for procurement, but the initiative that caused a little controversy at the event was the introduction of an e-learning package designed for those "causal buyers" as we might put it. That takes them through the basic procurement processes, key issues and so on. Now we were all nodding initially and thinking "what a good idea". But then, he explained that the course contained 50 sub-modules, but the average user “could complete the course in 15 minutes”!

At that point, there was some pushback from the audience. How can you possibly teach people anything useful about procurement in 15 minutes? But Olsson was unrepentant - these are busy people, he said, and better to give them some key points quickly than nothing.

So I could argue three views of this, and I'm still not sure which I subscribe to! What do you think?

a. You can't teach people anything in 15 minutes, this is just window dressing so Trelleborg can feel good that they are "doing something" about the particular issue.

b. It's not ideal - you would like to have hours or days to educate these people - but even in 15 minutes, you can communicate some key points (and perhaps make them aware of when they really should get procurement professionals involved). And let's face it, it has to be better than doing nothing.

c. Three cheers - it's a good starting point, it is surprising how much you can get over in 15 minutes, and there is an intent to build on this anyway with further training.

Indeed, on that final note, an impressive development is that the top 120 managers in the firm are now going to have a whole day’s procurement training. Now that’s a great opportunity to really communicate some important points, and an idea I would wholeheartedly support.

Voices (10)

  1. Jonas Olsson:

    Hi all. If you want to discuss more you can call me +46709551114 but before why don’t you

    do the e-learning to understand better what we have done. Details below.

    Link: http://trelleborgdemo.tictac.se

    User name: Trelleborg

    Code: TicTac

  2. Paul Vincent:

    I think this sounds like a great initiative and other organisations should follow suit. Jonas I would love to know more I will invite you to link in and perhaps we can talk directly about it.

  3. Phoenix:

    I’ve got a 15-minute slot at a major multi-disciplinary conference for our sector in London in a week’s time. I’ll be doing exactly that – trying to get the message across about why getting procurement right is vital to the financial sustainability of a sector spending £10bn on goods and services annually – in that little time frame.

  4. Devron Cariba:

    An interesting topic on raising the awareness of procurement in a business full of business units. The concept appeals to me and I would like to know about the feedback from those who have attended the training and more so the content and structure of the training. It sounds like its initial success was to raise the awareness of procurement but keen to find out what other efforts were implemented in conjunction. Raising the status of procurement is a big issue for most organisations and any lessons learnt can be an asset.

  5. Helen Lumb:

    Sounds interesting and would like to hear more. We want to develop awareness training for senior Academy staff whose main focus is on educational matters but need to be aware of public sector procurement legislation.

    1. Jonas Olsson:

      Hi all. If you want to discuss more you can call me +46709551114 but before why don’t you

      do the e-learning to understand better what we have done. Details below.

      Link: http://trelleborgdemo.tictac.se

      User name: Trelleborg

      Code: TicTac

  6. Dave Orr:

    Peter: You will have to get up even earlier to beat this savvy Swede!

    PS Can Jonas buy jumpers as featured in The Killing? How much??

  7. Jonas Olsson:

    To clarify, we do this e-learning 3 times 15 min and the purpose is to make “people who likes to buy and are not buyers” aware of the purchasing process. We have already seen that people now tend to involve the purchasing function more in these kind of purchases.

    You can not become a purchaser after 45 min and that is not our intention. However, after 45 min you should understand to involve purchasing more and earlier in the process. / Jonas Olsson

    1. Peter Smith:

      Jonas
      Apologies, I misunderstood your remarks on that! 45 minutes against 15 minutes is a big difference. And as you say, it struck me that the main purpose of your innovative initiative was to make sure the people got to “know what they didn’t know” as Donald Rumsfeld might have said. Thanks for your comment!

      1. Jonas Olsson:

        No problem Peter.

        I did enjoy that you did write about our innovative work we do at Trelleborg!

        Jonas

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