Exclusive! CIPS Has Not Appointed a President – Role To Be Reviewed

CIPS has decided not to appoint a new President – for the moment anyway.

In what appears at first to be a surprising move, the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply has opted instead to review the role of the President before taking any action. We understand the decision was made by the Trustees, the group of 12 external folk who oversee the affairs of the Institute, but was fully endorsed by Malcolm Harrison, the Chief Executive.  It was communicated to staff in an internal email last Friday.

This breaks a long tradition of a new President starting every November 1st, as I did way back in 2002. For many years, that was usually a predictable appointment, with the Deputy President (who had usually previously been Chairman of the Board of Management) moving into the Presidential role. But in the last few years, some Presidents have been “parachuted in” without having served time through the governance structure, including the outgoing President, Sam Walsh.

The main driver for this decision is the increasingly complex and global nature of the Institute. Back in the day when the UK dominated CIPS thinking and priorities, a President who was probably a well-known UK based CPO was the usual choice. He or she could easily attend the key gatherings (conference, dinner, graduation etc), get around some branch meetings, and perhaps do the odd Supply Management interview and other light media duties.

But now CIPS is very active in the Middle East, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey, Switzerland and more countries, and is even expanding into the US. That makes it much more difficult for any single individual to execute an ambassadorial role widely and successfully.  A President who works as a CPO in the UK public sector, for instance, might have limited relevance to members working in Singaporean trading businesses, or in Silicon Valley tech firms, and would anyway find it simply impossible to cover the ground needed to do the role real justice.

As the CIPS email says; “… the profession continues to evolve, and CIPS as the professional body must also evolve to ensure we continue to be relevant to members and customers both now and in future.  We need to ensure that our ambassadorial and engagement responsibilities align with this and are undertaken by the right representatives of CIPS across all locations in which we operate”.

We also wonder whether the decision was influenced by the experience of the last two years; Sam Walsh has been a disappointing President, according to most observers. We will say no more about that now, but certainly making his term two years rather than the usual one did not pay off, and the experience might have played into the Trustees questioning the whole role more carefully. (It is worth saying that Tim Richardson, as chair of Trustees, has by all accounts worked hard and successfully during his term, particularly given the difficult circumstances he and others in CIPS faced after the very sad and sudden death of then CEO David Noble in early 2017).

So, going back to the email, “we have decided to take the opportunity to review the role of President, taking into account the evolution of the profession and CIPS, including our ever-expanding geographical coverage.  We have therefore decided not to appoint the next CIPS President whilst we undertake this review.  Important representative activities will continue as usual, and be undertaken by the Group CEO, members of SLT, members of GBT, or other highly respected volunteers”.

That last point is key. We have now had three CEOs in Harrison, Gerry Walsh (as interim) and Noble who were distinguished procurement leaders in their own right, very capable of representing the Institute as both CEOs and professional leaders. The same applies to others within CIPS management, such as Duncan Brock. So along with a pretty strong Trustees group, Congress and others, there is quite a range of people who can represent the Institute.

I do think post-review that it is important for the Institute to have a President – or Presidents – or something along those lines. It is a position for members to aspire to, in addition to the actual work the holder undertakes. But while at first, I was somewhat taken aback by the move, on reflection, I’m supportive of the review and actually rather like the idea that perhaps there might be regional or even country level “Presidents” for the Institute in future.

Anyway, we will watch the developments with interest. We’re also pleased to announce that we will be featuring an interview with Malcolm Harrison here soon, in which we’ll ask him about this and other important issues for CIPS, as he sees them after his first few months in the hot seat.

 

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