Football managers, procurement leaders – you’re only as good as your last big game

Some years ago, a friend of mine worked for Bechtel, the privately owned and hugely successful programme management and engineering firm. It was then, and still is, privately owned by the Bechtel family.

He remembers a speech given by the CEO, Riley Bechtel,  to all the staff (via video link – very advanced in those days) during which Mr Bechtel wore a baseball cap and used analogies about baseball batting averages, win loss ratios and so on to make his points about the business.

Mick McCarthy - the last premiership maager to be fired

I’m not sure how this went down in Manchester or Manila, but his central point was that you're only as good as this season's performance – no resting on your laurels at Bechtel. And that got my friend and I talking about whether being a procurement leader– a CPO or similar – was becoming more like being a football or baseball manager? Are organisations becoming less patient and more demanding in terms of expecting to see rapid improvements and results delivered by their top procurement people?

It's hard to tell of course – it is not an area where a lot of data is collected, although it would be interesting to know what recruitment specialists think. Do they see any trends? And while some people and firms have seen pretty rapid turnover at the top levels, there are still CPOs around who have been in place or in the same organisations for many years.

But as it slowly becomes easier to measure procurement performance more credibly (as systems and technology drive greater transparency), I suspect we will see more of what we might call the Mick McCarthy syndrome - “you've done a decent job for the last couple of years Peter, but the savings, stakeholder satisfaction and compliance numbers this year just aren't good enough. Goodbye”.

In any case, thinking about performance in terms of this “season” isn't a bad discipline for all of us. So  - what's your won / drawn / loss record so far in 2012?!

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