Procurement Activities for the Long Hot Summer – Embracing Stakeholders

In the last of our short “what you can do in the holidays” articles, we’ll look at stakeholders. We are considering some useful tasks that can be undertaken during August, when half the office are at the beach, the trains and roads (during the week anyway) are that little bit quieter, and the sun beats down from a perfect blue sky – OK, maybe not the last of those if you’re in the UK! But often we do have a little more discretionary work time over the summer months.

“Managing stakeholders” has become almost a cliché for procurement people. We all talk about it, some people even actually do it, not many really approach it in a structured manner. But the opportunity in the summer is simply to use those free slots in your diary – and the stakeholders’ diaries – to get that bit closer to them. Offer to take them out for a cup of proper coffee, or maybe even a glass of something stronger, although it is worth checking they don’t have firm views about abstinence first before you say “how about a few pints tonight?”

One of the key aims with stakeholders is to get them to realise that you are “on their side,” assuming they are not working against the best interests of the organisation, of course! But too often, procurement is perceived as that blocker, a function that is going to make their lives more difficult, not easier. So one purpose of developing those relationships is to get to the point where procurement is perceived as a positive resource – and that even any governance role we are playing is for the benefit of everybody concerned. Not always easy messages to get across over a quick coffee, but the personal contact will help.

The other great help in terms of managing stakeholders is the common enemy. When I was CPO, my relationship with the CIO improved hugely at NatWest during the period we were fighting the takeover battles. Suddenly it was very clear that we were actually on the same side – my sole aim in life was not to make his IT projects late, which is maybe how he had once felt. Now you can’t always have something quite as extreme as Fred Goodwin beating down your door, but if there is some external threat, then that can help in getting stakeholders to see that you’re not the enemy.

Anyway, enjoy your coffee, glass of wine or whatever with your CIO, Brands Manager, Engineering Director or whoever, and take that summer lull as an opportunity to work on those key relationships.

And before we know it, we’ll be writing articles here about Christmas.

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