Friday Rant: Applying Newborn Strategies to Managing Corporate Procurement Expectations (Part 2)

Earlier in December, I shared a few analogous procurement and stakeholder management strategies gleaned from Infant Management 101, a course of study that I've been knee deep in for the past few weeks. For the conclusion of this initial post, there are a few more ideas I'd like to toss out that the Spend Matters community might find of interest -- either on the home front or in the office. After all, stakeholders in the business share many of the same universal needs as those we've just welcomed to the world. And the caring strategies for delivering what each requires aren't all that different. Baby diapers must be changed -- as well as corporate diapers, for that matter. But there's advice worth sharing that goes far beyond the scatological. Consider the importance of:

Swaddling -- For those who have no yet experienced parenting or haven't had children in awhile, you might not know what a "swaddle" is. A swaddle is essentially a baby wrapping system that uses a special kid blanket to give newborns a sense of comfort and warmth. But don't think of this and get all touchy feely -- it's really a secret weapon (ahem, a cloth straight jacket) to get the little screamers to shut up. Swaddles in the world of corporate procurement aren't made of cloth. They're made of data (spreadsheets, quite often), they're made of politics, and they're made of results. Swaddle naysayers and screamers by wrapping them so tight they can't squirm out. And then stick a pacifier in their mouth if you must. Better yet, have them swaddle themselves, perhaps without knowing it.

Sleeping through the night -- For all parents of newborns, this is perhaps the ultimate near-term goal. How do you get the little rugrat to sleep from 10:00 PM or so until sunrise (or thereabouts)? Newborns, like many corporate stakeholders, need constant reassurance in the early weeks of parenting that someone is there for them (they also need reassurance in the form of nourishment). Likewise, stakeholders in the business -- of sourcing programs, of working capital improvement initiatives, of P2P roll-outs, etc. -- also need assurance, especially earlier in a program release than later. My advice here is similar to what I'd do with a baby -- sneak in a "topper" bottle as early as possible. This involves sprinkling some rice powder into a regular five or six ouncer, and/or, if possible, finding a way to add another bit of milk above and beyond the usual amount without having the little bugger spit up.

I sometimes take the baby and put a cold washcloth on him head to wake him up (the Busch family equivalent of infant waterboarding, I suppose??) late at night to take a longer feeding. But it works, trust me! The idea is to fill the bellies of the babies (either kind) with enough sustenance to get them through a long as period as possible in a quiet state, minimizing the torture to keep them awake for the longer feeding, if possible. Consider the "topper" equivalent in a corporate procurement and supply chain setting a larger down payment on identified savings at a critical early stage in the process.

Happy, ego-tripping babies -- Babies love mirrors and looking at themselves. So do many corporate stakeholders. But rather than give them a mirror for their cube or office, give them the metaphorical equivalent -- data and reports showing the savings success of programs they're involved with. Just make sure you clean the spit-up, baby acne and all the other analogous maladies off the corporate patient's face first, before he or she looks at the reflection on their work.

I'd continue this rant, but I've got to go enlist the help of some team members to go change a diaper and then take out the pail.

- Jason Busch

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