Three Lessons from LeBron James for Procurement Organizations

Spend Matters welcomes another post from Santosh Nair of GEP.

Love them or hate them, it is hard to ignore the Miami Heat. And the same applies to LeBron James and his current winning streak. He was recently selected as the most valuable player in the NBA for the fourth time in five years. In the current NBA season, we saw a 27-game win streak for the Heat and LeBron James averaged 26.8 points, 7.3 assists and 8 rebounds per game. Such performance is worth studying, and several lessons can be drawn for the profession of procurement. Here are the top 3 lessons from LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Talent is king.

Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat recognized the need for the right talent to win championships. While Cleveland relied solely on LeBron James to deliver, Miami was able to attract 3 talented players with complementary skills (LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade). Similarly, many procurement organizations either do not invest in attracting the right talent or identify talent only in some areas. I have seen several organizations that have high levels of competency in sourcing but lack effective supplier management or other capabilities. Attracting, retaining and empowering strong leaders in areas such as spend management, sourcing, contract management, supplier management, logistics and AP are critical for procurement organizations.

Establish structures and processes to support the talent.

When Miami recruited LeBron, quite a few massive egos were suddenly put together for the first time. Their first season together, LeBron and Wade couldn’t figure out who would be the go-to guy on the team. They played too many different positions and didn’t know how to work well together. But they got things together in the second season, and The Heat figured out who was relatively the best at each role and succeeded because of it. In procurement organizations, it is crucial to establish the right organizational structure, operating processes and metrics to support leaders. Many organizations continue to operate under legacy structures and processes, which may not have evolved for today’s organizational priorities. If you have not taken a hard look at your group’s operating structures and processes in a long time, it may be time to benchmark those against industry best practices and make suitable adjustments to reach peak performance.

Develop long-term relationships.

While talent, structure and processes have helped Miami perform consistently, there have been several gaps in the way the group has managed its relationships with key stakeholders. The battle began the moment 10 million people watched LeBron James break up with the Cleveland Cavaliers on ESPN. Many procurement organizations let short-term cost pressures create similar adverse relationships with key stakeholders, including internal operations and external suppliers. Creating a culture of long-term high performance through the application of cost efficiencies, supplier innovation and excellent internal customer service is the best way to develop these relationships and create a virtuous cycle of results.


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First Voice

  1. bitter and twisted:

    I despise these sporting analogies.

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