Influencing Change: Addressing Bad Procurement Behavior

The bigger the organization, the more political the decision-making process is – a maxim all too familiar to most of us. Sourcing, by definition, will step on numerous toes as it navigates the shark infested organizational waters toward better total cost and value outcomes. Internal silos and fiefdoms will have to be cracked open in order to create the best results.

Along the way, as we have all seen, many worthwhile initiatives fail for the lack of adoption sword – the unimplemented savings – as the industry euphemism goes for the negotiated savings that the sourcing team created, but the business users passive-aggressively ignored. Even worse, relationships, both internal and external, take a turn for the worse as toes are crushed under a well intended, but perhaps awkwardly placed, sourcing boot. Some stakeholders run for the mattresses and start sniping you. Others approach the procurement challenge as a no-knock, no-survivors SWAT team effort, doing more harm than good; equally destructive of long-term trust with stakeholders and suppliers.

An actual example of a challenge – a category manager in a large procurement organization conducted an RFQ that identified millions of dollars (double-digit percentage) in polybag savings. Those savings went totally unrealized as the business users were unwilling to cooperate in the reallocation of business.

How to address this? How to change this behavior? How to get participants to adopt more constructive methods of engagement? And how to do it without rolling out infuriating HR methods that turn people away?

Earlier this year, at the annual ISM conference, I interviewed Barbara Ardell, who is currently with Paladin Associates, and previously in procurement with Fortune 100 firms as well as with leading sourcing solution providers. Over the years, Barb has seen more counterproductive sourcing behavior than she'd probably care to.

My ISM interview centered on her new program - Influencing Change - a procurement adaption of an already successful approach (Influencer by VitalSmarts) to general business challenges. Barb thinks she has found a way to fix these challenges – and she has also gotten Fortune 500 buy-in. Fortune 50 clients even! Her early adopters of the program have provided her with a stream of praise, which I will not repeat for fear of sounding sycophantic. That said, I am at the top of her list to get to speak with clients, something that I plan to get around to later in the year. (I have also taken part in her very first training session that I found quite promising – and Barb has since improved it further.)

Until then, the best way to learn more is to listen to the webinar she recently recorded for the ISM Carolinas/Virginia affiliate. This webinar explains how the Influencing Change approach can help modify destructive procurement behavior and help drive spend under management in a positive way.

There is still time to sign up for Barb’s two-day Influencing Change training session in Winston-Salem on Oct. 2-3. This is being offered at a substantial discount versus public training and is tailored specifically to procurement. But hurry, the registration deadline is Sept. 15. Click here for more information and to register.

For those who have participated in one of Barb's activities, please reach out to me (thomas at spendmatters dot com), I'd like your take on this, and promise not use your name unless you insist!

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