Zycus Horizon Dispatch 7 – What We Can Do About CPOs Getting Fired

Continuing our coverage of Bill Michael’s keynote at the Zycus event exploring why chief procurement officers (CPO) get fired, we come to arguably the most important part – what procurement executives can do about it. Bill suggests that CPOs should prioritize a number of areas to not only keep their jobs, but grow within the organization. These include focusing on:

  • Cost and value – factoring in not just unit cost, total cost and hard dollar savings, but quantifying the overall value delivery to the business – based on how the business measures value
  • Innovation – which could include tapping supplier innovation and ideas
  • Talent improvement – creating a respected group within the organization at all levels that can engage the business versus just respond to it
  • Internal and external collaboration – all aspects of working with peers

As to specific tips to keeping one’s job as CPO, here are 10 specific tips Bill suggests:

  1. Build a team with top-class talent – but be realistic about it. Answering the following questions can help gauge talent: Can a team generate value in business terms? Are they bringing innovation into the organization? Can they do detailed market, category, cost breakdown and other analyses and share these with business stakeholders and earn their respect?
  2. Report to the CEO – if you don’t report to the CEO, you’ve failed. Reporting to CFO or COO is a major strike against you.
  3. Understand metrics and the management attitude toward them. In this regard, cost reduction is one metric.
  4. Build appropriate metrics and invest in technology that keeps you abreast of business.
  5. Understand the value in alignment in the organizational strategy with the supply chain.
  6. Always keep your eye on supply chain risk.
  7. Hone your skills and team in collaborating internally and externally.
  8. Monitor mega-trends an change the organization to align with future needs.
  9. Drive innovation – wherever and how ever possible! And, get credit for it.
  10. Keep your networkalive – in case you end up looking for a position in the end, anyway. Of course keeping the network alive has other benefits as well


Spend Matters will soon be releasing an entirely new site focused on the Chief Procurement Officer. Stay tuned as we all try to elevate the function – and increase the respect and tenure of procurement executives.

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First Voice

  1. Peter Smith:

    Respect to Bill, but reporting to the CFO or COO is not the end of the world. the vast majority of CPOs around the world do that – rather than reporting to the CEO – and I wouldn’t count them all as failures.
    And I think the lists here miss one HUGE point – getting the respect of your senior peers. Most of the CPOs I know personally who got fired lost the respect, fairly or unfairly, of senior peers – or pi***d them off so thoroughly – that they lost their jobs.

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