Now It’s Time For Implementing the ‘The Big Idea’ in Procurement: Tips From Rio Tinto CFO Chris Lynch

At the Procurious event in late April in London, Rio Tinto CFO Chris Lynch gave one of the most useful talks I’ve heard to date on implementing big ideas in a procurement organization. We’ve previously explored his thoughts (see our earlier posts here, here and here). Today, as we conclude this series, we will discuss how to implement big ideas successfully (remember, few ideas get to this stage, at least those with management- and even board-level support!).

Above all, in implementing big ideas, Chris suggests keeping things simple and introducing the bare minimum of complexity into the equation, at least as those from the outside (of procurement) can see it. Showing early traction and having air cover while a big idea is put through the implementation ringer can be important. Chris’s quotable advice here was not in short supply during the talk. “If you embrace change, it is better to be the architect than the victim,” he suggests, as one example.

While Chris was short on time at this stage during the talk, he jumped to examples of the importance of data in building an ongoing business case for keeping ideas rolling. He gave the example of shifting from traditional trucks (with drivers) to autonomous trucks at Rio Tinto in this regard. Rio was able to prove in its pilots that autonomous trucks were “15% more efficient” than traditional vehicles in mining environments and warranted investment.

In presenting this information, data can be supported with as simplistic and few words as possible. Think in slogans. For example, “the best driver is no driver.” However, always back up the marketing of ideas with information. “Data for procurement ideas becomes important,” as does showing the creation of IP that the company can now own that can provide advantage in the market.

Showing the value and ability to deliver an idea – including traction at all stages of implementation – is absolutely essential in an environment where big ideas are easy fodder for shooting down (at any stage of implementation). Of course, at Rio Tinto it helps that the CEO has a procurement background and can spot procurement-type big ideas – and that the CFO is married to a woman who understands the profession and potential of procurement like few others.

But while such a patron in the form of a CEO who comes from the background “does give procurement a slightly stronger position,” at the end of the day, Chris suggests that making the big procurement idea stick is all “about value and delivery.”

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