CIPS Congress, the history and future of procurement

I talked about last Friday’s CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) dinner here, and how it celebrated the end of the CIPS Council. The new Congress will be in place for the next meeting after the summer.

Council was the governing body of the Institute – members of Council were the Institute’s trustees. The new Congress won’t have that role, as the much smaller Board of Management will also be the trustee body. I had some concerns about this when it was proposed – mainly because of the power it concentrates in a few hands, and as the Board will not be elected directly by members, you can see how that might prove an issue.

But on Friday, I had an interesting conversation over dinner with Karen Van Vuuren, a Board member who comes from and works in South Africa. She’s an impressive woman, very articulate generally and strong in her support for CIPS and Congress.  She pointed out that Council members, because of their trustee status, were not representing directly the CIPS membership. (That is true – in my time we used to specifically tell Council members this. They weren’t to think of themselves like constituency MPs!)

However, Congress members will be directly elected, and will have a constituency of “their” members who will vote for them. That is also going to give more direct representation to non UK based members, something that van Vuuten was also, not surprisingly, very positive about.

It was good to see her passion for CIPS, what it is doing and can do all over the world to improve procurement. That in turn can improve the governance and economies of many countries. If the CIPS governance structure can support this better, then maybe it is the right move.

I did express my concern – not completely allayed – that Congress won’t have any real power and the Board will become an overly powerful clique. Van Vuuren acknowledged that risk, but as we said on Monday, making Melinda Johnson the first Chair of Congress is a smart move. If anyone can ensure that Board listens to Congress, it’s her.

1955 - Philip Brown's 1st CIPS meeting, and Elvis hits the scene

Going back to our dinner last Friday, the excellent speech from Philip Brown, who was President of CIPS in 1974 and attended his first branch meeting in 1955, put the progress of the Institute and of the procurement profession in perspective. Looking at the global reach and scale of the Institute, it’s clear we’ve come a very long way since 1955, or indeed  since the origins of CIPS in 1932. We should celebrate that.

But we also need to look ahead. CIPS gave us all a report called 80:20 Vision, looking at the profession over next 20 years, which I haven’t read properly yet – but will. And also last week Jason Busch (my US colleague) was over for a few days. We spent quite a lot of time, both in a session with a very forward thinking client and amongst ourselves, thinking about where procurement is going. So over the summer we’ll be looking at that topic in more depth, and we’ll aim to stimulate some comment and argument amongst our readers and perhaps the wider procurement community.

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