Dr Ian George on Procurement Transformation – Finally, Transformation

This is the final post in a compelling series on Procurement Transformation by Dr Ian George, a senior partner and practising consultant at Agile Partners. This article looks at transformation itself. Our thanks to him for such an enjoyable and informative series.

As a procurement leader you have two responsibilities. Firstly, you must ensure the work performed under your control is delivered to the best of your (and your staff’s) ability. Secondly, you must keep looking for ways to improve the ways that work is performed. As Wheeler and Poling have said “Improvement doesn’t have to be hard. Improvement doesn’t have to be profound. Improvement just has to be done.” If you are frustrated with the performance of your organisation then the answer is to do something different – and yes that does have a double meaning depending on whether you are looking at yourself or your organisation. But, in either case it doesn’t mean you have failed. Incapable people fail sooner or later. The vast majority of good people in bad situations also fail, the majority of the rest were simply lucky.

A proactive approach is preferable to recovering a bad situation. Yet, paradoxically, the rewards often go to the heroes that reverse their previous failures rather than the ones that maintain a strong and competent position. Benchmarking and best practice sharing are seen as key enablers of improvement and are often used to identify the next “Me too” strategy. Copying is following, not leading and, upon implementation, often results in the opportunity to be your own organisation’s hero. Our situations are all different and we need to reflect this through learning (not copying) from best practice as a prerequisite for improvement.

Setting a clearly defined course and then taking a step into the unknown is the leaders challenge. The delivery of that challenge is predicated on having a robust process for navigating virgin territory and dealing with the unknowable consequences of each step. Demonstrating this ability is what gives followers the confidence to stay close and keep faith. However, the balance is one of pushing the boundaries hard enough so that the organisation stresses into a new shape, but doesn’t break in the process. This will be a judgement made by those around you, so make sure you understand their appetite for change before stepping forward.

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