Dr Ian George on Procurement Transformation – Personal Growth

We’re delighted to feature the next post in the series on Procurement Transformation from Dr Ian George. Ian is a senior partner and practising consultant at Agile Partners, has an engineering background, and has worked in procurement for the past 20 years. His doctorate looked in detail at procurement transformation programmes. In this post he looks at Personal Growth. 

Competence is the application of skill, knowledge and experience to deliver specified outcomes. Most people demonstrate this by presenting their CV with a few lines about what they have done and a few pages about the courses they have been on. For anyone tasked with procuring a full complement of capable people this inverse proportionality can be a great filter for sifting the wheat from the chaff. Personal development is about carefully managing the mix between theory and its practical application in a way that yields demonstrable results. I often look at examination results and wonder how they can rise year after year. In 2010 in the UK it was the 23rd year in a row; a statistical probability of 1.2x10-7 or put another way, a bit unlikely. The dumbing down of courses at all levels has been rampant for many years. As such, the CV is no longer the dependable barometer of past or potential achievement.

Rarely does training tend to pose any major issues for delegates as long as the material presented is comprehensive enough to guide them through the course. It’s often seen as a bonus if the relationship to their activities back at the workplace reminds them of the reason they are there. The main problems with training and development programmes tend to occur during the implementation phases, the time when the organisation is hoping to get a return on its investment, where the lack of experience impedes people’s ability to confidently select the most appropriate course of action. Although training provides a foundation of knowledge on which to base decisions, the nuances of individual situations present unknown issues that cannot be feasibly mitigated within a classroom environment. Therefore, the provision of expertise within the workplace is an expedient necessity rather than a lavish luxury. This can be an investment if students leave the classroom knowing that the expectations placed on them will be different when they get back, as will the environment within which they will be expected to operate.

The critical issue is one of balancing the immediate support needs of individuals with their need to experience problems and work through them. In some situations this can lead to malcontent and a refocusing of priorities onto the needs of the struggling individual rather than the organisation and its objectives. This can be hugely detrimental to the aims of the development strategy and thus some work may be needed with the leadership team, as sponsors, to ensure they maintain a balanced competency development emphasis on the organisation, its people and the outcomes that should be unambiguously demanded.

I once had experience of working with the leadership team of a multinational to help them understand their role in leveraging the Six Sigma programme that had been launched. It was with incredulity that I discovered over 100 Green Belt students working independently of each other on almost identical projects across the world in a company that was losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Train people and make it a virtue to learn, but make sure those competencies are demonstrated back in the workplace in terms of both practice and outcomes before anyone gets credit for the courses they attend.

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