Dr Ian George on Procurement Transformation – Ways of Working

Continuing the theme of Procurement Transformation, we’re delighted to feature the next in the series from Dr Ian George, a senior partner and practising consultant at Agile Partners. In this post he looks at ways of working. 

The improvement demands placed on organisations by their customers often elicit responses such as “The customers don’t understand the sector” or that “The problems being experienced are a regrettable fact of life, it’s always been this way.” During the initial stages of any situation these views need to be listened to and recognised, but not necessarily accepted. The organisation is starting from where it is, not where it needs to be, and it is important to signal that change will always be required. Accomplishing this sustainably can be achieved by setting demanding targets that require changes to the organisation’s ways of working. This in turn requires them to develop new competency sets, based on new requirements. Enabling this approach requires a great deal of connected thinking between the different parts of the enterprise, how it will work and how the requisite improvements can be delivered.

The process-based approach is a cornerstone of building long-term competitive advantage. Ohno* once said “If we know the best way of doing something then why would we do it any other way?” Simply applying best known practice in a consistent manner across an organisation is an achievement in itself. Improving on this then becomes a compelling scenario that is difficult to ignore legitimately. In turn, the growing pool of skills, knowledge and expertise leads to greater understanding of the enterprise and a more rapid development of significant improvement. The importance of this virtuous circle is based on recognition of the need to standardise working practices so that everyone involved understands what is being done, why it is being done and the impact of their actions on those around them and, eventually, the end customer.

When implementing these new approaches engagement is a primary enabler. New ways of working need to be co-developed if they are to be accepted and embedded within the daily working practices of staff. Enforcement after the fact is rarely successful, yet a surprisingly common tactic. New ways of working require a collaborative approach to the development and implementation of improvements based on an enabling environment that introduces changes through collective agreement. It is more than the mechanics of best practice, it involves good people doing exceptional things enabled by robust and capable processes.


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