Fat Is Good For You, So Perhaps SRM Is Rubbish?

There was an excellent article in the Times last week about diet, and in particular how very shaky evidence was used  to support the whole move to low-fat diets in the developed world. Matt Ridley explained how selective data was used to make claims that cutting down on animal fat led to better health and longer lives, ignoring for instance the evidence that some ethnic groups ate pretty much nothing but meat and were healthy and long-living!

The more recent evidence suggests that fat is much less of an issue, and that carbohydrates and refined sugars in particular may be more of a health and obesity problem. Yet huge amounts of food products on our supermarket shelves still proclaim proudly “low-fat” – even when they’re crammed full of sugar and indeed salt (another genuine danger in excess). Lean meat, eggs, even butter, all in moderation of course, are now seen generally as positive elements of the diet. I find that quite upsetting, as I almost gave up eggs, which I love, for years because of the whole cholesterol thing.

This is a good example of why we should not automatically trust the scientific orthodoxy, and why we should all cultivate the genuinely scientific approach to life, which always asks for evidence, questions how the evidence is gathered and analysed, and generally takes what we might call a sceptical approach to what we are told. That should be true, whether it is by politicians, scientists or other experts (including bloggers and industry analysts) giving us their views!

And, like almost everything I read in the papers these days, I started thinking about the procurement lessons or relevance. That stimulated the question – what are the procurement orthodoxies that ‘everyone’ believes, but in 20 years time we might shake our heads and wonder why we were so naive or ignorant? What is our equivalent of the “fat is bad for you” argument?

How about the whole belief system around the benefits of aggregation and scale in contracts and negotiation? The view that I’ll always get a better deal if I put all my spend together? (Remember, the UK’s National Audit Office has failed to find any evidence that large buyers got better prices than smaller when they’ve sought such evidence in their reviews of government procurement). Where is the hard evidence of the benefits of aggregation?

Or might we find that “supplier relationship management” was meaningless – that auctioning everything was a much better approach? Or that buyers with really low interpersonal skills actually bring more value than their more apparently inter-personally talented colleagues? I’m not suggesting those are true, by the way, but you never know! Are our strongly held views based on shaky ground?

The point really is that we should always look for evidence, and indeed question the evidence. And that’s true of the latest food fad – gluten-free stuff, probably – or the latest procurement fashion.

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Voices (2)

  1. Dan:

    Supplier rationalisation is another – and it should always be done by a nice, round number, like 10%.

    The new orthodoxy is probably supplier diversity. Again, this is usually by a nice, round number (see the governments target of increasing the usage of SMEs to 25%, although the government has social and economic aims rather than purely commercial).

    It never occurs to people that it rationalisation or diversification shouldn’t be the goal, and that it should be about supply chain optimisation

  2. Graham Smith:

    Interesting notion Peter and one I agree with. One of the reasons that procurement teams aren’t as successful in some organisations as they could or would like to be is the reliance on these ‘truths’ with business partners. It could be argued that none of these ‘truths’ are universal and the blind reliance on them for strategy development is shortsighted. Many of these have a place as a tool to be investigated in solving business problems or delivering against business needs, however, it is the desired outcome that should ultimately dictate procurement strategy and market approach.

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