Malcom Harrison – the Next CIPS CEO Speaks (Part 2)

Malcolm Harrison

In part 1 of our interview with Malcom Harrison, who will take over as the new Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) chief executive in the summer, we talked about why he was interested in the role.

Moving on, it is obviously too early for him to have many specific views on CIPS, or at least to disclose them, but he did make one interesting comment about the Institute’s relevance.

“Both you and I started with Mars, who frankly didn't have much time for the Institute back in the 1980s”, he said.  Indeed, that was true. It was after Mars, when he worked for Bass, that Harrison first got involved with CIPS and was inspired by past presidents such as Roger Keeling (at Whitbread, so in the same industry) and Les Mosco. So Harrison has a pretty balanced view of CIPS, we suspect.

“I've not always been personally positive about every aspect of their work - whether it was relevant to the different actors on the procurement stage.  But I've perhaps gained a different perspective since working in the public sector.  So I'm very positive about where CIPS is today, and I do see the opportunity to make sure it is as relevant as possible to a wide audience”.

I asked him in a slightly light-hearted manner how he felt about the travel implications of a global Institute - Africa, Dubai, Singapore, Australia ... That got him chuckling!

“I will do what is needed, but I can assure you it is unlikely to be anything compared to the travel I've had to take on in previous roles! Remember, Nestlé has operations in around 80 countries”.

Indeed, I do remember meeting Harrison one Thursday in London during his Nestlé time and he was onto his third continent of the week. I wasn't completely sure he really knew he was in London!

“Anyway, I believe the CIPS teams around the world are pretty self-contained and I won’t travel for travel’s sake. But I hope I can bring some value because I have had first-hand experience of working in many of those regions where CIPS is developing a presence and working successfully”.

That took us into me asking about the recent announcement of CIPS hiring Bill Michaels in the USA – “I’m aware of that, but I don’t know Bill and can’t really comment at the moment” was all Harrison wanted to say, but that potential North American expansion will no doubt be high on the agenda.

While he didn't want to talk too specifically about his likely approach, quite understandably at this stage, he did say this.

“I am keen to find practical ways to help procurement professionals deliver value - and I'd stress the practical aspect. I also think it's about skills and confidence. If we can help give people both of those,  then the repositioning of procurement we’ve talked about so much and all those questions about the ‘seat at the top table’ should be answered naturally. That confidence is key though”.

And one final comment from him in terms of his own philosophy, which is particularly interesting given the job he's been doing for the last couple of years in government.

“Procurement’s role is to manage the supply base, and it's not just about how to save money - it's more about how to spend money wisely, to achieve best value”.

Of course we totally agree with that (and see our briefing paper titled “Three occasions when procurement should spend more” if you are interested in that distinction!)

But that's a good place to leave the interview. We can't in all honesty think of a better candidate for the CIPS role, so while it is dangerous to tempt fate, at this point we would congratulate the Institute for identifying and attracting Harrison and wish him the best in the new role.

We will no doubt come back both to CIPS matters and to where CCS might go next without him, and the issues facing that organisation in the coming months. But for the moment, our thanks to him for sparing 20 minutes at the very end of what I’m sure was a long working week.


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