Overblown Claims From CIPS – Top Procurement Pros List Cannot Be “Definitive”

The current edition of Supply Management, the CIPS magazine, is a strong one, with an interesting piece on storytelling, and a good (if unchallenging) interview with Malcolm Harrison, who is leaving Crown Commercial Service any minute now to take up the CIPS Chief Executive post. We’ll come back to that in a later article.

But the other lead article that took our eye – hard to avoid it, as the cover story – was the feature about the CIPS Power List. That is the 30 (plus 10 “up and comers”) top procurement practitioners who have been identified as Jolly Important People in the profession.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Every time you set up a group of people to be “better” in some way than the rest, you run the risk of annoying those who weren’t on it. And what really is it for?  Does it really motivate youngsters in the profession? What is the purpose, other than to give the head-hunters, who were heavily involved in its development, a quick shortlist for any CPO job that comes up? And were all the blokes forced to wear dark suits and look miserable for the cover pic - they aren't the most inspiring-looking bunch, it must be said.

It is also silly to call this “the definitive list of the most influential people in procurement”, when by its own definition, it excludes consultants, contractors, anyone involved with CIPS governance, academics, head-hunters themselves, executives outside Europe, the CIPS CEO himself …

“A list of some reasonably important and influential senior procurement practitioners” would be a better description; calling it “definitive” is simply daft.

It was admirable in some ways for CIPS to say this: “Their relationship with CIPS makes no difference to their inclusion, or not, in the list and they do not have to be CIPS members” but you might argue it somewhat undercuts the whole premise of the Institute. Or perhaps CIPS sees this as a useful list of top people they can persuade to become members (direct entry presumably).

CIPS also excluded its own Board and Congress members, which is quite right (well done on the ethics) but does mean that some strong candidates such as Fabienne Lesbros, Alison Parker, and Sue Moffatt don’t feature. We don’t want to get into personalities too much but there are also some strange omissions – Jim Hemmington who has been very successful, active and visible in the profession for many years in his BBC role, and is involved in other organisations too, is one who immediately comes to mind - as well as the current CIPS European Purchaser of the Year who, rather oddly, is also omitted!

Overall, we also just don’t buy the methodology that is quoted in terms of how people were chosen. Apparently, quoting from the article:

“They … have a successful track record from previous roles as well as being in their current role long enough to have achieved significant outcomes.

External influence – they will have non-executive board positions in listed, private or public bodies.

Influencing the wider profession. They will share their knowledge with the profession via trade magazines, blogs, social media and speaking at events.

Developing others in the function. They will give back to more junior procurement and supply professionals, for example mentoring or speaking in schools”.

But this certainty (they "will"...) clearly has not been applied to the selection. Plenty of these folk have not been in their current jobs long enough for us to know if they are succeeding. Others have as far as I know never spoken at an event or produced a single paragraph of intellectual property to share with the profession. We can’t tell from the outside whether they do the developing others thing, but the vast majority as far as I can check aren’t non-executive directors.  And Julia Brown is based in the US, when this is supposed to be Europe-based.

Really, it does feel like people are listed in the main because they are simply doing big jobs. That gets Gareth Rhys Williams in for instance, as UK government’s Chief Commercial Officer (he doesn’t qualify on several other counts) or explains Andrew Forzani at MOD (really good guy, deserves to be in the list but has not been at MOD long, and doesn’t do much of that wider stuff as far as I know).

In other cases, it just feels like Lucy* Harding’s address book. Why are there two from Sainsburys and no other retailers represented?  I’ve seen or heard nothing to suggest Sainsburys are particularly amazing at procurement, to be honest. No-one from P&G, Mars, Nestle, GSK, IBM, Nissan, Ford, the public sector outside central government …  The “ones to watch” is a bit odd too. It’s not as if they are youngsters; so is it that they haven’t quite proved themselves yet in their current roles? Or are they people CIPS thought would be annoyed if they were excluded?

Look, of the people I know on the list, they are (almost) all very good people. I was invited to contribute to the selection – I said no because of my reservations about the whole idea, but maybe I should have got involved and made suggestions. Anyway, the real proof of its worth will be when we see if this does inspire others, and if CIPS can get the Power List members more involved in the profession; so perhaps we should reserve overall judgement for a while.

*In our original article we said "Sarah Harding". I'd like to think both the talented Girls Aloud member and the finest head-hunter in our profession would take my confusion as a compliment! Apologies anyway and thanks to the reader who pointed this out to me ... 

Voices (4)

  1. Guy Allen:

    I agree Peter, there hasn’t been a decent list since, oh I don’t know, the CIPS Superstars of Procurement back in 2006……

    1. The Guitar Man:

      Couldn’t agree more!

      1. Peter Smith:

        I’m going to find that edition and do a “where are they now” feature on the Superstars e.g. how many in prison, how many lazing around on bicycles … etc….

  2. Effwhitt:

    Peter – Spot on!
    I know many are a little bemused and even appalled at this shameless nepotism. I believe you will find that many of those listed are already part of an informal clique of self promoters. This doesn’t scan well for our profession.

    As you say “daft”!

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