Paula Gildert, new CIPS President and procurement “seats at the top table”

The current edition of Supply Management has more “worth reading” content than any I’ve seen for a while, and amongst the interesting features is an interview with Paula Gildert, the new President of CIPS, and in her day job the global head of development strategic sourcing for Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Paula Gildert, new CIPS President

She makes some interesting comments (we’ll come back to one later) but I was left a little unclear as to whether she intends to have a definite “theme” for her Presidential year. Supply Management reports:

“Gildert’s plan for her CIPS presidential year, which begins this month, is to support the institute’s mission to lead global excellence in procurement and supply”.

If that is her theme for the year, it seems a bit broad – it’s not exactly a measurable goal. The best presidential themes have been those that translated into clear action that the President, and others, could take to make a real difference. David Smith’s theme last year around attracting people into the profession was probably the best example I’ve seen of this – you could see how that linked to specific activities such as the CIPS negotiation challenge in schools, and Smith’s personal efforts to get out and promote the cause.

Back to Gildert - she goes on to talk very sensibly about moving away from savings as the key measure of our contribution and being able to talk about wider value propositions – maybe that is closer to a tangible theme. Again though, it would be good to see or think about how that might be translated into CIPS action?

She has other interesting things to say, not least this.  “We’re past asking for a seat at the table - I believe I have one because I have something valuable to say”.

I think that’s a good point, and I agree that we shouldn’t be apologetic about what we do – however, the degree of confidence does have to be tailored to the maturity of the organisation we’re working in.

And there is a cautionary note to the “seat at the table” argument.  It mustn’t tip over into procurement being seen as arrogant (and I know that isn’t what Gildert meant). There’s still a lot more we can and should do as a profession to improve our capability and performance. I’ve also just had a look at the Novartis website. The “executive committee / senior management” page lists 13 executives. As well as their divisional general managers, there is an Human Resources person, heads of both Quality and Communications, a general counsel and of course a CFO.

But no procurement.  So whilst we might have a seat at more tables these days, and better tables, we’re still not at the top table in many, many organisations. More work to do, brothers and sisters, more work to do....

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