There are a several things we take into consideration when approaching a new Procurement Transformation project. When we engage our clients we run through a rigorous preparation process to ensure we are well versed in all aspects of the company’s operations, industry, strategy, etc. The one area that is a little more challenging to get a true sense for is its culture. On the one hand, they have their website and outbound marketing materials where they evoke an idea of their culture, or minimally what they want their audience to perceive as their culture. On the other hand, there are a vast number of websites where employees, past and present, as well as customers and suppliers can rate them, sites like Glassdoor or Yelp for example. These sites give yet another view of the perceived culture, one that is fairly subjective because more often than not those offering their personal opinions come from a place of heightened energy, whether that was from a positive or negative experience. These two avenues needs to be coupled with actual interactions with the company’s personnel through interviews or on the job shadowing, along with site visits and walkthrough the get the full experience of what actually occurs behind closed doors.

I mention all of this because with all of the various components of a Procurement Transformation project I often find myself focusing the most energy around the Role of Procurement. You cannot get a real feel for how Procurement is perceived by its internal peers or external parties by reading a procurement policy or reviewing a website. In fact I’d say the best way to do this is by getting in the trenches with the team for a period of time. It’s one thing to perform 360 interviews with suppliers, stakeholders, leadership, and the Procurement team themselves, while this produces a fairly solid view of the Role of Procurement it still cannot paint the true picture. An analogy that comes to mind is hearing all of the crazy stories from police and emergency personnel on the calls they take and actions that follow. Hearing the stories from multiple viewpoints like the EMTs and the ER staff are one thing, but going along for the ride during an emergency call and seeing the staff in action will produce a very different and realistic interaction. Now, I’m not saying that procurement is akin to saving lives, not always anyway, but I am saying that to really understand someone’s point of view, you need to walk a day in their shoes.

Changing the mindset of Procurement from all ways, inside out/ outside in, top down/ bottom up, all require that baseline understanding of what the Role of Procurement is today and by understanding the history in how it developed. From there, it is critical that all parties take a forward thinking approach to the change. When we sit in sessions with Procurement and talk about the change that we are going to enact, they often site habit and history as a challenge in changing. It’s important to drive home the idea that we need to shed the past and think to the future, the mindset shift needs to start with Procurement and consistently be driven by them. Once everyone starts to see that shift occur, enacting best practices throughout the remaining areas of process, technology, metrics, etc. will become easier.

The Role of Procurement ultimately governs how we drive change. This is not an easy feat but it is possible and will produce lasting change within the organization as a whole.
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Jennifer Ulrich

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