Monday 15 October 2012

Stakeholder Engagement is often the solution

Following yesterday's blog sharing the potential root causes of purchasing problems I'm jumping straight to Stakeholder Engagement. That is ineffective or no stakeholder engagement is a common cause to many purchasing problems. 

There's a number of reasons I start here not least that a few weeks ago I promised Laura a blog on this. Another reason is I saw a picture of the Dalai Lama on facebook today taken during a talk entitled 'Finding common ground' and shouted "Yes" very loudly and realised now was the time for the blog. As I type this I can also hear "This is the time, this is the place" wafting across the airwaves from the radio in the kitchen :-). So I guess I have no excuses!

What does stakeholder engagement mean to you?

No - please don't rush to read on and find out what I have to say - please do take some time to think about what it means for you and in your work. Who would you define as your stakeholders? What contribution do they have on the work that you do? and on its success? What contact do you have with them currently? and what is the format and style of that contact?

Stakeholders can include customers and suppliers but for the purposes of this blog I want to concentrate on internal stakeholders. Internal stakeholders - that for purchasing might include operations, manufacturing, quality, engineering, design, new product development, finance, marketing, sales, accounts payable, facilities, legal etc. This list will also include the senior leadership team and other senior managers.

As a result the answer to "what contribution do they have on your success?" is "HUGE" - you can't do it without them. Well that's a lie - you can go off and tender and put in place a contract without them. True success for the business, however, is in unlocking the value and that is only achieved when they use the contract - and they won't do that if you've told them what to do without asking for their:
  • Involvement
  • Input
  • Ideas
  • Potential pitfalls
  • Problems to solve
  • Goals
  • Understanding
  • Permission
  • Support
I've heard it all before why engagement isn't possible and it's all poppycock!
  • "If we tell them what purchasing is all about they'll then do it themselves" - in reality if we take time to tell them the full breadth of that purchasing involves and the skills needed they'll realise they can't and don't want to do it and would welcome our input.
  • "They just won't listen to us" - so change how you communicate with them - it's up to you to communicate in a way that facilitates others listening.
  • "We don't have time" - how much time does it take to sort out the problems arising from putting the wrong contract in place?
  • "They don't want to save money" - having common goals and language is imperative and purchasing goals need to be understood and supported by the whole business. You can't agree them in isolation.
  • "If we involve them they'll just tell us we have to use their favourite supplier" - and will continue to do so irrespective of what you do unless you both go on a journey to discover what supplier is right for the business.
I recently facilitated a procurement project kick-off meeting. One of the internal stakeholders said "This is great - in the past I've had to persuade my team to use suppliers purchasing have put contracts in place with without any of us knowing why we've changed supplier and the benefits we should be seeing. Especially when we've seen problems increase not decrease. Today's meeting has helped me understand the tools and criteria you use and will help me support what you do. Thank You." and more importantly followed by "Do let me know what I can do to help."

Isn't that what we want - finding common ground so that our choices are supported by those who have to implement them?

What will do today to improve your stakeholder engagement?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for effective stakeholder engagement in purchasing

Collaborative hands picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

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