Thursday 15 January 2015

Collaboration is a dirty word

I don't know if you've noticed - I blog a lot about communication and influencing.

There's one key assumption I'm making when blogging however, and that is that some of this communication and influencing is aimed at procurement's internal stakeholders. I just question sometimes the validity of that assumption.

You see it never fails to surprise me how many procurement professionals still don't spend that much time with internal stakeholders and yet seem to be very quick to complain when those very stakeholders don't use the contracts they've put in place, or don't support the category, sourcing or supplier strategy they've developed.

Let's just try a quick questionnaire:
  • Do you like being told what to do Y/N
  • Do you like your expertise being ignored Y/N
  • Do you understand every aspect of the job your internal customers do Y/N
  • Do you understand the value they deliver to the organisation Y/N
  • Do you understand their strategic objectives Y/N
  • Do you understand the current stresses they're under Y/N
Assuming the majority of answers were No then why would procurement's internal customers like to be ignored, or not understand what procurement does nor the benefits that can be delivered.

If partnership and collaboration are dirty words with suppliers it seems they're just as dirty between procurement and they're internal customers.

Let's just explore the excuses reason's given for not spending more time with stakeholders:
  • "We don't have time" really means the criteria by which procurement is being measured puts a higher value on speed and volume of contracts/strategies signed than the effectiveness of those contracts/strategies. Alternatively they're just putting a higher value on procurement's objectives than their customers'!
  • "They'll want to change our strategy"really means procurement are worried that they've not incorporated all their customers business requirements ie it's not really fit for purpose (see real meaning above).
  • "They'll just say no unless we do it the way they want to" really means procurement think it better to impose a change on their customers than try to influence them - or dare I say it for them to be sponsors for the work we do.
  • "They're just going to resist anyway" really means procurement has not considered the vast array of change management tools for managing resistance to change.
  • "There's too many of them" really means procurement has not mapped their stakeholders nor identified an effective communication plan for managing them.
  • "I know more about procurement than they do" really means procurement don't value the expertise their customers do have.
  • "They just think procurement is all about lowest cost" really means procurement have not trained their customers on the basics of best practice procurement nor sold the benefits of cost (not just price) reduction, revenue increase or risk mitigation. * 
  • "They'll just take the credit for my work" really means procurement doesn't trust others within the business, and/or is more concerned about taking the credit themselves than the outcome. 
  • "We have stakeholder manager's who are responsible for the relationship with them" really means category or supplier manangers are being slopey shouldered and not taking personal responsibility for the customers of their category/supplier.
Do let me know if I've missed any other excuses reasons why procurement are not talking to their internal stakeholders?

Suffice to say it is my firm belief that effective internal stakeholder engagement ensures that business requirements are met and value maximised. I just don't understand why so many procurement teams spend so much time trying to justify why they're not doing it.

Sorry if I'm preaching to the converted - plenty here on how to improve your influencing skills ;-) although I appreciate I've not been walking my talk as outlined in my enlightened procurement blog.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working

* Which raises another excuse "but if we tell them what procurement is all about they'll just do it themselves" which really means we don't think there's that much too procurement and it can be taught in a half or whole day session. From personal experience a half day session will always ensure increased stakeholder support for procurement - because they suddenly realise there's more to it than they thought.

Partnership card shown above from the Frameworks for Change Coaching Process I use in facilitation and coaching ©Innerlinks -

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