Wednesday 19 April 2017

Alignment of organisational values and procurement behaviours

I remember having a conversation with a supplier’s lawyer who said “we’ve never agreed to doing that” in response to something their MD had very much agreed to. The lawyer even went so far as to say “We’d be mad to agree to doing that.”

When I tell the story about the supplier and buyer taking equal ownership and responsibility for a new additional cost for delivering the service – a cost they could both impact in the future – the solution we developed is often described as fair, or acting with integrity.

When I look up the organisational values of the supplier I find integrity, and doing the right thing - is in fact one of their stated values.

That’s what organisational values are supposed to do – provide some criteria for the behaviours we demonstrate, and decisions we make every day. Not just aspirations, or when things are going well, or for the soft stuff. Values that inform every decision, every day of the year, year in and year out. (It’s certainly how our own personal values work.)

In the case of this supplier the “we’ve never done that before” behaviour was certainly demonstrating doing the right thing.

Do you understand how procurement actions align with your organisation’s values? Are procurement’s actions encompassed in the values statements? 

One company that has included procurement in their values statements is Whole Foods.

On first looking it feels little aspirational and out there, with their higher purpose statement being:

“With great courage, integrity and love – we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish. All the while, celebrating the sheer love and joy of food.

Dig a little deeper, and they have identified a business value that addresses procurement behaviours;

Whole Foods say “Our supplier partners are our allies in serving the interests of our other stakeholders in bringing to market the safest highest quality products available. We treat them with respect, fairness and integrity at all times and expect the same in return.”

I could ask what happens to suppliers who are not partners, but that feels petty when they then go on to identify four behaviours Whole Foods Procurement can be expected to demonstrate:
  •          Honesty and communication
  •          Transparency - farm to fork
  •          Education (of the supply chain)
  •          Innovation and differentiation
How do your actions align with the stated values of your organisation?

If we take common values seen in many organisations, would you agree, and perhaps more importantly, would your suppliers agree that your actions are:
  •          Open
  •          Honest
  •          Respectful
  •          Fair
  •          Integrous
If you used these five criteria each day to determine what you do and how you do it, and also what you choose not to do, would it change how you act?

Last year I was delivering a workshop to a room full of suppliers who said procurement were still like MrWolf. I’d like to think that that’s just the minority of procurement professionals. What do you think? Have we moved with the times, or are we still stuck with behaviours that feel a little like the dark ages, and misaligned from the rest of our organisations? It certainly might explain some of the stakeholder resistance many of us talk about when expressing frustration at the lack of support for our strategies and work.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking procurement potential using unconventional tools

Values and Behaviours are two of the postcards included in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit that brings together a series of postcards from your soft skills - it's entitled Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills. More here.

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