I recently received a great comment from Nancy Richter, President of the R. Gene and Nancy D. Richter Foundation. Gene Richter is widely known as one of the world’s true procurement gurus, and I was privileged to have known him when he came to speak several times at Michigan State during the 1992-1999 period when I was there.
Nancy’s comment to me was as follows:
Your comment about procurement being a ‘second cousin’ to other functions made me laugh. When Gene Richter led the procurement function at IBM (saving billions of dollars and key to turning the company around), the annual report mentioned that ‘even traditionally prosaic functions, such as purchasing, have adopted innovative ideas.’ What a hoot; a prosaic function savings billions of dollars, key to the company turnaround. Gene had a big poster printed for his quarterly all-hands meeting with Prosaic and Proud. It was a great motivator.
Her comment resonates with me, as it is one of the key motivations that led me and my colleague, Ian George, to design an innovative new program on Procurement Leadership. The four day workshop, being held December 9 – 13, 2019 in Raleigh, will focus on how procurement and supply chain leaders need to better sell the value of procurement to the organization. And when I say value, I mean more than just cost savings, or the infamous “purchase price avoidance” metric. Because at the end of the day, many business leaders won’t dismiss cost savings, but may not view them as really important when it comes to other considerations that matter more to them such as customer value, legal and regulatory compliance, competitive performance, on-time delivery digital solutions, or life-saving medicines.
To be successful at driving change, procurement leadership means you have to be able to influence these stakeholders, and hitch your program to their priorities and business objectives. In doing so, you will be able to work more closely with them, and develop a range of options that provide these business partners specific solution-based outcomes to their challenges. Purchasing influence is a theme of a new book chapter that I co-wrote with Tom Nash of the American Red Cross, and which will be coming out next year. Influence involves first understanding how to communicate effectively to stakeholders, to listen and understand what is important to them, while recognizing that there are significant differences in their priorities and yours that need to be successfully aligned. Many business leaders think purchasing only cares about reducing price, and if you aren’t able to dissuade them of this notion, you won’t be successful.
We have designed our Procurement Leadership program with the goal of unpacking this concept as the target. Participants will conduct a pre-workshop self-assessment that will help them to understand their organization’s profile in terms of purchasing capabilities and priorities, as well as the individual’s relative influence within their organization. This then leads to an understanding of how to assess business priorities, and how to harness purchasing objectives to these priorities. We’ve designed a highly interactive program aimed at senior practitioners with a need to deliver significant improvements to their organizations. Based on Kotter’s 8-Stage Change Model, the program focuses on situational and self-evaluation leading to discussions that result in insights and ideas for improvement. Delegates will present their ideas in plenary each day, receiving feedback from their peers culminating with direct feedback at an individual level from a group of visiting experts in their respective fields. We will also be hosting a number of guest speakers, including Howard Richman, who has been in procurement roles at Mars, Merck, and now Citrix, Renee Ure, Vice President for Global Supply Chain at Lenovo, Amy Rumford, Vice President of Supply Chain at Advanced Auto Parts, Amy Brad Kirkman, a world-recognized expert on team leadership and author of the book 3D Team Leadership, as well as a number of other former supply chain leaders who will be sharing their thoughts with the delegates through one-on-one discussions.
We have also stacked the program with a number of current updates on topics that are critical for purchasing leaders to be aware of, and offer opportunities for you to engage with others in the field to share thoughts, brainstorm new ideas, and learn from one another through discussion of these topics. Some of these include getting started on a digital transformation of your business and what it means for procurement; navigating the new scenario of global trade wars and tariffs, addressing the increased demands for sustainability, transparency, and compliance within global supply chains, and how to support and nurture diversity within your procurement organization. All of these topics are ones I’ve been involved in, and will be leading the discussion on.
People learn through communication with mentors and experts. It’s something that I’ve learned to benefit from throughout my career, and I am excited about creating similar experiences for procurement leaders everywhere. MOre information can be found on our Procurement Leadership website. You can also register online for the program.