At one of the more recent Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) annual conferences, Ellis Watson, a veteran CEO with an impressive CV, called for procurement practitioners to display passion in everything they do.
I’ve been thinking about this again recently, both in respect of my coaching work and a debate I got involved in regarding the optimum balance between the deep technical professional skills we hope to acquire, and the necessary stakeholder engagement proficiency we require if we are to be effective in our workplaces.
I’ve come to the conclusion that passion is never enough. Let’s talk a little more about passion:
Passion in Procurement
You're passionate, but you have passion for what? Your profession? Not enough.
For your ‘kitbag’ of procurement or sales tools and templates? Not enough.
Passion for your shiny new IT system that aggregates spend data and promotes contract compliance? Still not enough.
Indeed, Watson was particularly scathing about procurement technology, singling it out for attention as something of a distraction.
Technology is not the answer he asserted; and I for one agree with him.
No amount of technology will secure support and commitment from stakeholders unless it pushes their buttons. I’d say the same goes for sales – when was passion ever enough to be successful?
It’s a familiar message, but procurement exists to serve the interests of the business, not itself; and it’s passion about the downstream impact of procurement’s contribution that is worth getting worked-up about.
If you're in sales, your competence in creating value propositions that hit the spot with customers – and that are delivered with panache and skill – is key to your success.
So now we have passion, coupled with expertise and skill.
Even then, this is still not enough.
Passion and skill is nothing without INTENTION.
In the end, both procurement and sales need to work with stakeholders and do things together.
It is intention that gets people in a room together, sharing experience, knowledge and insight. Intention gets people together enthusiastically engaging in creative processes that result in workable strategies for procurement categories, key supplier and customer relationships, and the stakeholder-sponsored initiatives that aim to grow the top line, as well as help make savings.
It is intention that turns a desire for greater value capture from the supply chain into concrete plans for action that procurement's destined to deliver. In addition, it is intention that transforms a key supplier relationship into one that delivers tangible value improvement – not any feel good factor.
If you’re in procurement, you’ll know when your part of the business is fulfilling its purpose if stakeholders are beating a path to your door with intent, aiming to draw on your expertise to help them achieve their objectives.
Similarly, as a sales or account manager, acting with real intention when providing value to your customers and clients and, being a real advocate for their interests within your own business, will have a massive impact on your effectiveness and professional reputation.
Operate with a passion for either of these things, and you might just be on to a winner.