Is there a universal guide to creating a great procurement team? I don’t think so. This is what I have done twice in my career and am doing for the third time. It worked for me, but who knows. Maybe I was just lucky.
During my career, I have built multiple Procurement and Supply Chain teams from scratch. Twice so far, and the third time is currently in progress. And I have noted some similarities in the process. This is how I do it and in this order. Of course, nothing is set in stone. Flexibility is always needed as every organization is a bit different.
1. Know the company’s values
Procurement needs to be aligned to the company values. If a company looks for cheap items, while we go for high quality, it will be seen as a failure. Some companies pride themselves as agile and fast-moving. Create a process that takes two weeks for an LPO to be issued, everyone will complain. Even if the result is the best possible deal. At the interview, I always ask for the one thing the person in the new position needs to solve first. The answer is usually a good indicator of what is important.
2. Know your team
We work with humans. They have their strengths and weaknesses. Good and bad days. Get to know them. I practice a weekly one-on-one meeting with every team member. There I try to get them to talk openly about personal and professional issues. And I listen and ask questions. There is a saying
“God gave you two ears, but only one mouth. And for a reason”.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Procurement is notoriously bad at communication. We do not see any benefit is informing everyone on the progress of the tender until it’s done. We do not like to admit that we are stuck with a request. We get kicked by all, so we prefer to be in our silo. The best day is if there are no emails. But this is wrong. I push my team to reply to every mail with any question they have, and not to assume anything. Then to update within the same week about the progress. Once they see that the world is not plain evil and start getting positive feedback, they are enjoying it.
4. And then communicate a bit more, until they get bored
Here I am talking about sharing the information and instructions from the top to your team. My favourite quote on this is from a Podcast by the Table group. The quote goes “You have to repeat something seven times to your team to have them adopt it. After the fifth time they will get annoyed”. Below is the link, if you want to listen to the full episode.
5. Share the “why” of every question and decision
Especially when it comes to software, the team cannot see the benefit. What they see is that they have to enter a bunch of data. Explain why we need it, show the analytics and data taken from the system. With every new project and task spend some time “selling” it to the team. The same applies to any new procedure or policy. If they understand the reason and benefit behind the change, they will participate and help.
6. Measure and share the results with all
What does not get measured, does not get improved. But also, results are there to motivate, inspire and be a reason for salary increase. I am against the annual KPI review that I see in many companies. Do it monthly. Guide and support. Almost no one wants to fail his KPI’s. But sometimes they did not understand them or do not have the knowledge or tools needed. And at the end of the year, this sounds like an excuse.
7. Ask for feedback
Yes, feedback from your team about your work. At the begin, they will just be like “yeah, you are great”. Be genuinely interested, ask for one thing you could improve. After some time, they will open up. You will hear honest feedback from people that interact with you daily. Change and improve based on it. You will become a better manager. And the team that will go anywhere with you.
8. Don’t forget to change
Organizations and teams are alive. They change, mature, adopt. Never forget this. Be ready to learn and unlearn. Understand that your teammates are getting older and wiser. Some people will come and some go. And this will change the team dynamics. What worked once will not work forever.