3 Ways Procurement Professionals Can Successfully Lead Change

3 Ways Procurement Professionals Can Successfully Lead Change

Procurement professionals must always strive to be leaders in their organizations, and to be successful in today’s dynamic business environment, they must also be able to quickly get their teams and/or management to support change implementation.

Many functions of procurement professionals are consistent and the responsibility falls on them to anticipate internal and external pressures, global trends, internal stakeholders’ emerging needs, and to grow their operations, all the while having the skill and passion for directing and overseeing change. However, change initiatives often fall victim to resistance.

It is imperative that procurement professionals lead and drive program timelines or they are potentially at risk of being impeded by other departments. Designers and engineers, by trade, are typically perfectionists and not satisfied with anything less than a flawless product. Unfortunately, most programs cannot afford to wait for said perfection. Deadlines need to be met.

Though the procurement team does not often create these timelines, it is their obligation to the customer, and to their internal organization, to keep projects on track and moving forward. Collaboration – including effectively communicating timelines – with design and engineering teams is essential so they can make the best product possible within the designated timeframe.

Challenges

At many organizations, change is not easily embraced, or even welcome. It causes one to think differently or view ideas and solutions from another’s perspective. Therefore, it is necessary because change is leads to improvement. Thinking differently leads to acting differently, and acting differently leads to better results.

As a procurement professional, implementing change is part of the occupation. This may also put him or her in an awkward position, especially when he or she should be the face of implementing a change. More times than not, procurement should lead change implementation. Procurement, as with anyone or anything trying to implement a change, will face resistance, small and large. It is a procurement professional’s responsibility to not only implement a change, but also to stand toe to toe with the resistance and make a case for that change.

Considerations

Before implementing change, a procurement professional must be cognizant of his or her plan of action and as the audience the plan will be presented to. It is important to ask yourself the following question, “Who am I planning to propose this change to?” Knowing the type of audience is crucial to communicating the message. For example, the preparation and proposal may not need to be as thorough if the change will be implemented within one’s own team. However, it becomes more difficult when trying to implement change for an entire program or throughout an organization and a lengthier proposal may be required because more people are affected. Implementing change throughout an entire organization also means encountering more resistance, so be prepared to address issues from multiple points of view.

More tactics to consider when planning to implement a change, regardless of the audience, include the following:

  • Timeline of implementation and window of success
  • Communication method to the audience and the different styles/approaches
  • Resources required to make a successful change implementation
  • Layers of approval required for successful change
  • Roll-out of the implementation plan

To better prepare and roll out a change, a procurement professional must drive the solutions explained below, which will increase the success rate for implementation.

Effective Communication

Time is a valuable resource and the audience attending this change proposal will not want to waste it. Thus, procurement professionals must take the time to properly create a change strategy, followed by a proposal, and then determine the best approach for delivering the message to the audience.

To make this communication as effective as possible, a procurement professional must take the time at the beginning to ensure positive outcomes for the recommended change. Unfortunately, this is often the reason that many great proposals or strategies never get implemented. This goes back to knowing your audience.

For example, if a team member knows his or her manager is keen on changing the way supply chain KPIs are currently reported, and there is a proposal for a new template that will expedite the information and provide more detail, then this may be an easy sell.

However, if one is looking to change the way the entire company is reporting supply chain KPIs, then a procurement professional should think about tailoring the message for upper-level management.

More often than not, once a detailed proposal for change is provided to the direct manager, he or she will likely be the one to take it to the management above him or her. This is where a detailed, thought out plan up front will help a procurement professional expedite the process and contribute to a greater success rate.

Sense of Urgency

Once a procurement professional is ready to make the proposal for change implementation public knowledge at his or her organization, and the audience is identified, then establishing a sense of urgency is next.

As mentioned in a previous section, procurement professionals understand the significance of project timelines so getting the message out clearly and with a sense of urgency is necessary for successful change implementation. Even for the smallest of changes, like a cost reduction structure or a new template for reporting, urgency must be instilled in the audience; the team or organization need to know up front what the implications are and when approvals are needed by.

It would not be uncommon to experience a change proposal being turned down due to communicating to the wrong audience, or for approvals to be delayed because the window of implementation is missed due to timing.

Empower and Motivate Others

In this instance, the proposed change implementation will affect more than just one person, which means that procurement professionals need to ensure that their team is on board and will work with them on this transformation. An idea for implementing change must positively affect the team or proposing it would not be an option; a procurement professional should encourage everyone on the team take part in, or feel as though they took part in, the change implementation.

This is not about one individual; allow the team to weigh in on ideas or strategize on a more efficient process. Empower them to make the change even better so it cannot be turned down. Then, once the team has a plan for implementation, is rolled out to a manager, and he or she approves, then the team should empower this manager to take it to the senior management team. When you empower and motivate others, the likelihood the change will be implemented significantly increases.

Conclusion

Procurement professionals must take the lead in implementing changes in any organization. It is critical for the time and effort to be clearly defined up front in creating a detailed plan for implementation, as well as understanding the audience that will be listening and ultimately approving or denying the change.

It is important to understand how crucial timing may be to implement and effectively communicate the strategy to others. Procurement professionals must establish a sense of urgency across team members and their audiences and make sure everyone understands the timing window up front.

Finally, work as a team. Motivate and empower others to help make this change implementation successful. Making everyone feel like they played a key role in developing this strategy for implementation is essential.

If procurement professionals can keep these three critical points in mind, then they can successfully lead the implementation of change for their team, department, or even their entire organization.

-Tony