“Crate training uses a dog's natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog's den is his home, a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. The crate becomes your dog's den, an ideal spot to snooze or take refuge during a thunderstorm.”
I have a good friend that has two enormous dogs. I’m not exaggerating – these are ‘stand up and comfortably put their paws on an adult man’s shoulders’ size dogs. I don’t happen to be a dog person myself, so when I first saw the dogs going into the crates when they were going to be left home alone or for the night, I’ll admit that I wondered if it was fair to the dogs. My friend explained that when dogs are crate trained as puppies, the defined space of the crate becomes a comfort zone for them. Many don’t sleep well without that definition and reach the point where the door of the cage does not need to be closed to keep them inside.
So when I was recently reading yet another article about how procurement is being held back in our strategic value evolution because we are confined by negotiated/realized savings performance metrics, I had to wonder how we really feel about that particular crate. What if I could wave a wand and ‘Poof!’ no more savings metrics? The sky is the limit. We would be free to create value, be strategic, and transform to our hearts’ content. How many procurement organizations would soar, and how many would be anxiously searching for the crate?
There is no question that an overemphasis on savings metrics constrain procurement’s potential contribution to the organization. As I recently quoted from a KPMG whitepaper, “Procurement has traditionally been viewed as a source of cost savings, and this continues to be the case in our study. This is a highly limiting point of view, and often leads to the self-fulfilling cycle of being minimized by other functions for leaders who only view their task as one of reducing cost.” (p. 7)
What procurement needs to be careful about is that we focus our attention, effort, and energy on the space inside and outside of the crate rather than the crate itself. Generating savings is likely always going to be a part of the value we generate for the organization. That is not a bad thing. It most certainly does not preclude us from looking for opportunities to make the most of our time (and push to increase the time) spent outside of the savings crate. Constantly bemoaning the crate itself is unlikely to make it go away, but it might cause the executive leadership team to lock the door long after that is no longer a necessary step.
There are also lessons for our executive leaders to learn here. there are limitations to what crate training can accomplish and it should not be overused. In other words, leadership also needs to adopt a positive attitude towards the crate, only using it when the circumstances warrant and making sure procurement gets plenty of oppotunity to stretch their legs and muscles.
Don’t misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that procurement is or needs to be an obedient lapdog to the corporate master. Every individual and team has crate-like constraints that they must contend with. It is our attitudes towards those constraints – deep-seated, festering resentment versus clarity of purpose and as yet unexplored opportunities – that will define the image we project internally and the relationships we build with the other ‘dogs’ in the organization.
What would you do if savings were suddenly no longer a priority for procurement? Do you have the talent and knowledge to execute those plans? Do you that feel that pushback against the ‘savings crate’ is becoming a permanent part of the procurement psyche?
Special thanks to Chowder and Parfait for showing me the calm that can come with embracing the crate. No animals were hurt in the writing of this blog post.
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