This is (probably) the last in what became an impromptu three-part series on The Point about the value of storytelling for procurement. Part 1 considered applications of the idea in general. In part 2, Dr. Tom DePaoli provided a real world example and some further guidance. The post that started it all, on Executive Presence by Chip Scholz, can be found here.
I was involved in a project many years ago documenting the current procurement process across many divisions within a large international company. It was tedious and detailed work. I was frequently surprised by the various ways stuff was purchased. I was also surprised at what needed approval and what did not. For example, a cell phone needed Senior VP approval but a multi-million dollar purchase order for a For-Resale item did not.
I am not a fan of the term best practices. I mean who says it is really ‘best’ and there is always room for something better. I feel it is a little presumptuous to think YOUR way is the BEST way. I also think others can be offended by being told how to implement a best practice. However, there are ‘better’ practices that could improve your current situation. Some like to call it a process for continuous improvement.
In a July 14th article on NewsDay, NYASHA CHIZU asked ‘Is Procurement an Art or a Science?’
In the article, he makes the following statement:
“There is definitely an art to good procurement but on the other hand, taking a scientific approach to options analysis, requirements development and the procurement evaluation process can facilitate a more successful procurement project.”
I am not a shopper (which is an extreme understatement). I would pretty much like to spend my time doing almost anything else. Much to my teenage daughter’s chagrin, we went to the mall only once or twice a year. It was usually to get back-to-school clothes and to do Christmas shopping. When my mother took me shopping for clothes as a youngster, she claims that she could tell when my eye color turned from green to ‘grey’ that she was done and we had to leave and come back another time. While we may have been tempted to just grab anything and go, most of the time we did not.
When we are planning our vacation, there are so many options to choose from. What activities are available, what is the cost, when should we go, for how long, and what should we pack? It is exciting and can be overwhelming as well. How do we narrow it down to the best trip for us this year?
The World Cup in Brazil has everyone cheering for their country and their team. Football (or soccer in the US) is the globe’s transcendent sport. This year, for the first time, many of the United States televisions were tuned into the various matches. It has gained popularity for Americans in a big way. Obviously we are lagging behind the passion that this sport has carried for many others for decades, but in 2014 the U.S. was rising and falling as one with every touch of the ball.
As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July in the United States, we have a lot to be grateful for. We are grateful for the simple things like peak of summer traditions: fireworks, grilling, and parades. We are also grateful that in the many years since the Declaration of Independence was signed our relationship with Britain has improved. We’d be awfully sorry not to be able to work with our British colleagues and partners.
All that being said, is the 4th of July a reason to be grateful for procurement? Absolutely. Procurement played more of a role in the American Revolutionary War than most people probably realize.
In September 2011, Wal-Mart announced a plan to spend $20B with woman-owned businesses by 2016. More recently, they expanded their Women’s Economic Empowerment program to include a ‘women-owned’ labeling program. Products that meet company ownership requirements will start appearing on Wal-Mart shelves this September1. Qualified companies can apply to be a part of the program through WBENC and WEConnect International.
Despite the company’s apparent good intentions, the program has not been warmly received by all, including some critics who feel calling additional attention to these products simply because of female company ownership does little to advance equality. As one commenter posted in response to a BusinessWeek article on the program, “The path to gender equality does not involve stickers pointing out that a product has been made by a female entrepreneur.”2
There are a lot of options available to organizations for a req-to-check system. A common mistake with many software selection processes is not taking the time to define the requirements. That is a critical step in order to ensure a successful implementation. It is not just about the technology, it is mostly about the business process.
In the fall of 2013, Stephen Ashcroft, a specialist in procurement risk at Brian Farrington, wrote a post for Supply Management about the fact that procurement practitioners have been hesitant to embrace social media in general, and twitter more specifically.
When we were first married, we would occasionally make a purchase without measuring. For example, we bought a beautiful cherry wall unit for our television only to find out the opening for the TV was too small for the set we had. Another time, we purchased a couch and could not get it in the apartment no matter what we did. I would say our procurement cycle had gone astray!
Over 900 years ago, Marco Polo, his father and uncle began their 24 year journey from Europe to Asia and back. It was very much an unknown and they were often learning as they went. Communicating back home was impossible. The languages are all different along the way as well.
I am sure many of you have heard the shoe salesman story which is classic in having a positive attitude and a determined spirit. Two shoe salesmen are in an undeveloped area. The first one calls home and says “Let me come home, no one here is wearing shoes”. The second one calls home and says “Send more shoes, no one here is wearing them!” Clearly the second one is primed for an export business!
We were on vacation a few years ago in San Francisco. As we sat on the beach, we could not get over how many container ships were arriving and passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was certainly a testimony to our global economy and how the business world is getting smaller all the time.
We have a local farm stand nearby and we frequent them in the summer. They sell local eggs, produce and flowers. One unique aspect is that people will return their egg cartons to them and the farm refills them for the next customer. It is a great system and in a small way, they are practicing their own version of CSR.
It is not unusual for me to get an email from a colleague asking me to read an article or post and then share my two cents. It is unusual that following through on such a request would take me on the wild ride that it did this week.
Let me retrace the steps – starting at the very beginning…
We have done some travel via train. I don’t mean commuting trains to work or into a major city. I think the longest distance was about 400 miles. It was so relaxing and we loved it. Some day we may even do a multi-day trip with a sleeper car like in the movies!
One of my favorite movies is The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews. The song Do-Re-Mi has a verse that states ‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’. That could be the approach for almost any project, including getting a CSR program started.