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.
The best way to predict the future is to create it.
- Peter Drucker
If we knew what the future held for procurement, we would undoubtedly change some of what we are doing today. Since is it impossible for any of us to be certain about the future, our best option is to form a vision for what we hope the future will hold and align our initiatives to that vision.
When our children were old enough to stay home without a baby sitter, they would light up the house like a beacon. We could come home and I think every light was on in the house. It was their security blanket at the time. It made us smile. From a carbon footprint perspective, it was a BIG FOOT on those evenings.
We make choices every day in relation to our health, our family, our community and our profession. Some choices are straight forward and easy to make. Many times there are areas of grey and that brings with it a measure of ambiguity.
Last month, Alun Rafique from Market Dojo and I co-wrote an article for Procurement Insights about Variables in the Adoption of Auctions. A discussion about the article really picked up steam in the ISM group on LinkedIn, and one of the questions posed in response was “Someone explain to me how a Reverse Auction is fair and equitable to the supplier..."
After considering that question carefully, Market Dojo published an article that asks a question in response: “Should Suppliers Still Fear eAuctions?” The article, which you can read here, takes an interesting look at the progression of auctions from carefully managed consultant resource, to part of an ERP system, to their somewhat questionable state today – in limbo in a world where procurement is driven to create as much value as savings. A third question in this discussion might be, are auctions still relevant?
There was a factory fire about 20 years ago in the Boston area. The owner, Aaron Feuerstein, continued to pay the workers until the factory was rebuilt. That was exceptional and unheard of in business. This remarkable story of Malden Mills was on CBS news at the time. Mr Feuerstein was referred to as a Mench – a person of integrity and honor.
Do you remember life before yellow sticky notes? Maybe you are too young. In one of my prior organizations, our note paper was old company newsletters that were cut into note paper blocks. You only use one side so it would not matter what was on the other side. There was nothing confidential so it was all good. It truly was scrap paper.