Business Resilience – Procurement, Romans, Crystal Balls and Big Boots
As we near the end of 2020, business resilience is a topic that is front of mind of many organisations after the year that had been and the circumstances that are still impacting so many people, businesses and countries.
The past year created its own sense of “new normal” combined with a sense of uncertainty as to whether this new normal now will be the new normal going forward.
Since such a large portion of money in business is tied into the actions, practices and behaviours of procurement, the question to be asked in business is:
How did your procurement team ensure resilience and sustainability in your business?
Did they fill their boots, or were they maybe to big for their boots?
The IBM- The Future of Supply Chain Now Whitepaper highlights the push and pull climate of the past year, changing the way how we manage supply chains forever.
It highlights that it is important to spend time on the future, even when there are more important things to do – right now. (For example, just another Zoom or Teams meeting……).
The Procurius report confirms the need to practice business’ “future self”. It is common sense really.
So what is procurement’s role in all of this?
Do you remember the Romans? And all roads leading to Rome?
Rome was the core of the success AND the downfall of the Roman Empire. The Rome-Romans grew to big for their boots, ate and drank too much and just lost sight of what was happening.
And in some ways, I think the Romans wanted to have all roads lead to Rome but forgot who built these roads and who they really needed to keep close.
If you have ever watched any cartoons, have you ever seen the giant win? See those who got to too big for their boots triumph?
Some of my favourites are Asterix and Obelix, a classic example of collaboration for success.
We can even get some wisdom from comedy and cartoons. As Axterix says:
Fortunate is he who has been able to learn the causes of things.
Coming back to procurement and the reminder of all roads, big boots and crystal balls…..
Maybe not all, but many roads in business lead to procurement
How easy is it to access your procurement team?
And how well do they maintain access to them?
Is the road blocked by obstacles and red tape?
Or can you work together to build a better road?
It is really important for business resilience and sustainability that procurement forms a core part of business.
However, no big boots allowed.
Meaningful collaboration and cooperation form the foundation for business success. Procurement has a serious role to play in improving and keeping open communication to improve business resilience.
The KISS principle applies.
And the KISS principle does not allow open communication to be barking from the inner depths of the procurement sanctum.
That would be barking up the wrong tree!
Open and effective communication brings an understanding that the whole supply chain has changed, will continue to change and we need to listen to what our suppliers tell us. Because as history shows – the captured and conquered are the ones who know where the roads are, how they are built and how to best navigate it.
Open communication has no room for suppliers to be captured and conquered.
No procurement crystal ball can tell the future
Procurement does not have a magic crystal ball that can foretell the procurement future or how to make a business resilient and sustainable. Being able to bring people together in a meaningful solutions focused manner, even when you are continents apart, will help.
Insight is the price we get when we paid for learning through trial and error.
Planning has always been a key part of business success and resilience. However, the current climate requires procurement capability that is:
- understanding of the problems, the opportunities and the procurement landscape;
- skilled in analysing and interpreting the data
- equipped to manage risk and consequence
but also humble, courageous and open to learning.
I rather have someone in my team that has the courage to step up and make a mistake than someone who hides behind their big boots.
Bullying suppliers into the ground because your business needs to reclaim margin, without some sweetener in return, will not pave the way.
And remember, the bit of margin clawed back adversely today, will not make your supply chain work when you need those roads to lead to your Rome.
Big boots do not bring empathy and understanding
If your procurement team does not tell you about what is happening with your suppliers, then you should really make them take off their boots, go for a walk and meet the suppliers half way.
In my opinion, empathy and understanding form a key part of the resilience, success and sustainability of business, its customers’ success and its supply chain.
Do not wait for the roads to be paved for you, lay a few stepping stones for the future. You may just be surprised how well that will go.
Not everyone in procurement wear big boots
I know good people in procurement, who will walk the extra mile to improve outcomes all-round.
However, if you are not sure about the size or oversize of your procurement team, please feel free to let us know. I run a procurement health check and that will determine how well your team is performing and whether their boots are the right size or not.