Learning To Manage Change The Hard Way
Procurement is a contact sport. Procurement professionals (by nature of being a shared support service) are always tasked to produce savings and compliance outside of their core department. But those actions are frequently rejected by the very departments we’re attempting to support. As a procurement professional, over the years, I have had some painful learnings. Most of them were based on false assumptions or the failure to anticipate downstream consequences. For a change initiative to be successful, Procurement needs to help the internal customer manage the transformation, as well as gain their confidence. The success clearly rests on the approach one takes to the project or sourcing event.
It’s Always Personal
Generally, if procurement professionals are not subject matter experts (SME) in whatever initiative they’re supporting, in order to ensure the success of the change, they need to become completely informed to fully understand the activities of the internal stakeholders. Collaboration and good listening skills are important. Have you been given authority and a clear understanding of the objectives? Did Management clearly communicate the issues that need to be addressed?
If we look critically at procurement organizations, there’s a mixed bag of perceptions on their organizational effectiveness. Whenever I’ve:
- Facilitated a supplier change
- Helped improve a process
- Or assisted in a compliance issue
I’ve found it’s always best to start off by level setting: procurement professionals are on a spectrum from pure collaboration at one extreme, to procurement terrorism at the other. A good procurement professional will try to get somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Right up front, set the expectation that as a procurement professional, your job is to take the emotion out of the decision-making process by utilizing education, information and irrefutable data.
However, sometimes, no matter how compelling your data, not everyone will be on board because it wasn’t their idea.
People have written books, articles, guides, and complete process workflows on change management, but the truth of the matter is that change is personal. It’s always personal. And if you want someone else to completely buy into your idea, sometimes you need to paint enough of a picture, to help them visualize it so that they believe that it was their own idea all along. This also involves putting your ego aside. It doesn’t matter who gets credit for the idea, as long as it gets done. A change agent – and all procurement professionals are change agents – needs to:
- Establish trust and credibility
- Be authentic and transparent
- And (if necessary) show compassion
Answering WIIFM (What’s in it For Me?)
The impacted stakeholders need to embrace, adopt and execute the process or change in their day-to-day work in order to see the benefit. It’s important to paint the picture for them:
- How important is the ROI to the organization?
- Does the change create a strategic value or competitive advantage?
- How does the change impact each stakeholder group?
Sometimes those messages are muted because of poor communication, so knowing how best to relate with your stakeholders is key. Do they respond to face-to-face impromptu meetings or are they better with email or text messages? Learning how to communicate with the impacted stakeholders improves the clarity of the message and the chances of success for this change.
Any procurement or strategic sourcing professional who is worth their salt know procurement isn’t just about the RFP process. Its implementation, change management, and supplier governance that create sustained value. My boss once said to me, “We can’t prematurely declare victory at the contract signing.” It’s the support of the change during those bumpy-road implementations, and managing the change agents and early adopters which can lead to victory – even if the idea didn’t originate from the internal stakeholder!
At SDI, we act as an indispensable extension of your supply chain. We’re here to augment, enhance and accelerate your procurement organization; not replace it. We partner with complex organizations to unlock the hidden value of MRO – changing your perspective to transform your operations into something predictable and reliable.
We do this by becoming an extension of your business, working across your organization to coordinate actions and align metrics with a common data set to deliver significant improvements and efficiencies. We’re helping you adopt new strategies, contemporize agreements, and improve processes to meet the ever-changing supplier and data landscape.