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Jeremy Kirsten, a MCIPS Procurement and Supply professional, Project Manager, Consultant and Change Manager, shares a few fundamentals that a newly appointed senior procurement leader must endeavour to stick to, in this month’s SmartProcurement.

Get to know your stakeholders – Having their buy in is critical because without that, trying to get projects or initiatives to a meaningful resolution can become very frustrating. While many stakeholders may be aware of your appointment into your new position, some may have some trepidation because of fear that you may be encroaching on their territory or simply because they have not been told in any great amount of detail just what it is that you are responsible for. After a bit of "hard sell" and they begin to see that you can help them in attaining their objectives, the more open they will become.

Politics – It is my experience from everywhere that I have worked, that there is always politics in a business – be they state-owned or otherwise. I try to be as neutral as possible because there is a potential risk in taking sides and alienating yourself from a stakeholder. Procurement is a change-centric profession and as such affects all areas of a business. So when I say politics I am not referring to networking or engaging with stakeholders; these activities must always take place so that we are totally in sync with what our stakeholders’, and by extension the business, specific needs and wants.

Develop a category plan and be sure to harmonise this with business stakeholders – In my opinion, major sourcing events should not take place when it clashes with shutdowns or major maintenance for example – if anything because some of those stakeholders will need to be involved in a sourcing event and it is prudent to reduce the level of interference in any customer time-sensitive projects.

Say what you mean and mean what you say – Experience has shown me that when we do not deliver on projects and we have said that we will, we run the risk of alienating ourselves from our stakeholders and this is not something we want
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Insist on crystal clear key performance indicators and performance deliverables from your manager – Not only because you are both on the same page, but there is that old saying that "if you do not aim at anything you will not hit anything". The added benefit is that it is clear and unambiguous when it comes to showing or demonstrating your value to the business. E.g. X% of EBITDA needs to be clear along with the criterion for its reporting; there are a few ways: cost avoidance (e.g. putting off a purchase ‘til a time closer to its use) and cost out (e.g. previously paying $400 but now you are getting the same for $390).

Ensure you and your team are on the same page right from the outset – Develop a robust and clear mission or vision statement for your department and get their buy in: use very clear delivery indicators that are clear to the team and be sure that they each understand the individual part they play in attaining this.

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself – And always let it be seen that you and your team’s value proposition is being brought to the attention of the business generally; as I mentioned previously, the broader organisation may not always be aware of what value you bring. There a few ways of doing this: formal inter-team and -departmental meetings, performance dashboards, newsletters and business-wide mail circulation. The risk with the latter, of course, is that it may be viewed as spam and ignored.

Have a sense of humour and show it on your first day; yes this could apply to a number of professions – Great as an “ice breaker”. However, there is a risk that this could be inferred as irresponsible or blasé, so show off your humour with sensitivity.

About Jeremy Kirsten (MCIPS)
Jeremy Kirsten is Procurement Category Manager & Supply Chain Systems Manager at Carter Holt Harvey Pulp & Paper. He is a MCIPS Procurement and Supply professional, Project Manager, Consultant and Change Manager and can be contacted via zralik@xtra.co.nz