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Procurement Perspectives: Managing effectively in the procurement environment

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Managing effectively in the procurement environment

During these difficult times of the pandemic, it can put additional stress on supply chain management in general.

Sometimes in procurement, we can be viewed as the “purchasing police” from other members of the organization with too many rules and regulations to follow.

From a procurement leadership perspective, most attention is usually focused on the ability of a leader to manage people rather than non-human resources.

It is not that the ability to manage these other resources is unimportant; rather, it is taken as a given. In other words, a person should not be put in a position of authority over people unless he or she is at least able to manage the tangible and other non-human assets of an organization.

In terms of people management, there are a variety of different available techniques, each of which is suitable to a specific type of environment. A procurement leader needs to know which technique to employ in each type of situation and for each type of person that is being managed.

It is critical at this juncture to differentiate between style and technique.

The basic styles of management most often discussed include:

  • The autocratic manager, who draws on his or her strength rather than from the strength of others.
  • The bureaucratic purchasing manager, who tends to manage by the book, thus the term purchasing police.
  • The democratic manager, who allows employees to participate in decision-making.
  • The idiosyncratic manager, who adapts his or her management style to each employee.

These procurement styles should not be confused with the numerous different schools of supply chain management courses available, both in public and the private sector organizations.

For instance, the management by objectives school focuses on setting subordinates achievable goals with the overall goal being to attain the best possible results from available resources. It focuses on the result, rather than the activity.

Managers of this school delegate tasks to their subordinates without dictating a detailed road map for implementation. Each of the goals so set, feeds into the goals which that manager is himself required to perform.

Another popular school is known as “management by walking about.”

Many of the basic principles of this school are derived from the writings of W. Edward Deming, the American business scholar who introduced systematic quality management to Japanese industry.

He wrote: “If you wait for people to come to you, you’ll only get small problems. You must go and find them. The big problems are where people don’t realize they have one in the first place.”

I had the extreme honour and pleasure to be able to attend a series of procurement/management lectures from Deming in the early ‘80s while working as a buyer at Dofasco.

He was decades ahead of his time with his philosophical viewpoints on advanced procurement and management methodology.

Under the management by walking about approach, which is not applicable during the pandemic, managers make it part of the general routine to walk through their departments so that they are available for impromptu discussions with staff.

Such managers seek out discussion with individual employees so that they learn about problems and concerns firsthand.

They also communicate their own instructions directly to those employees, especially with regard to new methods to deal with particular problems.

The third school is known as the balanced scorecard method of management. Managers who adopt this school, consider a business (or other organization) as a system of interrelated factors of strategy, owners, investors, management, workers, finance, processes, suppliers, customers and competitors.

The goal of the business is to maximize value for all stakeholders by achieving a dynamic balance of their competing values and interests.

For instance, it is necessary to balance customer satisfaction with the need to provide a reasonable return on investment.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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