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Procurement Perspectives: Procurement and technical proficiency

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Procurement and technical proficiency

With few exceptions, the political world being one of them, it is difficult to assume a leadership position in a field without first having demonstrated technical proficiency in that field.

In short, in nearly all fields every manager must be good at something. The need to process such proficiency further underscores the point that while vision is essential in a manager, it is rarely sufficient in itself to make a person into a leader.

Systematic development of technical proficiency is most often witnessed in the business field, in which academic skills and theoretical knowledge acquired during education must be focused on the practical pursuit of profit.

Leaving aside entrepreneurs who come to prominence through the exploitations of new technologies (e.g. microcomputers and other software for such computers), or who exploit a newly emerging market, business leaders nearly always emerge only following years of apprenticeship. One never hears of anyone being described as a natural corporate controller or a purchasing prodigy.

A young person who sets out on a career in business management has a clear path to follow in order to succeed. For example, the emerging procurement manager must develop the technical skills essential to his or her field.

Formal education is not a prerequisite for success, but its importance in facilitating career advancement should not be overlooked. To advance in the business world you must not only acquire wide ranging experience in the field, but also take professional training courses to provide the theoretical underpinning for further development, and to allow him or her to derive the maximum understanding (and consequent benefit) from the experience that can be obtained.

In most professional fields, a reputation for expertise can be secured through participation in professional programs, initially as a student, then on a more active level as an instructor.

In procurement as well as in other areas of business management, one must develop a sufficient range of transferable, generic skills, such as the ability to communicate and negotiate effectively and the ability to manage physical and financial resources and people.

It is essential to foster the ability to prepare a realistic budget and to work within an approved budget. To do so, it is necessary to approach each assignment in an organized manner and to understand supply and production management.

Last week’s column reviewed the importance of following the rules. In some cases, however, it is possible to be held back by rules of dubious value. Every organization both in private and the public sector has such rules.

There are many different types of rules that fall into this class, including rules that have outlived their time, over-inclusive rules, rules based on mistaken perception, and arbitrary rules that now work unfairly due to changes that have occurred within the organization or its environment.

One of the interesting observations I have seen over the years is that some people simply lack the desire to be in a management role. They have other pressing issues and have no need to excel in climbing into a leadership position. Many people have other interests that fully occupy their lives and that’s perfectly fine as well.

When it comes to complex issues that may take some time to understand, and technical issues specific to a new position would be one to consider, fear of trying and fear of failure holds some people back.

The lack of courage costs the world a great deal of talent, for everyday people go to their graves whose timidity prevented them even from trying.

Some people would rather go through life enjoying modest success than take the risk that they will fail in a more ambitious effort. Success in life can be measured in many ways and some have nothing to do with money.

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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