No one should ever rely on the dubious assumption that the present circumstances and trends will continue, good or bad.
If there is one thing that history teaches, it is that the trends and circumstances of any particular moment in time cannot be sustained for long.
Past triumph is no guarantee of future success. Pre-eminence is momentary and its duration may be lengthened only if it is actively sustained.
Organizations need to monitor performance constantly for signs of weakness and this does not only apply to the procurement process. As these emerge, at every level of the organization, appropriate corrective measures must be taken. Senior leadership must also benchmark the performance of its rivals.
Correction is always required when a rival organization begins to catch up or surpass the organization you work for.
Critical steps that leadership can take to build up the strength of his or her own position within the organization include the following.
Strengthen links with the constituency.
The need for salesmanship is virtually ongoing for leadership. Maintaining a good relationship with the constituency that selected the senior management reduces the prospect of dissension in the ranks.
Develop a bond with other senior managers throughout the organization.
Management needs to draw on each other for support at critical times, during the pandemic or the supply chain shortage of goods and services. If a procurement manager fails to develop a solid network of alliances, both inside and outside the organization, there will be no one to look to for support when time become hard.
Use patronage wisely.
Leadership has always used patronage to build support, but it is important to cultivate the support of people who are able to bolster support to the leadership position. Cronyism and toadyism squander patronage on people who are unable to contribute when times are hard.
Recruit good advisers and listen to them.
In football, there is a saying that on reaching the playoffs, one should go with what got the team there.
This idea makes sense in the sporting context because the skills and abilities required in the playoffs are the same that are required in the regular season. In other contexts, it can provide poor guidance with respect to the selection of advisers.
For instance, in government, the people who helped one get elected may not be particularly well suited to providing the kind of advice that is required to discharge the responsibilities of office well.
Business leaders as well often make a poor choice of advisers. Very often, for example, a businessperson will make use of professional services (e.g. for accounting, tax advice or law) of an old-school acquaintance, without regard as to whether that individual has professional experience and training that is suited to the requirement of the business.
Few criminal lawyers can give competent commercial law advice. In selecting advisers, it is wise to undertake a critical review of the requirements that must be satisfied and the skills that a prospective adviser brings to the table.
Maintain the dignity of one’s position.
Many offices in society implicitly require the incumbent to act with an appropriate bearing on solemnity. Leaders often wish to appear human and approachable, but it is risky to pursue efforts in that direction to the point that the dignity associated with the office that the leadership holds is compromised.
If a leader loses respect, the ability to influence the organization and to work effectively with outsiders is undermined.
Generally, the better that a business leader is known, the greater the loyalty that he or she commands. Prominent visibility creates the image that the leader is proactive.
Only very rarely can it work against the interests of a leader to be perceived as proactive. Visibility also creates the impression that a leader is approachable.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at email@example.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.