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Procurement Perspectives: Managerial skills for purchasing professionals

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Managerial skills for purchasing professionals

If character expectations must be balanced against performance expectations, perhaps the most critical context in which that balance must be struck is with respect to managerial skills.

Purchasing managers often see themselves as being charged with setting policy and there is no question this is an important aspect of their job.

But they are equally responsible for ensuring that policy is carried into effect.

The securing of the resource and other means creation necessary for the implementation and maintenance of the policy goals that have been set is thus a key area of concern to the constituency.

The most critical areas on which leaders are likely to be assessed with respect to such elements of overall management are, does the organization have the facilities that it needs? Does it have the right tools to do the job? Are those tools accessible to the staff who need them? Are the staff properly trained to use those tools? Are the right staff in place to carry out the job?

Procurement leadership involves the effective employment of other people almost by definition.

However, to accomplish an objective, it is also invariably necessary to marshal and manage the physical and financial resources that are required to attain the objective.

Administration, responsibility and organization are inherent aspects of leadership.

During the 1996 Global Challenge yacht race a study was conducted of all the participating skippers.

It documented the managerial responsibilities and accomplishments of each skipper and demonstrated how those responsibilities went beyond the basic concerns of planning and preparation. Managerial execution played a very important role. These findings have widespread implications for leaders of all types.

The range of factors that influence performance assessment cover three different critical areas.

First, central to the assessment of leadership performance is the subject of infrastructure, an area that is concerned both with project management (which relates to the commissioning of the facilities) and facilities management (which deals with their day-to-day and long-term operations).

More specifically, there must be a means to develop and operate the facilities required for organizational operations in a safe and effective manner.

Those facilities must be based on anticipated needs, and the reason for that anticipation must be properly justified and documented. The facilities must create and support a climate conducive to performance excellence.

Without such infrastructure, the chances of successful performance are slim.

It follows that one plank of leadership performance evaluation will be an assessment of whether it appears that the necessary infrastructure being identified was then put into place. If the circumstances are such that the infrastructure that is acquired is put to severe test, obviously, leaders will be assessed on the basis of whether it proved to be adequate to the demands that were placed upon it.

Clearly, leadership will not be seen to have met the expectations of the constituency, where the created infrastructure fails on the first severe test.

A second central area of concern with respect to the transition from planning to results is the matter of logistics.

The field of logistics is concerned with the procurement, maintenance, movement and deployment of materiel and personnel (materiel being the aggregate of the tangible and moveable things required in order to carry out the operations of the organization).

Leadership must ensure that the rank and file has access to all necessary materials to carry out the mission.

Training in the use of such materiel and servicing the organizations customer base is obviously necessary, but if one does not have the materiel required to achieve the goal all the training in the world is wasted.

Logistics requires an effective method for ensuring the resources are delivered on time at the critical point of need and in a state fit for use. To that end, the leadership of an organization must provide resources, monitor progress and remove barriers to delivery and distribution.

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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