Change is an ever-present feature of life.
After the pandemic, I have seen more changes in the way supply chain management is conducted, due to the markets adjusting to shortages of supply as well as interruptions in manufacturing products.
Organizational change may be difficult but as the conditions of the environment within which the organization operates change, it becomes essential to survival.
Furthermore, related to the procurement process, the need for change reflects the fact every organization is in some respect imperfect.
Change makes people make choices. Given the descriptive effects of change, it is critical to make the right choices.
In the procurement and construction world, where change is most drastic, life and success strongly favour those who learn most quickly.
The reason people fall behind is because they are completely unprepared to respond to change.
Even if an organization is performing at an optimal level, it must still change to match the evolution of the environment in which it operates.
In procurement, I often find purchasing procedures are being followed even where the need that gave rise to them has long passed.
In construction specifically, the change process has capability (including problem solving) and moral as well as technical implications.
In procurement of goods and services, a process of continuous improvement implies rising standards as society outgrows what was previously considered acceptable.
The immediate pressures that push in on an individual or organization cannot be allowed to displace the need to pursue improvement over the medium to long-term.
At both the organizational and individual level, developing a disciplined and regular process of improvement is demanding, but it is the best investment that one can make.
What an organization or individual can do tomorrow is governed by the preparation that they take today.
If one does not expand and improve upon the ability to respond, then in the future it will be impossible to get beyond where one currently stands. To get somewhere else, one must evolve into something else.
It follows while senior management has a responsibility to effect necessary changes within an organization, the process is not open-ended.
One responsibility of the team is to manage the process of change.
Management in this context requires both selection and prioritization.
Change should be made when necessary, but it is never wise to make change only for the sake of change.
Any changes that are made must be consistent with the fundamental character of the organization.
Except in cases of extreme urgency, change should follow a suitable process of investigation, consultation and discussion, rather than being imposed from above.
The reason why it is necessary for management to apply control to the process of change may be easily explained. Organizations may be conceptualized as communities of separate individual interests of those who comprise them.
Some of those interests will diverge after a short period of time.
While others may run in a consistent direction for a considerable distance, eventually they will part company.
Only a few of the interests represented by the organization will run parallel. The leadership of each organization needs to discern and articulate a vision that binds those interests together.
To do so they need to understand the range of interests encompassed within the organization. The process of consultation allows management to question those whose interests are at stake to identify that range, and to explore and build upon existing understanding to produce actions consistent with the individual and collective values of the constituent group.
To be successful on a continuous and predictable basis, management must also learn to manage and minimize risk.
The reduction of risk does not mean the avoidance of risk. On the contrary, it is almost impossible to succeed in life without taking a great deal of risk.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.