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Procurement Perspectives: Leadership in procurement to achieve desired results

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Leadership in procurement to achieve desired results

Leadership is not a position or office and you cannot become a leader merely by acquiring a title.

Leaders are a tool employed by an organization to achieve some desired result.

In procurement, leadership can be measured in several ways. The amount of savings you can generate through negotiating with vendors and contractors on goods and services is one way to measure results.

Understanding all the moving parts that are required to complete a complex construction project as well as all the risk factors associated with the construction process is another.

Building trust and relationships with your own team as well as the customer, is critical to true leadership.

I would say leadership in an organization could be summed up in the following sentence.

Leadership reflects the qualities, attributes and skills of the individual, especially the ability to take command of an organization and direct it towards the accomplishment of purpose.

From my personal experience, leadership comes from all walks of life. Having a wall covered with diplomas will not automatically define you as a great leader.

Great leaders in major organizations that I have worked with over the years, usually have at the very least, these seven abilities: The ability to focus, analyze, innovate, make sound decisions, be great communicators, be persuasive and possess the ability to delegate and supervise.

I believe effort is the support that luck needs to triumph. It is not completely true that everyone who works hard will succeed. However, it is true that only those who work hard can succeed over the long run.

In the public and private sectors, procurement leaders have great opportunities to be recognized for what they have accomplished. Procurement is one of those professions that can be easily measured and monitored.

The evaluation of procurement has advanced greatly since I started as a buyer in the early ‘70s. I would say on-the-job training was the only way to learn at that time. It was many years before all the sophisticated courses available to procurement professionals today.

To be successful as a procurement person, you need to continually ask yourself the following questions:

What factors in the process of carrying out the task contributed to the final success?

Could the logistical process or process of execution be improved? If so how?

What factors undermined progress, be it slowing the attainment of the goal or allowing the opportunity for success to pass?

How could these problems have been avoided or mitigated?

What resources were lacking that would have improved performance? Were they available or could they have been acquired? Were these resources identified in advance? If not why? If yes, why were they not acquired?

What skills were lacking (either completely absent or in insufficient supply)?

Who on the team performed well, and why? Who on the team performed poorly, and why? How can overall performance be improved in the future?

Where there problems in communication, internally or externally, and what could be done to avoid such problems in the future?

Was the project over-resourced, if so what could have been eliminated?

Were the resources used brought to bear in the most efficient sequence?

What patterns of behaviour on the part of those in charge were most successful in stimulating members of the procurement team to work quickly and professionally towards attaining the desired goals?

Negotiation and building relationships with vendors and contractors is a very important part of being a purchasing manager.

In my experience, understanding both sides of a dispute are also a good quality to possess.

Assessing the issues and determining the best course of action that is fair to both sides is essential to the success of any organization.

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

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