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Posts Tagged ‘American Express’

I was reading the Executive Coach section of CPO Agenda when I came across a very interesting question for coach Dr Richard Russill, who is a business coach and author, specializing in supply, cost and relationship management.   The question is: “People are debating whether “procurement” is the right name for … procurement.  What do you think?”

Dr Russill replies are: “Despite its dodgy connotations the ‘P’ word is too well embedded in the business vocabulary for it to change. Where Google, even recently, suggested ‘Community Post Office’ or ‘Chief Petty Officer’ for CPO, it now comes up with what this journal stands for. Besides, it is perceptions within companies that matter. It is great if your CEO understands procurement as a key business driver. But re-badging procurement is a waste of time if company colleagues still see it as a function in which they are not involved.

Yesterday I was folding village newsletters into envelopes. Recalling Adam Smith’s pins, I found that it was faster to do all the folding, then the insertions, then the stamping, as separate activities. It was also totally mindless. That’s the problem with functions in business. Despite being functionally excellent they can seem mindless if the job is to follow instructions set by others, as distinct from influencing the process which creates instructions. Procurement is not a function but a cross-business team activity with purchasing and supply operating as a sub plot. The CPO’s dual role is to inspire intelligent commercially-aware decision-making as well as minding the supply task. Making this a reality requires story-telling and tangible supply successes…not a new label on the bottle.”

Well I can’t agree more.  Over the years I have personally lived through many names of our profession such as strategic procurement, operations procurement, procurement and supply chain, purchasing services, enterprise supply chain services, global procurement, and global real estate and purchasing services.  Every two or three years all companies are itching to do some rebranding, but the only thing that matters is how top management engages procurement and the rest of the business teams together.  When I used to be the head of procurement for Greater China in American Express,  I found myself in front of my senior business leaders and stakeholders every 8 months or so, reinforcing everyone that regardless of how our names changed, I would still be there to take care of the same duties.  Yes that is exactly how frequent our restructuring took place.

And this restructuring also means that our titles, levels, geographic and commodity responsibilities keep getting reshuffled.  New organization charts were drawn, and everyone needed to re-apply for the new posts, or even the same posts that they were assuming.  The job applications needed to go through the routine interviewing and grading process.  Some posts were added, and some were eliminated.  Such process lasted at least 3 or 4 months after it was publicized, and I had experienced it more than once druing my tenure.

At the end of the day, my core responsibilities were exactly the same.  The number of my superiors had expanded, and my local stakeholders simply could not care less.  The management consultancy engaged made a buckload of money.

And the world turns.

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