Does Toshiba’s appointment of its long-time manager of procurement and manufacturing represent the long-awaited breakthrough? by Jon Hansen

Posted on March 1, 2013

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The most telling example of this was one of the many observations that were made during a 2007 CPO Agenda Roundtable discussion in which the majority of senior executives expressed the belief that the best person to run a purchasing department, is someone who does not have a purchasing background.  You can read my February 8th, 2011 post According to study conducted over three decades buyers warrant little consideration in terms of value to the organization, to gain an in-depth understanding from where the challenges referenced in the book likely have their origins.

The above excerpt from my Bridging the disconnect between finance and purchasing (Part 2): Leveraging purchasing to improve ROIC post,represents one of the many articles I have written in which my focus invariably turned to a question of how organizations viewed (or didn’t view) purchasing – and more specifically purchasing professionals.

Often citing the old Rodney Dangerfield tagline of “I don’t get no respect,” the quest on the part of purchasing to gain a seat at the executive table has been an elusive goal . . . until now.

With Toshiba appointing its long-time manager of procurement and manufacturing Hisao Tanaka, to the CEO position, it appears that at least with Japan’s leading chipmaker, purchasing not only has a seat at the table it is actually at the head of the table.

Toshiba's new CEO; Hisao Tanaka

Toshiba’s new CEO; Hisao Tanaka

I am not certain that I would put this in the same ballpark as Jackie Robinson breaking through the color barrier in baseball, or “Kathy” Switzer becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.  But it is nonetheless a noteworthy moment in purchasing if for no other reason than to demonstrate that being a purchasing – or excuse me, procurement – professional, is no longer a black mark on your resume.  Okay, maybe black mark is a little too strong a term but all of you out there know what I mean.

The fact is that purchasing or procurement professionals or whatever moniker you want to use, has by and large been the ones left standing outside in the “functional” cold waiting for the executive bouncers to let us in to the “strategizing” club.  With the Tanaka elevation to CEO we may just have gained a foot in the proverbial club door.

One thing is certain.  It will be interesting to track his performance when he officially takes the reigns sometime in June.

In the meantime, let me know what you think.  Is this the start of a new trend in which purchasing people will finally get a real seat at the executive table or, is it a one time thing?

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Posted in: Commentary