Editor’s Note: Charles is founder, president and chief procurement officer of Next Level Purchasing, which offers the SPSM (Senior Professional in Supply Management) family of certifications.
Be sure to check out Charles’ Purchasing Certification Blog.
In my line of work, I see four types of procurement departments relative to their appetites for professional development.
Type #1 is the procurement department that thinks that all there is to know about procurement is how to enter a purchase order into the computer system. They don’t negotiate with prospective suppliers. They don’t collaborate with existing suppliers. They don’t have any clue what widely respected procurement departments do. As such, they have absolutely no interest in securing professional development for their staff. In their minds, they already know what they need to know. It’s sad that such procurement departments exist in this twenty-first century but they are more common than you’d believe!
Imagine an IT department that never learned anything new since before the dawn of the Internet. You expect your IT department to keep up with developments in the world, right? So should procurement departments.
Fortunately, the three other types of procurement departments do seek professional development. Professional development is the key to continuous performance improvement.
Type #2 is the procurement department that seeks professional development to fix a problem. For example, one procurement department may say “Our people are OK at negotiation, but they could be better. They just aren’t getting the results that we know are possible. We need to get them some solid negotiation training.” While having a problem isn’t a good thing, recognizing a weakness and seeking to improve weak areas is commendable. While a procurement department like this may not find itself on the cover of a magazine like Supply Chain Management Review any time soon, using professional development as a vehicle for improvement is moving in the right direction.
Type #3 is the procurement department that seeks professional development to keep up with the business world. These procurement departments are generally very good at what they do. There are no glaring flaws or gaps in their team members’ knowledge that need to be addressed just to stay afloat. However, they recognize that the skills that produce success today may not be enough to produce success tomorrow. They know that other procurement departments are continually getting better, new challenges in the business world are arising, new procurement practices and technologies are emerging, and suppliers are getting smarter. So, this type of procurement department has a distaste for complacency and doesn’t want to fall behind by standing still.
Finally, Type #4 is the procurement department that is ahead of everyone else and wants to stay there. These procurement departments outperform competitors and procurement departments from other classes alike. These are the types of procurement departments that do make the covers of magazines. They know that they are on top and want to stay there. In additional to external training, these procurement departments often develop their own internal professional development. They have some of the world’s highest performing procurement professionals on their teams and leverage their knowledge by sharing it internally.
What type of procurement department do you work for?