A Career in Procurement! – Not without Change

A career in procurement! Not without change. Without radical change the future career prospects of the professional procurement manager are limited, particularly where their ambition is to climb to the top, or near the top, of the management ladder.

Why do I make these bold statements? Well, a few days ago I had lunch with a Procurement manager. I’ll call him Samuel. Samuel has been with the company for 14 years and is a loyal employee, committed to the business and to continually improving procurement and supply chain and warehouse operations. His employer is a medium size company with 200 + employees.
The story he told me goes like this. A director of the company decided to retire leaving a vacancy on the ‘senior management committee’ – not the board. Samuel was encouraged by the outgoing director that he was in with a ‘shout’ to fill the vacant post but he was overlooked. No explanation was given. Whereas before he reported to the retiring Director he now reports to the ‘finance man’ who is not a director. Incidentally the retiring director was replaced on the board by the Sales Manager.

Samuel is a capable procurement professional and while the executive management has always recognised his contribution to the business this was not sufficient to give him a seat on the management committee.

What can we make from Samuel’s disillusionment with his future prospects as a Procurement Manager? I have said many times that procurement skills alone are not enough to enable the procurement manager to climb the management ladder. Here is where I see the dilemma. Senior Management and the board continually consider new initiatives that contribute to achieving the organisation’s long-term vision and objectives. Key risk indicators are established for strategies, plans and projects.

Management control requires a tailored information strategy for the executive leadership team and this would generally include:

• Essential information to monitor and evaluate the strategic execution of the organisation’s plans, and,
• Assessment of risks to the achievement of short and long term objectives, including risks related to compliance and reporting requirements.

The question is; ‘where does the Procurement Manager fit into this activity?’ Essentially they do not – although there may be the exceptional case. In terms of promotion, achievement is influenced by evidence of effective strategy and execution; a deep understanding of the business environment, including risks; the ability to innovate and adapt; and the ability to align procurement strategy throughout the organisation. The Procurement Manager should not sit in isolation from the ‘management of the business’.

Samuel no longer attends his institute’s training events because, he told me; “Each course I attended the content was more of the same – a recycling of information I had heard numerous times before”.

If you have experienced a ‘Samuel’ moment in your career please contact me. I may be able to offer guidance on how to transform and enhance your career by expanding your professional boundaries.