Taste Meaningful Change in Procurement

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Procurement Change

Civet

While in the beautiful country of Bali, Indonesia, I went to a coffee plantation and tried a rare type of coffee called Kopi Luwak.

It’s rare because it first passes through the intestines of a civet, which is a member of the mongoose family, before being roasted.

Hopefully they wash it first, but I don’t know that for sure and I didn’t ask.

It’s supposed to be the smoothest coffee on earth, and it’s also the most expensive – up to $600/lb.

As I understand it, the term “Java” comes from Java, Indonesia. I figured these guys must know something about coffee.

Before drinking this mystical coffee, I got to watch a civet in a cage “produce” the beans for roasting.

To this day, I still don’t know who was more disenchanted with the Kopi Luwak production process, me or the civet.

The moral of the story however is that in order for me to experience this coffee, I had to embrace change, and this was no small change.

In the right circumstances, usually not involving wild animal droppings, people can embrace change. People are motivated when listening to compelling speeches about change.

In fact, in one way or another, almost every president in history has probably used the idea of “change” to get themselves into office.

For some reason however, when change hits the workplace, or when it becomes personal, the reaction can be much different. It’s too close to home maybe.

While doing a guest speakership at a purchasing conference last week, there were about 4 students (out of roughly 70 attendees) who were really resistant to my concepts, and vocally so.

After all, I was teaching them that the way they were doing purchasing was in fact what was causing the problems.

Nobody likes to hear that. Of course, I don’t get paid to tell people what they want to hear.

I dug deeper to find out why they felt the way they did.

We are talking about an organization that has 4 scattered implementations of ePurchasing, and not all with the same vendor.

Independent agencies of this organization were also looking at procuring their own ERP systems.

I asked why there couldn’t be ONE ERP system for the greater organization, and they emphatically explained to me that it wouldn’t meet their unique local needs.

I just listened. It wasn’t the right time or place to debate, although I’m sure they had some great reasons for their perspective.

My take away from this discussion was that some people don’t like change when it comes from the outside.

If there is change, they want it to come from within their immediate scope of control. More specifically, they want it to come from them.

Even if they negotiate independent ERP solutions for each agency, they might individually get great deals – maybe even world class deals – and they may do a great job solving problems that have been haunting them for years at the local level.

Their customers and local management may love them as a result. It still doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

The challenge in purchasing is to shift away from doing the right thing for a *part* of the organization and instead do the right thing for the whole company or organization.

That means not everyone involved will be happy. It also means that the solution may not be perfect for all parties involved.

However, it does mean that TCO will be optimized for the entire organization – and that’s what we’re getting paid to do as purchasing professionals.

Are you making purchasing decisions that are the right thing to do for your customer, but are the wrong thing to do for your company?

Are you ensuring an organization wide unified approach in your commodity purchasing strategies wherever possible?

You really have to challenge your customers and management – and even yourself – to make sure you are.

Remember, the ultimate customers you are trying to please are the board of directors and the shareholders, or the taxpayers in the case of government agencies.

The worst possible case of course is doing the wrong thing for all parties involved, like when I bought that dreaded wild animal intestine processed coffee.

In case you are wondering, it tasted awful.

…I guess not all change is good.

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