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Procurement's Four (Most Desirable) Character Traits

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What is the difference between a good procurement professional and a great one?

Based on an industry-wide poll, this brief identifies the four common and most valued traits of top procurement professionals and why they are valued as high as they are.

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Procurement's Four (Most Desirable) Character Traits

  1. 1. Procurement’s four character traits Poll Report #1 Research Author: Jon Hansen for Sourcing Solved & Procurement Foundry Press
  2. 2. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 2 According to Deloitte‘s 2021 CPO Survey, procurement “isn’t just about cost savings and operational efficiency anymore.” Procurement leaders have had to “change strategies in an instant to adapt to the next normal.” In the recent Sourcing Solved/Procurement Foundry Press LinkedIn Polls, we asked, “Which one of the following character traits is the most important for a procurement professional to possess in this brave new world and why?” Before we delve into the reasons behind the responses, here are the results. Note that the first poll with 1,015 votes was from the general, overall procurement industry populace. In comparison, the 276 votes second poll reflects the opinions of CPOs who follow the CPO ARENA podcast. Procurement’s four character traits Poll Report #1
  3. 3. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 3 Procurement Industry General Populace (August 2021) CPO Arena (August 2021) Link to Poll and Comments Link to Poll and Comments
  4. 4. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 4 Summary Defining The Character Traits Before we can analyze and understand the results, a quick primer on the meaning of each character trait is in order. In order of poll response priority, here is a breakdown of each trait meaning: Proactivity In its simplest form, proactivity or being proactive is taking the initiative to recognize and solve a problem before action is needed. In short, it is solving a problem before it is a problem. Curiosity Perhaps it is self-explanatory, but we will define it anyway – a strong desire to learn about something. Resiliency The ability to overcome adversity or “spring back into shape.” Creativity The ability to imagine or reimagine an original idea.
  5. 5. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 5 Out of the 1,291 votes cast in the poll, “Proactivity” received the greatest number of votes yet was talked about the least. There was a total of 160 comments. Of those, only three referred to proactivity or the importance of being proactive. One person suggested that “Proactivity is a culmination of all the other traits,” while another wondered, “How can you be proactive without being resilient or creative?” A third respondent suggests that while all four traits are interconnected – one feeding off of the other, “The one which may drive the most efficient result remains for me to be proactive.” Proactivity and the Silent Majority? Our take To start, we don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer to this poll. That said, it goes without saying – especially in the post-pandemic world, that those who take the initiative and take action to address the new challenges we are facing both individually and collectively will rise to the top and stand out in a dramatically shifting talent marketplace. The fact that it was listed as the number 1 desirable trait would also suggest that professionals demonstrating a higher propensity to take charge are likely to command the greatest interest and potentially a higher remuneration. What does it all mean?
  6. 6. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 6 Curiosity’s Cat Is Alive and Well Out of the 1,291 votes cast in the poll, “Curiosity” received the second-highest vote count from both the general procurement populace and CPOs – although the latter expressed a notable favor over the former. One of the more interesting comments was that curiosity was closely aligned with “pushing boundaries” and “thinking differently.” In other words, as one respondent put it, “curiosity is probably the best skill to have to navigate the big transformations ahead!” So, what does curiosity look like - what form does it take? How is it reflected or manifested in the real world? According to another person who took the poll, procurement professionals must not only expand their vision in familiar areas such as “new products, items, categories, sourcing,” and “all the tech stuff.” It also has to expand to include a new way of seeing “data science, marketing, and accounting,” all of which “will help us get the big picture and make the best decisions.” In short, “genuine curiosity is the fuel that keeps the engine running.” Interestingly enough, expanding or extending your curiosity to new areas aligns with the recent findings of the Deloitte Global 2021 Chief Procurement Officer Survey. The survey starts by reporting that procurement “isn’t just about cost savings and operational efficiency anymore.” It then states that CPOs must focus on everything from “innovation, digital transformation, introducing new products and services.” In addition to these, it also refers to “other factors” such as “climate change, geopolitical stability, increasing societal expectations, and world health” citing them as being “a strategic priority for organizations.” Our take There is no doubt that procurement is undergoing a tremendous period of transformation and that curiosity is a big part of dealing with said changes. The real question is whether or not the procurement professional in general is up to the same level of speed as their CPOs regarding the direction of their focus. Over the past few years, when polled, most CPOs expressed the belief that their current teams lack the required skill sets to achieve their strategic objectives. The question we have is whether the issue is due to the lack of skills or the absence of curiosity in reaching beyond the familiar cost savings model. The 6 percent gap between how CPOs value curiosity versus the general procurement populace may not seem like much. However, given where the industry is heading, it could become a significant factor if the gap widens instead of closes.
  7. 7. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 7 Creative Balance While the priority of their rankings differed – the general procurement populace ranked creativity as the least in-demand trait of the four. In contrast, CPOs ranked it third. With both groups creativity garnering an equal 18 percent vote. Interestingly, creativity and curiosity seemed to go hand in hand, at least with some of those responding to the poll. As one professional put it, while “proactivity and resiliency are a given for today’s procurement professional,” to “take things to the next level, they need a combination of creativity and curiosity to deliver along the entire value chain.” As was the case with the other “soft skills,” there seemed to be a consensus that companies were not doing enough to foster or develop and reward those who demonstrate creativity in their day-to-day work. Our take If we were to look at this objectively, instead of asking what companies can do to encourage creativity, we would look inward at what we can and should do as procurement professionals. As one respondent so aptly put it, “changing or pushing oneself out of comfort zones fosters creativity.” By suggesting that “creativity can be unleashed by allowing people to truly think out of the box,” it would appear that any lack of creativity in procurement has more to do with self- censorship than it does organizational support. In other words, people have to learn to speak up during brainstorming sessions and speak their minds. In this context, creativity is as much an act of will as it is a talent or skill.
  8. 8. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 8 Mass Resiliency There is no surprise that resiliency was valued more by the general procurement populace than it was by CPOs – 20 percent of the vote for the former while 16 percent for the latter. This difference suggests that many procurement professionals value resiliency more than management because of the changes that are rippling down through to the front lines. In addition to being asked to do more of their traditional functions with less, there is a greater demand for procurement professionals to expand the scope of responsibilities into new areas. Refer to the previously referenced Deloitte survey. As one writer put it, “resilience would be my top pick” because it will “enable a proactive approach to overcome the unexpected.” In this regard, resilience is the “new innovative soft skill that we have to develop to excel, in this constantly evolving environment we work in nowadays.” Our Take In today’s post-pandemic world, in which both our working and personal lives have been turned upside-down, resiliency would seem to be an invaluable trait. At least this was the case when one respondent expressed surprise that resilience was not the top trait. According to this, individual procurement “plays a very nuanced, often difficult balancing role among stakeholder groups and supply markets.” Referring to what they called “small challenges and puzzles to solve at each step of the process,” resilience is critical to navigating the “nos, what-abouts, and stops-and-gos which those we serve introduce to each project.” In this context, perhaps resilience is as much about patience as it is any of the other traits listed in our poll.
  9. 9. In the end, polls such as this one, while subjective, are invaluable in that they stimulate broader discussion from which we can all learn from each other and ultimately discover the all-important common ground that strengthens our collective profession. We would be the first to agree that these four traits, while important, are not the only traits to consider. That said, they appear to be both individually and collectively the most notable. How they can be developed and leveraged to meet both the current and emerging demands of a profession and industry in transition will ultimately reflect their true value in the weeks, months and even years ahead. Conclusion Thank you to all the people who read, voted and commented on our recent poll. We invite you to participate similarly with our next poll on the use of blockchain in procurement. Procurement’s Four Character Traits 9
  10. 10. The World’s Leading Sourcing Community Procurement Foundry is a private community where indirect procurement and supply chain management professionals come to gather, learn, share and grow. The Evolution of Procurement Talent Assessment, Acquisition and Development Securing Top Procurement Talent in the Digital Age Poll sponsors: Jon Hansen Chief Editor of the Procurement Insights blog As the Founder and Chief Editor of the Procurement Insights blog, Jon Hansen has gained an international reputation for delivering unique and meaningful insights into the procurement world and business in general through a variety of mediums including radio and television. A sought after speaker, writer, and moderator; he is a two-time Ottawa Finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for having built and ultimately selling his software company for $12 million. With 40 years of high-tech industry experience and almost as long in procurement, Jon’s recognition as one of the Top 50 Procurement Influencers globally reflects the value that he brings to our industry.
  • TheCarlosgt

    Oct. 16, 2021

What is the difference between a good procurement professional and a great one? Based on an industry-wide poll, this brief identifies the four common and most valued traits of top procurement professionals and why they are valued as high as they are.

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