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15 Steps to Peak Procurement Performance

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15 Steps to Peak Procurement Performance

I’m a big believer in looking for success in one field and seeing how you can adapt the same principles into other fields.

I’m also an avid cyclist and have been fascinated by the approach Sir Dave Brailsford has taken with both the British Cycling Team and the SKY team, in transforming them into world-beaters.

The success has been amazing and I’ve recently come across a review completed by Cranfield that highlighted the 15 Steps to Peak Performance – it makes great reading.

So, given all of this, what can Procurement take from this experience and how can we apply it to achieve similar success?

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The 15 steps are;

  1. Ensure Clarity – Do you have absolute clarity in what you’re trying to achieve from your procurement activities? Do you have outcomes that all of your stakeholders buy into? Are you absolutely clear about who is responsible for what?  Clarity provides you with a frame of reference that you can measure progress against. All too often, I find that procurement activities are kicked off with too little effort in understanding what is trying to be achieved.
  1. Create a ‘Podium Programme’ – Do you have a big enough Goal or Objective? Thinking big tends to make you look for innovation rather than relying on doing what you’ve always done that little bit better. What do I mean? Well, when was the last time you sat back and developed a clear Vision for your function, one that really got your whole team excited and one that your Executive team could not only support but fully endorse. Brailsford did this by aiming for medals – nothing less! What are you aiming for?
  1. Plan Backwards – By having clarity about what you want to achieve, you can then start to think about and consider the steps to get you there. Traditionally, the approach is to start by considering what your next step will be, but this can be too restrictive and a more insightful way to do this is to plan backwards.  So, if you are say, looking to deliver a 25% costs savings in your core product list, consider all possibilities for achieving this. Explore each possibility and ask yourself a simple question – “if this was to be achieved, what would be the previous step that needed to have been successfully completed?” At this point, ask yourself the same question. And again. And again, until you get back to where you are right now.  You now have a detailed action plan that will get you to where you want to be.
  1. Focus on Process – Get clear about what is required to be completed to achieve your objective and establish a clear and efficient process to get to that point.  This also introduces another major bug-bear for me – we tend to concentrate on price renegotiation and completely ignore the additional benefits that are available by streamlining the procurement process. Ask yourself how many steps are involved in raising a requisition and getting the product delivered? Is this number reasonable?
  1. Get back to Basics – What is the basic principle for Procurement? In my view, this is a simple question to answer – to Deliver Value to the Bottom Line. As such, everything that you do needs to be focused completely on this basic principle.
  1. Practice Winning – When we have a big target to hit, there is a tendency to apply a scatter gun approach to delivery, working on the assumption that by doing lots of activity, the results will come through. This seldom results in the goal being delivered and in the rare cases that it does, the team are absolutely shattered from the amount of chasing around that they’ve had to do. – It is not sustainable.  By being focused on the bigger ticket items and ensuring that you deliver them, the results will come and you will get recognised by the Executive of someone who ‘Delivers’
  1. Aggregate marginal gains – This is one of my favourites and again, we have the opportunity to apply the principle across Procurement and Supply Chain. What can you do to make small incremental improvements in every aspect of the end to end process?  If you make a 1% improvement in each of the 10 process steps, the end result is not a 1% gain, it is significantly more.  What can you do to establish this ‘continual improvement’ approach?
  1. Maximise the latest technologies – Care is needed here I think. There are a lot of technology solutions out there that can offer Procurement benefits. However, you need to be selective and focus on the ones that will deliver value to the bottom line. All too often, I see organisations go ‘big bang’ on a new technology solution only for it to fail due to a lack of effective change management and the potential benefits wiped out completely.
  1. Conduct the orchestra – Surround yourself with a great team, a team who share your vision and accept the core objectives of the team. This team will be made up of people reporting directly to you as well as your key stakeholders, both internal and external.  Once you have your team in place, orchestrate their activities and focus – be clear about what is expected and communicate progress frequently.
  1. Support the support – the old saying – “the sum of the parts is always greater than the parts themselves” is apt here. It will always be more fruitful for you to work in partnership with your supply chain partners – collaborate with them rather than holding them at arms length.  Support the end to end supply chain to deliver the maximum benefits available.
  1. Charter a team – How are you going to treat your enlarged team – internal and external. The way that you treat them will have a massive impact on their performance and the ultimate value delivered. Respect and honesty are values that can should be adopted and embraced by the whole team.
  1. Build a strong CORECommitment + Ownership + Responsibility = Excellence – this was Brailsford’s model to explain how success would be achieved and I think that this is equally applicable to the world of procurement. If the whole ‘team’ have the necessary drive to achieve the core objective (Commitment), each team members will take Ownership of their role in the end to end process and Responsibility for their performance.  The result will be Excellence and this will be translated into bottom line value.
  1. Control the chimp – This focuses on the psychological aspect of our performance. Can we control things when things start to go wrong? Can we maintain focus on the outcome when a team member lets you down? Your reaction, driven by your emotional and irrational part of your brain, has the real potential to inhibit your performance and the value ultimately delivered.
  1. Manage the ‘triangle of change’ – Successful delivery of the bottom line value will ultimately depend upon your ability to manage people through change. It may be a simple change in supplier, a change in procedure or implementation of new technology. Whatever it is, your success is determined by other people doing things differently.  To achieve change people must be (i) committed to deliver the change (ii) accept that they can change and (iii) see the benefit that the change will deliver to them. These three elements are critical to avoid significant dilution of the benefits delivered.
  1. Stick to your principles – being consistent and focused on your core objectives, irrespective of outside influences will ensure that you deliver maximum value. It is very easy to get deflected by new projects, or the latest gimmick. Stick to your principles and focus on the desired outcome and you will deliver significant extra value to the bottom line.

So, there you have it, the 15 stage approach that transformed UK cycling to become world-beaters, applied to the Procurement world. What do you think? How can you adopt this 15 principles into your daily activities?

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