Bringing stakeholder engagement skills to life


Bringing stakeholder engagement skills to life…

By Mark Webb |

“How much more value could Procurement deliver with better stakeholder management?”

Many procurement professionals would recognise the story… Procurement would be an easy business without stakeholders. Suppliers are a doddle…it’s the stakeholders that make life difficult.

Well of course, this is untrue, but for many groups of buyers, especially those at foundation level or working in the indirects space, the perception is that the various aspects of stakeholder and demand management appear to take up the bulk of their workload.

Whether estimating demand volumes in a timely fashion, agreement to new and more cost effective specifications, not giving away negotiation leverage with suppliers or understanding the value that a professional procurement department can bring, stakeholders pull many levers for improving sourcing value.

Agreeing terms of reference for effective sourcing and collaborating to ensure the best value outcomes for each sourcing project takes subtlety, skill, experience and an understanding of business principles that is often way beyond what would usually be expected by the job grade of many buyers. In addition and for many indirect categories, compliance with category management strategy is rarely mandatory and cooperation with procurement usually needs to be earned not given. One CFO turned CPO recently told us of the shock she felt, when as a CPO, colleagues who had previously asked ‘how high’ retorted ‘why should I?’ At least until she had trained her team to communicate and act in ways and terms in which her stakeholders understood and valued.

At senior level, procurement leaders are now often so steeped in the skills for managing complex and different stakeholder requirements that many would get our vote for political manoeuvring on the world stage! Middle and more junior team members, however, are increasingly lacking these skills. This undermines their confidence and can sometimes lead to submissive, defensive or occasionally resistant attitudes which, in turn, prevent them from building trust and getting the cooperation they need.

For one major financial services client, these attitudes and lack of confidence were holding procurement effectiveness back. Despite clear policy and an established professional function many stakeholders were not aware or skeptical of the value that procurement could bring. Change was essential to ensure key business targets were not to be missed. FP worked with this client to design and run a series of energetic, interactive and practical stakeholder engagement workshops for 150 of the middle and junior staff. The result was a ground-breaking way of breaking this deadlock. Using actors to bring soft skills to life and for participants to practice in role-play and using experienced procurement practitioners to explore how these skills can be best used across the category management process and within the workplace increased not only the skills but also had a vast improvement on the confidence the team had. Suddenly the perception of ‘difficult’ stakeholders, insurmountable challenges melted away and the teams felt empowered and able to add true value.

This is one example, and we have many others, where we have worked with clients to introduce collaborative tools, subtle and not so subtle internal marketing programmes, targeted initiatives and skills development to transform how procurement is perceived and empowered and value it can correspondingly deliver.

FP can help you assess the value of improving the way your team engages with stakeholders and work with you to come up with effective ways of improving it.

Performance Learning

We believe that learning and development should be focused on and drive high team performance.

Strengthening procurement’s technical skills, as well as the full range of business and leadership behaviours, is central to everything that Future Purchasing does with its clients.

We offer a wide range of innovative and inspirational learning and development programmes designed to build confidence, competence and real motivation to deliver results.

About Mark Webb

Managing Director

22 years procurement experience in line management
and consulting roles.
Previous employment: Price Waterhouse, Mobil Oil and QP Group
Education: BSc in Management Science and MSc in Business by Research, Aston University
CIPS: member