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Category Management Process: I say tomato you say tomato

By Alison Smith |

In the previous post I’ve written in this series on category management I said that category management wasn’t really a process but a recipe that enabled you to consistently make yummy category management cakes. Cakes that would get you on to The Great British Bake Off and not be thrown into the compost bin for being inedible.

I love a great metaphor. I’ve even written a book on the subject to help people get out of the predicaments they’ve found themselves and back on track: Can’t see the wood for the trees That said, we can sometimes get too carried away with the metaphor and forget the insight we’re trying to share.

In this post I want to be a little more explicit in the point I’m making by offering some alternative definitions I’d like you to have for the Category Management process.

Process – adaptable and flexible process steps to guide you from start to finish – some concurrently undertaken and some consecutive.

Additional definitions

  • Framework – to ensure risks are mitigated; that laws, or rules are adhered to; and that minimum standards are achieved.
  • Protocol – keeps patients healthy and all involved safe.
  • Road Map – to plot an effective and efficient journey from where you are to where you want to get to, to avoid getting lost when exploring new routes, and have the ability to react to diversions or even to change the destination.
  • A plan – what you need to do to get from where you are to where you want to be using the resources you have.
  • Agenda – to ensure the objectives are clear and agreed, to prioritise activities, to allocate appropriate time to each item, to allow people to prepare for their participation.
  • Recipe – to ensure the right ingredients, in the right quantity are mixed together at the right time to achieve the outcome you want.
  • Music Score – to enable proficient players, with the right instruments, to play the right notes to make a wonderful sound together.

The toolkit then becomes the means of consistently making any of that happen across the whole organisation – the reference guide for those who haven’t done this before, or don’t do it so regularly enough that they’re able to replicate it from memory without forgetting key points or cutting dangerous corners. It provides the nudge to go beyond what they know and have done for years and to try something they’ve not done before – just like those technical challenges in The Great British Bake Off (although this time we’re giving them all the instructions).

The working strategy document is then a means of documenting the cake, journey, or meeting for all to follow, critique, add and enhance the output.

What’s then delivered:

  • Is flexible
  • Is appropriate for the situation
  • Is effective, efficient and consistent
  • Minimises errors and omissions
  • Ensures the right people are engaged
  • Captures all opportunities
  • Explores what we didn’t know we didn’t know, not just what we did know
  • Delivers a tasty cake that people come back for again and again

In other words, the category management process and supporting toolkit allows for greatness not mediocrity! It doesn’t keep you shackled – it lets you fly.

I think that’s enough metaphors too keep you going.

Seriously though, do get in touch if you’d like to explore the science of doing category management well in your organisation. It really could be a life changer.

Alison Smith

About Alison Smith

Principal Consultant

After 15 years in Procurement in organisations, Alison decided that she wanted to expand that pattern observation, exploration, and problem-solving to help others solve their problems in life and to help them get back on track. Combining her unique experience as a procurement expert and a coach she offers a refreshing approach to personal development for Procurement Professionals.