We’ve just gotten back to the office from your off-site, the one where you announced your grand plan for our re-organization. You asked us to let you know what we thought about this and since I’ve had 15 – 20 minutes to digest and think about it, I thought I’d drop you a line and let you know how I felt. As you know, I’ve been here at the company for over twenty years. I got moved into Procurement from manufacturing because I knew more about what we were trying to buy than anyone else. And I’ve managed to make a very comfortable life for myself here in the department. As I’ve told you many times in the month that you’ve been here, I’m critical to the success of the business – they couldn’t do what they do without me.
I don’t think you’ve fully thought through this idea of the “transformation” you talked about. After all, you haven’t mentioned the things we do today based on years of experience and practice. You should come down to my desk some time and let me show you the forms, files and cross files I use to keep track of what we’re going to make and how I turn that into what we should buy. My card filing system is robust and gives me what I need to plan our buys. I know you mentioned that we needed new systems and new processes, but the old ones actually work just fine for me. You also mentioned that we needed to simplify and standardize so that we could automate, but when you come to my desk, I’ll show you how hard that’s going to be.
It would be fool hearty to think that some automated tool could replace the complex work that I do. Think of me as an “artist” or a “conductor” taking disparate pieces of information I get from reports and meetings and converting it into a buying plan. Also, keep in mind that our key suppliers, the ones who supply the most important raw materials, are close friends of mine. We play golf together, go to games together (they always pay – I’m not using company funds for this) and attend the same church. It’s these close relationships that help ensure we’re getting the best deal when we renegotiate pricing every five or ten years.
Signed: Frohm de Cellar
What the CPO should consider before responding?
Frohm’s points may seem cliché in today’s modern Procurement world. In fact, there are lots of Frohm’s out there operating in procurement shops using custom processes, off-line tools and back channels to perform their work. While their contributions to their companies are significant, they also represent barriers to the transformation of the function and the move to best in class. The fact is that when considering a transformation, gauging and understanding
the stake of the stakeholders in the status quo is critical.
The transformational CPO has to realize that a substantial number of the existing employees will not be in favor of change, another substantial number will assume that they can “wait out the transformation” and let things get back to normal once the CPO is gone and the final group of employees will be willing to embrace the change, but may not understand it. Therefore, the CPO has to be clear and transparent about the change and must communicate well the design of the transformation, the rationale for the transformation and the plan for achieving the new design. The CPO must also identify a team of people within the organization to actively participate in the design so the people in the function don’t feel like transformation is being done to them, but with them. While the temptation is to discount Frohm’s comments, the truth is that Frohm is probably speaking for the majority and the savvy CPO will know this and work to address his staff’s concerns.