What is a Public Procurement Professional?

In recent years, various publications, chat rooms and speakers have hosted numerous discussions concerning elevating public procurement’s stature to the same level as the other commonly recognized professions such as doctors, attorneys, architects and engineers. This is a valid discussion worthy of consideration yet it requires a related discussion of what is a public procurement professional. I offer a few observations about public procurement professionalism below.

Professionals are knowledgeable. This knowledge goes beyond knowing their entity’s laws. A professional must have a wide knowledge of best practices, resources and general knowledge. Knowing only your entity’s laws does not provide sufficient knowledge to be a professional. Professionals have broad-based knowledge enabling them to address situations effectively. Professionals have inter-disciplinary knowledge providing resources to satisfy their entity’s needs.

Professionals are highly responsible employees exhibiting world-class employee skills. Professionals exhibit organizational skills, cooperative spirits, etiquette, punctuality, pleasant demeanors, honesty, a service attitude, the ability to meet deadlines, reliability and have invaluable basic life skills. Without these attributes, they only have technical skills.

Discontent with the status quo can be indicative of a professional. A professional is never satisfied because they know that performance improvement is always possible. Professionals always look for a better way to do things and they never reach perfection. Professionals are always practicing, planning and striving to improve.

Professionals have integrity and will assert opinions and viewpoints about highly important issues. Professionals realize that most issues do not require taking a dramatic stand but some do. Professionals may have to risk their careers in order to do what is professionally responsible. Not everyone can or will take such stands.

Dr. Stephen Gordon says the professional public purchaser must consider excellence of performance as the standard for every action. He is right. Professionals must commit to excellence in everything they do. Solicitations must be well written and professional in appearance. Outreach materials and policy manuals must be accurate and properly presented. Professionals must properly give presentations with proper English and grammar. Sloppy documents and sloppy public speech is not the mark of a professional. Professionals do not look for the easiest way to perform a task. They look for the best way and then try to make that as easy as possible. Professionals do not look for the easiest way out-they look for the most responsible way.

Professionals are committed to their entity’s success and must be committed to bettering the profession. Professionals understand that they have a commitment to their entity when they take a position within it. The commitment is to perform with excellence. Professionals also are committed to their profession and devote time to bettering the profession. The public purchasing professional recognizes the obligation of the individual practitioner to contribute to the educational effort through research and volunteerism.

The professional obtains professional certification and encourages his or her colleagues to do the same. Professional certification does not guarantee competence but it does require a certain minimum level of knowledge and demonstrates a commitment to continuing education. A doctor would not be professional without certification and would likely not have many clients. The same is true for attorneys, surveyors and the like. The professional advocates for professional certification and other meaningful standards of knowledge and ability in hiring and promotional decisions because the professional wants to better the entity and the profession.

A mark of a processional is being modern. Professionals keep policies, procedures and techniques as modern as possible. Professionals do not rest in the past but they do learn from the past. Professionals encourage, embrace and use the most modern technology to accomplish their goals. While a T-Model may invoke wonderful nostalgia, most of us want a modern car with all of its modern features. The same is true in the professional world. A professional is not left behind with old antiquated ideas or techniques.

Professionals make decisions and then accept accountability for these decisions. If an employee cannot or will not make decisions (based on their technical and general knowledge), they are not a professional. Once the professional makes a decision, they are accountable for the decision and must not try to place the blame on the “law” or on others. If a professional makes a mistake, they own up to it and try to fix it if possible. To do otherwise is irresponsible and not indicative of a professional.

Kemansky and Gordon rightly say that a professional individual is absolutely nothing less than one manifesting fine artistry and workmanship based on sound knowledge and conscientiousness, reflecting the results of education, training and experience and are governed by the highest sense of honor and integrity no matter if it involves great personal inconvenience or even great personal sacrifice, while contributing to the benefit of society.

Let’s continue to build public procurement as a profession by being outstanding professionals ourselves.

Keep it professional!


Terry McKee
ETPA President 2018

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