The Power of Positive Thinking for Procurement (copy)

The Power of Positive Thinking for Procurement

These blog thoughts were recently published on the blog e-Sourcing Forum:  Views & Industry News for procurement professionals to ponder. These are great concepts to ponder at the start of a new year. They are drawn from the 1952 book, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.  Specifically, the blog commented on three of Peale’s “ten rules for taking the hard way out of your job.”  

"Determine to like your work. Then it will become a pleasure, not drudgery. Perhaps you do not need to change your job. Change yourself and your work will seem different.”

It can hardly be a surprise that people who like their jobs are more effective than those who do not. But the piece of this rule that resonated with me was the idea of executing change from within. We talk a lot about Procurement Transformation and the changes it brings to procurement as a function, as well as the organization as whole: more strategy, better visibility, and improved analytics. But how many transformational efforts take into consideration the attitudes of the people in procurement?

At the risk of sounding naïve, think of the difference it would make if every individual in procurement wanted to be there – and enjoyed his or her work. The performance of each individual would be optimized, as would be the combined output of the team. Its enthusiasm and passion would be contagious, drawing other functions in, rather than building systems of rules that often (albeit inadvertently) push them away.

Taking the idea another step forward, consider how a more positive attitude would change relationships with suppliers. Collaboration would be easier to achieve because even challenging efforts would seem more plausible. An energetic and driven procurement team would quickly position its organization as a customer of choice, getting better account representation and increased insight into supplier operations.

Are you a positive thinker? Do you enjoy your work or is it just a job – “drudgery” as Peale puts it? How would your team’s performance be changed or improved if everyone was satisfied with his or her role?  

“Get a correct mental attitude, remembering that ease or difficulty in your work depends upon how you think about it. Think it’s hard and you make it hard. Think it’s easy and it tends to become easy.”

Any job, project, or task comes with its own unique requirements. Working with stakeholders to prepare a bid is full of examples. Once we combine their required specifications, the suppliers that must (or must not) be invited to participate, and a timeline that always seems too short, meeting expectations and performance goals can seem impossible.

It is tempting to complain about demanding stakeholders, but it is completely non-productive and breeds a negativity that holds procurement back. As long as the requirements are legitimate, the healthiest approach is to accept them without judgment, and move on to find the best solution.

Beyond hampering our ability to make efficient use of scarce time, a negative mindset damages the relationship between procurement and our stakeholders. We may even find ourselves wondering why they are being so hard on us, forgetting that they are responsible for realizing their own aggressive objectives. The more they ask of procurement, the better positioned we are to represent the solution to their problems.

Delivering solid results in the face of complex requirements demonstrates that procurement is an important internal resource critical to the success of the organization. Quality work requires overall efficiency rather than just speed. The better procurement is at handling the messy business of supply management reality, the more relevant and strategic we are to executive leadership.

Do you catch yourself forgetting that procurement and stakeholders are both on the same side? Can you extend benefit of the doubt when it feels like stakeholders are being demanding just to exert their authority over procurement?  

“Become efficient in your work. ‘Knowledge is power’ (over your job). It is always easier to do a thing right.”

Procurement’s customers don’t go away after a project is completed. Internal stakeholders, executive leaders, and supplier representatives will reappear if we have not completed work to their satisfaction. Getting a task done right the first time, even if it ends up taking more time and resources than we anticipated, is more efficient than doing substandard work and having to retrace our steps to fix a problem.

Part of what is challenging about this rule is the notion of what is ‘right.’ Procurement and each of our customer groups may all have a differing definition for when work is done right. Communication is critical for understanding expectations, but even with the clearest picture of what must be accomplished, we are selling ourselves short if we plan to just meet expectations. Value is created when procurement goes above and beyond expectations in a way that is meaningful to our customers. Often, we are the only ones with the visibility into an opportunity to create value. The drive to “do a thing right” should give us the conviction and energy required to take on more work, even when we could get by on less.

When we combine the three rules we have discussed in this series, we know we need to enjoy our work, maintain a positive mindset, and be willing to push ourselves to perform to our fullest potential – not just what others ask of us. None of these things are easy, and their combination only compounds the challenge. Finding ways to renew our enthusiasm is an absolute must, and colleagues are a great source of inspiration. Whether we reach out through social media, attend industry conferences, or attend webinars to get new ideas, procurement must stay energized to meet the expectations of others and to keep our own expectations high.

How do you find ways to go above and beyond expectations? Have you ever realized, in retrospect, that you missed an opportunity to create value because you were overly focused on meeting expectations rather than establishing your own?

Perhaps these three principles will enthuse for another productive year in Public Procurement!

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