• Nick Verkroost

Video: Should Procurement have a seat at the table, or should it be the trusted advisor?

On Tuesday 12th October, it was my great pleasure to welcome to the Procurement Roundtable three incredible speakers to help guide us in a discussion about the perennial question, "Should Procurement have a seat at the table, or should it be the trusted advisor?"

It was such a powerful and in-depth discussion, that we felt compelled to publish the full recording so that others in the industry could benefit from the experiences and perspectives shared by the group.

A full-length recording of the session is available above, together with a transcript below.

If you are interested in attending one of our future Procurement Roundtable events, please reach out to me at


Our guest speakers for the session were:

  • Alison Smith, Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author helping Procurement to think unconventionally

  • David Loseby, Managing Director at Barkers Consulting

  • Robert Bonnar, Senior Global Procurement Director at BP

With contributions from:

  • Chantal Pottage, Group Procurement Manager at Sanctuary Group

  • Karl Hyde, Head of Procurement at Elis

  • Mark Nuttall, Senior Procurement Manager at Park Dean Resorts

Any views or opinions expressed represent the views of the speakers/contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations or institutions they represent.


[00:00:00] Nick Verkroost: So welcome everyone. It’s great to see so many people with us today. As ever, a massive thank you to Will Terry from Procurement People who has helped us to organise and support this roundtable initiative, the whole purpose of which was to try and find an environment to get the whole procurement community together, to talk about some of the really big challenges that are affecting all of us in our day-to-day lives, and give us something to go back to our organisations that we can start to make a difference and improve what we're doing.

My name is Nick Verkroost and I'm your host for today. I am the COO of OCG Software. We are a supplier management platform that gives you complete visibility of your supplier data and removes the administrative burden of Procurement so that you can focus on the things that add value to your business.

And today we're going to tackle the big one. We're going to go after the really big topic that keeps rearing its head, which is, should Procurement have a seat at the table, or would we be better serve our organisations by continuing in our role as the trusted advisor.

And to help us navigate this emotionally charged and very opinionated topic, which I'm sure you've all got a view on, we've got three fantastic speakers joining us today. Alison Smith, coach trainer, speaker, and author helping the Procurement community to think differently. David Loseby, Managing Director of Barkers Commercial Consultancy. And Rob Bonner new into his role as Senior Global Procurement Director for Digital at BP. I'm sure you've been having a fun time in your opening few weeks at BP given what's going on at the moment. So it's a great, great to see you with us. So welcome to the three of you. Fantastic to have you along today.

David, I wonder if I could come to you first. I know you were a little bit late logging in, so I hope you can hear us and I hope you can see us and I hope you've managed to get the technology working for you.

You've obviously had a varied career in the Procurement profession. You've been a practitioner, you've been an advisor, you've seen all different aspects of Procurement and you've seen it evolve over time. And I just wonder, reflecting on everything that you've seen, what is the purpose of procurement today? What's the role of procurement, in your opinion, in the world that we live in today?

David Loseby: you didn't tell me about that question!

Nick Verkroost: I thought I'd surprise you with a good one.

[00:02:44] David Loseby: What I would say is Procurement's role is probably - we will have lots and lots of definitions for it. That's the harsh reality. And I think the one thing that I always recognise is that people in business suppliers, et cetera, will all actually have a different view as to exactly what Procurement is.

So I guess the start of any conversation might well be, “this is what I'm here to do, this is what my remit is, this is the scope.” And the reality is that in different organisations, the role will be different because it has a different remit. And so the reality is that it's almost chameleon-like in the sense that it has to be very agile and adapt to the environment in which it's working in. So therefore having a fixed view of what Procurement does might not be a particularly helpful position to start from. Having that more open mindset and being more receptive to understanding what the business challenges are, and recognising that those business challenges will actually change over time.

So guess what, your challenges in 2019 might be slightly different to those in 2020. This is a stark contrast, obviously, shifting from a very strategic agenda in 2019 to one of complete demand management and managing cashflow in 2020. Who could have told that story?!

But I think that's the, in some ways, that's the excitement of the role that we get within Procurement because I think it's this ability to be able to dial up and dial down different skills and competencies to suit and be adaptable to the organisation. It's part and parcel of what we have to do.

And it's a bit like the phrase that I've used with other people before, which is stay alert because it's all going to change tomorrow. So do not expect that one day will be the same as the next, and so therefore we do have to be very much alert, aware, agile, adaptable, flexible, all of those kinds of things, because guess what, that's what the organisation needs. It's like I've said to some people, you derive a specification at the start of a program or a project that might endure for 12, 18 months or more, you get to the very end and go, there you go, I've delivered it and there you go. But hang on a minute, there's been a pandemic in the middle of that, it's no longer relevant. So making sure that you're constantly sense checking, revalidating things as you go along, and recognising the fact that obviously in a dynamic world, things do change from the supply chain perspective too. So we have to, in some ways, probably have some basic, I'll call it ‘skeletal’ principles about what Procurement does or doesn't do, but then the whole piece after that is the adjustment that we then make to b not only relevant, but also be on value to the organisation that we're working with. And that's probably how I would answer the question to be perfectly honest.

[00:06:02] Nick Verkroost: Fantastic. It's great to get that input and perspective. And I can completely see that adaptability and the need to be flexible is absolutely fundamental to what it is that we're trying to do.

And Alison, just coming to you next, you spend a huge amount of time working with Procurement teams, particularly on some of those softer skills. And just thinking about what David said about adaptability, versatility, the ability to be able to look at a problem through fresh eyes and always be prepared for the next one. What do you see that comes up as some of the themes and challenges from the Procurement professionals that you're coaching? Where are they seeing some of the needs for your support to help in that regard?

[00:07:01] Alison Smith: For me. I think it's about the self-awareness piece, if I'm honest, because it's from that self-awareness that we're much more able to understand where we're coming from and therefore the buttons we may press with other people. And the fact that we're different from others, because quite often, people are getting really frustrated about not being understood. And it's just because we're not talking the language or our language is putting up the barriers between other people. So quite often, and it's not gone away, we're looking at well, how do we remove the barriers between us and the people we're are wanting to influence.

[00:07:38] Nick Verkroost: That's really interesting.

And, Rob, just to bring you in, to be honest, first of all, I'm very glad to see you. I was half expecting a phone call this morning to say that you'd been drafted in to drive one of BP's petrol trucks down to a forecourt somewhere. So I'm glad that hasn't happened!

Obviously you're completely new into BP. I imagine what you thought would be a nice, easy, smooth transition into a new role has probably been a bit of a baptism of fire! But you've got an opportunity now; I always thinking when you start a new role, you get the chance to have a clean slate. I can take all those mistakes I've made in my last role and I've got a chance to sort of start again. How are you approaching, coming into a new role? Are there some things that you're actively trying to do differently that you've learned from some of the roles that you've done previous roles.

[00:08:28] Rob Bonnar: Well, so great question. You're right, it's a great opportunity to revisit and look at the ways in which you've approached things before and what you could tweak. One thing [that I was thinking] when you first started off with that good stinker of a question to David at the start, the thing that hit me is that I've been lucky enough in lots of different roles to see, or to walk into organisations that had Procurement in a number of different ways. So when we get onto the seat at the table and that kind of thing, I've been lucky where we've had organisations with a Procurement company. So actually set up a specific entity, and Procurement didn't get a seat at the table, they made their own table. So say, oh well, I'll be the CEO of my own Procurement company then, and we all know some good examples of that, Vodafone and BT, and at SAB [Miller] when I was there, there have been really great examples of where Procurement can really have it's own agenda, but at the same time, the message that David put out there about being a chameleon is still very pertinent because you've still got to sell your company internally. Picking up on that theme is probably the thing that I'm most interested in carrying with me is that idea that wherever I go, I will, spend at least 50% of the time will be sales.

So I will be building those stakeholder relationships, building those networks to just have a good early warning system. Because particularly now, I obviously joined BP entirely remotely, so last week was the first time I met my manager in real life. Well that was obviously a new experience for me to completely be remote through the whole process of all the discussions and semi-formal interviews via Teams or Zoom, et cetera.

One thing I'm very aware of joining BP is that a lot of my relationships will still be that way. So that network that I would normally build up just wandering around the office and having a chat, and those were my old skills of being in person, building that network. Now I have to do it all remotely. And so that becomes even more of my focus. So I see that's really where my focus is now is building that network, that early warning system of how is it that I need to start changing my behaviours, changing my strategy, changing my approach. I need to get it through this medium, which is really an interesting challenge for me because it hasn't been so prevalent in any of the other roles at the point at which I've joined.

[00:11:45] Nick Verkroost: Yeah, I can imagine. It's incredibly difficult. You've got to try and build a relationship through a screen. After two years of us all trying to do that, it's actually been quite amazing at how quickly people have jumped at the opportunity to get back to the office and actually be around each other, in-person because I think we've all learned that we know how to do that, and we're probably struggling a little bit when it's just entirely virtually through a screen.

[00:12:12] Rob Bonnar: The problem there is, I know it’s daft, but because I don't have that network, when you join, you can turn up in the office, and no other person is there. So you go in on a Monday and then you may as well stay at home. You go in on a Friday, you may as well stay at home. So it's picking exactly, when am I actually going to turn up that gets the bang for the buck and all that stuff. But that's actually been the strangest bit. I'm really excited about getting back to the office. You got to pitch it right.

[00:12:41] Nick Verkroost: Absolutely. So just turning to the subject of the roundtable today and this question of the seat at the table. This is not the first time it's been asked and I'm sure it's not going to be the last and it keeps coming up year after year. I'd just like to get your view. Why is that? Where is this question coming from? Why do we keep asking it and why have we not figured out a way to navigate our ways through the problems that are obviously surfacing it? David, I wonder if I come to you first on that one?

[00:13:30] David Loseby: I think for me, the context for me will always be, there's this whole sort of question of where do we want to position ourselves in an organisation? What is it, and back to even the original question, which is what is our raison d'etre, which is effectively to act as a trusted advisor. That's the bottom line. And I think that not getting too hung up about the fact that we want to, I'll call it, ‘command’ or ‘demand’ a particular status or position in an organisation actually is probably the wrong way round for me. I think the important thing is that the organisation bestows upon you a status that says you are the trusted advisor. We recognise you, this is the value that we recognise you for, delivering within the organisation, delivering competitive advantage, pulling innovation through whatever it happens to be, for me is way more important.

And actually, I'd almost say that certainly in cases that I've been in, in an organisation where I haven't been on the Executive Board of an organisation, actually having somebody else fight my corner actually is quite, I quite like that because it's much stronger to have somebody saying, “no, no, no, this is the guy you need to talk to”. These are the people you need to engage with and get that sort of, I'll call it sort of ‘sponsorship’ to be able to do that kind of thing. I think that’s fine. Absolutely fine. I don't have a problem with it whatsoever. So I think it's almost some sort of, probably calling it out. I think we've just got to be careful that this is not some sort of ego thing that we're trying to seek. And actually it's more about the recognition for the value and the competency that we add to an organisation, so that what we provide is additive, and is done in a way that is integral and collaborative within an organisation. So I think for me, it's more fundamentally about that and I know this has been, this topic has been discussed many times over for many, many years.

And I think when you sort of sit back and say, I remember this in the playground chant, “I want to be the leader”. I want to be the leader and then suddenly they said, :okay, then you're the leader”. And then they turn around and go, “so what do you want to do next then?” You know, we can't be in that position. We have to be in the position whereby actually, people are bringing us through because they recognise that we have something to contribute in a constructive and objective way.

And that, almost acting a bit like wise council type of role is the bond that we play. And let's not get hung up about the fact that we're on a particular table, Board seat, or whatever, but actually recognise that we are a valued contributor to any organisation. And that's my position on it and I’m happy to be challenged as I say.

[00:17:09] Rob Bonnar: What I was going to say as David, when you talk about that position of having someone else already established on the Board that is actually actively pulling your voice, the point it brings to my mind, is the idea of, if there's someone established, the CFO's already there, you may be coming in reporting to the CFO and you can use that actual, did they actually welcome your opinion and take your voice through to the Board then? Of course, that's kind of like a proxy for you having a seat there anyway, and they're already established, they've got the relationships and the network. So this is a really positive outcome.

I think the question mark in my mind is maybe if the voice is not quite so welcome. Do you still believe the same thing? That would be my challenge. We could say, Hey, if you are stuck in that kind of administrative, just do the reactive Procurement piece, then maybe that's when people see it as a shortcut to say, “Hey, if I can just get on the Board myself, and then I know my voice is there”. But what would be your strategies or your approach to try and get your voice there even if your bum’s not on the seat?

[00:18:20] David Loseby: Well, I think the reality Rob is that if, let's say for instance, you've got a CFO that is either not particularly supportive or worse still is a bit of a dissenter, then the bottom line is you've got to turn that situation around anyway. You can't allow that to exist because it's untenable in any organisation to be in a position whereby, how can I put it, you've got somebody so influential within the business who is not supportive of the Procurement value proposition, it's your job in that sense of turn that around. That's your job as a CPO. You've got to go in there knowing full well that actually you’ve got to do that. And it's a bit like, I would say, almost parking to one side all the technicalities and all those other things first and building up the trust and the relationship first, before you then start to talk about all the other things that you want to do. So you have to do that bit first. It’s a bit like don't run before you can walk. Get the walking bit sorted out first, you know, one foot in front of the other. So get that relationship, get that trust established and then begin to work on how about this as idea. How can we change this.

I think it's about making sure that we do that in the right sequence, but be measured enough in our approach to make sure that we give the right amount of time and, I'll call it, opportunity to build that relationship and persuade, influence, utilise other Board members, whatever it happens to take.

But again, this is about the adaptability and the agility of the individual then to be able to do that and break it, but also recognise, to your point, you've got somebody that's not particularly, how can I put it, rowing in the same boat or direction as you, to figure that out quickly and do something about it.

And there will be occasions, let's be honest, there will be occasions whereby you go, “you know what, no matter how much I try and push to influence persuade, whatever, this is just not going to happen”. Then you've got a choice to make. Either stick with it for the long, hard and pretty tough road or pull the parachute because there are certain organisations that I had the fortune or misfortune to work with over the many years whereby that sort of view of what Procurement is there to do is entrenched and biased in a very tactical and operational context.

We've all known it, we've all been there. And I think we just need to recognise it sometimes for what it is, and call it out, and make sure that we deal with that in the right way. And you then have choices because really you’ve got the choice, which is either to confront it or challenge it or whatever, you've got that choice. But I'd almost say that there's no real positive, hands-on outcome from just simply sitting there and complaining about it. That is not going to give you any positive impact whatsoever. And it's not going to do you any good either. So for me, for that matter, I think it's just a question of accepting that that's the situation, but then developing a plan to say, this is how I intend to change it. And if you tried and then you've not succeeded, you know what your options are.

But I think those companies are becoming fewer and fewer because I think the peer pressure and the realisation from investors and the shareholder community and the wider organisation is that actually Procurement can deliver into the value proposition. So I think they're becoming fewer and fewer, but there’ll still be those that have gone there, that will hold onto a more, I'll call it traditional transactional view of Procurement. And I guess, if we can't crack those nuts, then we shouldn't be in business really. That's what we're there for. That's why we do what we do.

[00:22:44] Alison Smith: I think there's an element of our assumption is there's more of those hard nuts out there than there are. Because actually, LinkedIn is full of people that are talking about and the conversations we have in training where people are talking about, “oh, well, I've tried everything and it's not worked,” and I'm not convinced always that they have tried everything. And I agree with you, David, there's an element of, it's very quick for us to blame the other person other than ourselves. So rather than accepting the meaning of the communications in the response we get. So if people aren't listening, we have to own our communication, not blame them. And I think we're very quick to blame them.

And it comes back to category strategies. I teach category strategies, and people will come up with, “we need to rationalise the supply chain”. But where's the data to support that? “We need to seat at the table.” Well, where's the data that supports that? What’s the strategy that's going to get you the outcome that you want? Let's have a communication strategy that gathers the data to understand why the hell they're not listening, because if they're not listening to us, they're not listening for a reason. And yet we always blame the other person, and as a coach, I wouldn't let you get away with that.

[00:24:10] David Loseby: Rather than taking ownership of our own behaviours, back to what I've said before to people really, which is, our job in a sense is almost that of a detective, which is, if you observe some behaviours, there's a reason for those behaviours, and your job is to find out what is the reason and to dig underneath it and find out what it is and address the root cause, not the symptom. So it's back to that sort of inquisitive mindset that's required.

[00:24:37] Rob Bonnar: Alison, I love your scenario. You boil it down to the most simple. Just because you’re a CPO, don't forget you should have a stakeholder map and a comms plan.

[00:24:49] Alison Smith: We did it the other week. So I said, how many of you have got one, because we were doing it as part of the category strategy development. And I said, so how many of you ever done a comms plan, and everybody sort of took ten steps backwards. It's like, wow.

[00:25:01] Rob Bonnar: I remember doing one 10 years ago when someone made me do it for CIPS.

[00:25:06] Alison Smith: Yup. But the thing is, is the first step of doing a communication plan is identifying all the stakeholders. And I can absolutely guarantee that when you sit down and have to write them down, not do it in your head, you write them out. You suddenly realise, oh, we've forgotten that group of stakeholders or there's that one person there that might be the route in.

We think we're doing it in our heads and that's great, but we're not. So getting the pen out and writing that list and actually testing it with other people feels so fundamental because when we had a template that just said, list your stakeholders and everybody dismisses it, it's too simplistic. And I said, we don't do it because as soon as you go do a comms plan, if you write it down, invariably it's, oh, that is a comms plan to three people! The stakeholder list is more than likely longer than three people. And yet the comms plan somehow manages to only be for those three people.

[00:26:04] Nick Verkroost: I always think in a situation like this, you know, just because you're given a title, doesn't mean that you deserve to be given a certain amount of respect or a certain position within that table, wherever that might sit at the end of the day, you have to earn that respect. You have to earn your position within the organisation and prove to the organisation the value that you're offering.

Rob, you're probably deep in the middle of doing that now. You're brand new into the company. Nobody knows who you are. You're probably there actively trying to show everyone, look, this is what I can do for you. What are some of the techniques or tools that you've each used in your careers to try and facilitate that? To actually try and build some of those relationships? Rob, as you're in the middle of it, I want you to come to you first.

[00:26:52] Rob Bonnar: Well, the only problem with my answer is it probably sounds awful basic because I maybe follow the same kind of strategy that Alison is just talking about. Keep it simple, stupid. Just go over there. I mean, you're going to have to prove some value, so of course look at, is there something major that's going on that you can immediately see that you can get involved in, where you can deliver some value or savings or whatever is going on there.

But then also, in particular for me, those themes of what it is, whether you call it personal brand or the things that are really important to you. So for me, we've already talked to, and David mentioned a couple of times already, bringing in that supplier enabled innovation piece, building on that value piece that I believe strongly in. And so people should be able to see it, they'll definitely see it if they click on my LinkedIn, but then hopefully they'll see it in my identity as well. And then the piece about sustainability and embedding that in, particularly in the roles that I have been in, or the companies I've been in, embedding that in my day-to-day my behaviours. If they're really honest and truly you, make sure to maximise on them when you arrive, that is my strategy. So that people know that I'm building a network across all of the different stakeholder groups involved in sustainability and involved in innovation so that they can see immediately, well, I suppose also digital, but anyone who is interested in those three, so they can see that they've got an ally immediately here who's joined with a great passion and a great experience there. It might not be my title, it might not be my role or whatever it is. But that I am actively involved in that and I will be part of that.

Oftentimes it's quick wins is what people talk about, you know? Sure, sure, something quick as you can. But I really believe it's showing that those values and that you're demonstrating them in your behaviours. I think that's the way you build the trust. You build kind of an empathy between those teams, and then you have to show the logic and delivery. Otherwise the other one's just a bluff and bluster, but I think those two are a great way to start.

[00:29:24] Nick Verkroost: There’s a lot there about communication, the way in which we communicate and recognising, I guess, in some sense how we might be perceived or how we come across in our delivery of what we're saying to some of our stakeholders and the departments that we come up against. How do you go about trying to figure out the best way of doing that, and doing that little bit of self-reflection around how I should be speaking to other people and how they may be receiving what it is that I'm saying to them?

[00:29:54] Alison Smith: Well, one of the things I always say is, if what you're doing is working then you don't need to do any of this self reflection. So because you're already doing some of the things that we're sharing or how you do it works with the person you're speaking to. It could be that you're always going to have a problem with one particular person, but there is an element of observing. So one of the things I find easier on the training course is I can observe team’s language, so I can pick up the fact when they, even in our language, we'll call stakeholders “Mavericks”, and don't think that's very helpful. “Maverick spend”. It's like you just labelled a whole load of stakeholders unhelpfully, because that will engender in you a particular behaviour towards those stakeholders. So for me, it's quite often having that outside person or just having someone in an observer role.

Somebody this week on a workshop said to me, “well, how do I make these stakeholders listen to me?” And I said, well, therein lies the issue. “How do I make…” Your third word in or whatever? Let unpick that. It’s not complex. You're not going to be there for long before a word, either “us” and “them”, “make them do it”, “they”. So quite often it is there, but it's about stopping it in its tracks and then unpicking it to be able to go, “so what's that about”, in what way are we seeing them as some ‘other’, rather than it being a ‘we’ and a ‘partnership’ that we're doing it together, or whatever languaging will work.

It doesn't take long, but you do need somebody. You're not going to notice it as you're in the thick of it yourself. Somebody needs to be observing it. And then you can have a conversation.

[00:31:42] Nick Verkroost: Absolutely. And it's so vital because, particularly as Rob, you were talking about then, we don't have the opportunity at the moment to sit around the table with everyone, read body language and actually have a side conversation on the way in or out of a meeting to just smooth over some of those little misunderstandings that sometimes happen in discussion as a group. So what you say in that moment, at that table, in that video call or sometimes it’s an audio call, it matters. Everything is going to be communicated in the way in which you do that.

And David, if I just come to you here. You were talking about the fact that we have to recognise there are some organisations where they're just not that interested yet, or haven't got themselves strategically to the point where they recognise that procurement can contribute more than just being a purchasing department. Who is responsible for educating those organisation and helping them realise the opportunity and the value they're missing out on by not opening their eyes to what it is that we could do?

[00:32:50] David Loseby: Well ultimately it's the CPO because, where else would it emanate from, really, in my terms. But having a bunch of, I'll call it, ‘disciples’ and people that are like-minded, is hugely important because they will go around the business and be consistent in their approach, their messaging, et cetera.

But again, a recent example from my time at Rolls Royce, we had a very, very clear, prescriptive dashboard to present in terms of savings and working capital and all this sort of thing. I didn't seek permission, I just simply put in additional stuff about the value that we were adding in terms of what we were doing. And it's quite interesting over a period of two or three months, we got to the position whereby people, senior people on the Board, at Rolls Royce and other CEOs of the business division, sort of said, “I'll take all that for granted, I'm more interested in this stuff over here. Can we talk about this?”

And it's quite interesting that having done it that way, which is not necessarily seeking permission, but just simply showcasing, I’ll call it, what we were doing and the different things that we were doing and the positive impact that was having on their business. But also, not just going, “me, me, me, me, me”, but actually then utilising other people in the business as being collaborators in delivering this new approach or additional value. I think that more, I'll call it, slightly humble, but more inclusive approach actually, I've just broke through lots of barriers and actually allowed people then to say, “yeah, I recognise that now”. And, “can you send me those slides? I like to use them at my next team meeting”, you know, and this sort of thing.

So, you've connected because they then want to shamelessly steal and use what you've created. And that's great because what it means is that they're then showcasing what we've done. And it was quite interesting, literally got to the point whereby it was quite interesting whereby the Executive Team and the business CEOs, CFOs, et cetera, were more focused on that discussion and almost went, “yeah, we'll just skip over that, we've read that, that's fine, you're delivering all the stuff we've asked you to do”. Let's talk about this that helped me understand more about what you did, how you did it, who you did it with, where else can we do this? What other areas can we ignite some of this stuff?

And it was quite interesting. And it was, I thought, I'm back to the point we discussed earlier about persuading, somebody who is probably slightly more resistant. It was interesting that one senior member then went very, very silent realising that all the other execs were focused in on this and talking about it and we're excited about it. It actually then was the best way then to counter a person that was, I’ll call it, in a very much more tactical and, I’ll call it, operational space without really having to tackle it head on because you allow the peer pressure of that group to do its work. And so, there are various ways in which, if we're smart, we can use that to our advantage and not then necessarily sometimes have to tackle certain situations head on.

We can use peer groups, we can use other ways of actually countering, how can I put it, the impediment of what we can do then in terms of value creation. And so, I think there are many ways that we can do that. I mean, you might call that slightly Machiavellian, maybe, maybe it is. But for me, it's more about being more attuned to the ways and the techniques that you need to use, which are not necessarily always just trying to charge through the front door, that there will be a lot, so to find other ways of doing it and be quite, how can I put it, creative and, back to some of the points that Alison made as well, which is you don't have to necessarily use, what I call, negative or combative language. You can do it in different ways. And I think that's the far better way.

[00:37:29] Rob Bonnar: I like the use of the word ‘disciples’ there, because when you asked the provocation, Nick, which was, whose responsibility is it? Of course the CPO is the figurehead, but actually everyone has to talk value, not savings. And then that piece that owns this being discipled. Yes, I think if we can all as a Procurement unit talk value, not savings, people start to understand, “Procurement, of course there will be savings”.

But one thing that immediately springs to my mind, David, is the age old discussion about savings or cost avoidance. So when you come up against someone who won't even recognise cost avoidance, then that, oftentimes, they’re just purely in that old school. “Yes, you will deliver savings for me and I'll recognise it in my P&L, and off we go”. Maybe I haven't stretched their mind to, we'll avoid costs or we'll look at other options or other opportunities for value. So I like your example of, well, I shouldn't characterise it as Machiavellian, but slipping the extra KPIs into the dashboard. Not waiting for permission, just actually owning your comms plan, as Alison says. So, your communication is around value. So bring in those extra KPIs. Yes, it might not immediately be, I mean, at Rolls Royce it was great, those guys immediately took them up and started running with them. But you might have to have quite a long journey there to encourage people to understand that value.

But I think definitely, say when I was art SHV [Energy], we did exactly the same thing. Of course the guys want to know about savings. Particularly when you get to the pandemic and everybody's worried about savings and cash flow. Yes. No bother. You're going to deliver those. But really was making sure that that was just one seventh of our comms. So we made sure that there was all the other pieces of value that Procurement can bring around innovation, sustainability, or risk management, all these other pieces. You make sure that they're aware of what it is you're doing there, that you have first off, an idea, a strategy around what you can deliver, that you've built the networks and that you're actually able to quantify, qualitatively, however, but what you are actually bringing to the party there and to make sure you're communicating it. And then that disciple piece will then spawn the peer networks and the peer pressure, David as you said, to enable that discussion and that you are responsible, each person becomes responsible to constantly talk value.

[00:40:02] Nick Verkroost: And a lot of that comes down, I was think from experiences is that, at the end of the day, people pay attention to what you measure. And in a lot of cases that measurement is obviously tied to some kind of an incentive, a bonus or whatever may happen at the end of the year. And we're all familiar with that age old, annualised savings target that we've all got, we've all seen it before. How do you start to change that metric? Because it's all very well in good talking about value and explain to people why it's the better metric to track. But if at the end of the day, the CFO and my incentive package is tied to an annualised savings target, I know where I'm going to focus my intention first. How do you start to change that paradigm?

[00:40:56] Rob Bonnar: The interesting thing for me is that I think, you’ve used that one about ‘what gets measured gets worked on’. But there's also the ‘never waste a good crisis’ one. And so this crisis has brought us to this situation where people are much more aware of risk management, supply chain and sustainability. And so I think certainly the organisations I have been in, we're pushing against an open door to give ourselves a target in those areas. So straight away, if all that you're being measured on is savings, then maybe you’re lucky. Because I have not been in a situation where I was only being measured on that for a while. Because people are really expecting of us that risk management, supply chain optimisation and those other value pieces that are in sustainability, et cetera. And those have been baked into my objectives, or my bonus let's say, everywhere I've been. And I think that sort of opened the discussion a little bit, so maybe the door's not fully open, but there's a chink there that you can squeeze through to open out that value discussion and really look at broadening that particularly.

I agree with the whole objectives piece. Maybe my take on it would be that whole idea of a shared objective, which can really be a great benefit. So if you can partner up with a sustainability team and you help them to build what that objective is, and just actually share a big contribution to that, assure them that, “hey, I'm putting my money where my mouth is”, and I'm embedding that in my goals and putting my remuneration against that. And you can do that in, I mean, you'd obviously not want to have a four or five sides of A4 full of objectives, but you can have some really key targeted, shared goals and objectives there that can really help to show that you're a valued part of the company outside of just pure savings. That would be my approach to it.

[00:43:12] Nick Verkroost: Fantastic! David or Alison, do you have a perspective.

[00:43:16] David Loseby: I think I would endorse what Rob said, which is, I think making sure that, that you can evidence other areas and, back to what I was saying there about the whole collaborative, and I'll call it, catalytic part of what Procurement provides, is, is really, really important. And again, I'm sure we've all done this in terms of just bringing those different things together, and be seen as being the anchor or the architect, not necessarily the, how could I put it, the one and only person, but the architect that's helped to bring certain things to fruition is sufficiency in the value of context, as far as I'm concerned.

[00:44:09] Nick Verkroost: Chantel, I think you had a question.

[00:44:14] Chantal Pottage: Hi. Yes, it wasn't so much a question. Just to agree with Rob really. At the moment with the prices going up absolutely everywhere, we certainly need to be measured on something other than savings. It's a great opportunity to say, “yes, it's not all about savings”. It's about securing the supply chain. And this is one of the long-term agreements that we've got come to fruition and the risk management. For example, in my area that we've done a lot of work on gas, and I can go and say, “hey, look, guys actually was not as bad as it is”. It could be with gas, because we've done the hedging, we've done the planning, the bounce rate strategy in advance. So it's not that we're making a saving and we're paying less than Austrian. No, we're not, you know?

[00:44:59] Nick Verkroost: Yeah. It's a great point now. Thanks for that, Chantal. That is a really good point.

I’d like to shift the conversation slightly as I'm conscious we're rapidly going through the session. There's a lot of discussion that we've just had there about how people approach the role of Procurement, how they engage with the organisation. What we're talking here really about, a lot of this is about culture and the types of people who you have in your teams, and ultimately how you think about building out those teams, so you've got the right personalities in the right places at the right time. How do you go about doing that? I mean, obviously we're all familiar with CIPS. We're all familiar with the certification that we all go out and try and achieve, but is that helping us to understand some of these softer skills? Is there more that we need to be doing either as ourselves through self-learning or in our own organisations to try and build out that capability?

David, I know you've done a lot of work looking at the CIPS training program and what they offer. I wonder if you could shed some light from some of the research that you've done in that area?

[00:46:13] David Loseby: Yeah. I think probably to give away a bit of context for people as well, which is, I suppose, my research PhD, I had to look at where were soft skills in colloquial terms being delivered through either academic or professional bodies. And the harsh reality is that, in any one set of global standards or syllabus, I'm not going to name them, the maximum you get to is 3% of the total syllabus will be dedicated to those kinds of skills that are necessary for effective listening, effective communication, et cetera, et cetera.

So not withstanding the things that probably I've researched in terms of some of the cognitive biases and big five personality traits, all that kind of stuff. So for me, there is a huge Belgrano size hole, if you like, in the syllabus of any professional body, Institute or academic qualification, and it's something that I've long banged the drum along with Alison, Robert, and other sorts of things, trying to turn that around because it's so critical.

And in fact, when you think about what we do in Procurement ostensively, a lot of it is around change and transformation. So guess what, all your analytical skills or your processes and all those sorts of things, there's only going to get you so far. The harsh reality is you've got to convince people actually to do something differently to what they did the day before. And so for me, the absolute requirement to have those kinds of skills is not only critical, but it's becoming ever more critical.

In fact, the World Economic Forum produced a report, I think it was in 2018, and I think seven out of the top 10 skills required for ‘future business’ were in that space. So it's not as if we're out there standing on a soap box at Hyde Park Corner spouting out some sort of evangelical message that nobody's listening to. There is a reality behind what we have to do.

I mean, the interesting thing that I would say is that in discussion with CIPS who I'm a Trustee of, we have got to the position whereby, in principle, that they're going to, how can I put it, bestow upon me the ability to set up a global SIG for behaviour. That's brilliant because it speaks to the fact that people are starting to recognise that this is a critical requirement for all professionals. And actually, the fact that it's simply left, I'll call it, to organisations, individuals, and professionals to provide, or call it, on-the-job coaching, mentoring, up-skilling, et cetera, in this area is not sufficient, and therefore we do need to provide a more structured and robust approach to this.

If we're going to be successful as a profession, one that is there to seek to, not only act as a trusted advisor, but to seek to persuade and influence people to move in a certain direction, which we believe is in the best interest of an organisation, and not that that shouldn't be without the appropriate governance or ethics to make sure that we stay on course with that, but nevertheless, we do need those fundamental skills to be able to act with scale and capability as we move across an organisation and a supply chain in making it more harmonised in terms of the approach and how we respond to an increasingly more complex and demanding world. So the harsh reality is those skills are critically important as far as I'm concerned. Absolutely.

[00:50:30] Alison Smith: I think there's a danger, and I know you agree David, in as much that soft skills, we could be here all day talking about whether or not that's the right word, but soft skills, behavioural skills, hard skills, but there's a danger, I think, if we lump all of everything that's not technical into one area that we lose sight of all the individual skills that we think that the four means that we need to develop. Because I know, I remember having a conversation with somebody they said, “yeah, yeah, HR deal with the soft skills stuff”. But as soon as I said things like, “what about personal responsibility? What about self-awareness? What about comfort?” “Oh, we don't do that.” It's like, well, that's fine. We can go and give people negotiation training, and that might give them some confidence, but it may not help confidence in the moment. And actually last we're developing confidence skills and some of those other emotional intelligence skills, then some of the other skills development, it's just going to fall on whatever the phrase is, deaf ears.

[00:51:33] Nick Verkroost: Exactly. Karl, can I come to you? I think you've got a question.

[00:51:38] Karl Hyde: I just pick up on some points made. I've built a couple of teams in my past category teams. And when I started my career, I used to look at experience. I've changed that round to look at, particularly bringing in young people who are hungry for success, but have the right attitudes. I delivered a lot more as a team and a head of that category than I ever have in the past. And that's because these young people have gone on to bigger, better things and probably I'll end up working for one of them one day. I don't know. But we had so much more success because we focused on that behaviour and influence and how we do that. And the experience came with.

[00:52:15] Nick Verkroost: That’s really interesting thing for me. And did you go out and try and hire them, as in, you were actively looking for people with that attitude, or were they already within your organisation and you just needed to do an exercise of trying to identify them.

[00:52:29] Karl Hyde: It’s a bit of a perfect storm for me, because I'd taken on the head of category role for it and corporate services, and I had a team of two and they were leaving, only to build a team of five. So I had a perfect storm where I was juggling plates and delivering myself, but also then recruiting. So it was good opportunity to start with a clean slate. What I wanted to build that from, and we became the highest, the most successful team in delivering savings, cost avoidance value, et cetera, across the whole category within a year. And we built our own seat, the HR director's table, the R&D or the MD of the engineering business. They may be temporary seats, but they were there when we needed them. And that was because behaviours, looking for those behaviours rather than, “do you know what a contract term is” or “do you know what liability means” or “can you negotiate?”

Nick Verkroost: So how did you go about doing that? Was that a change in the way that you approached the interview? Is that the types of questions that you're asking people?

[00:53:27] Karl Hyde: I was given the kind of HR recommended questions and my boss’ recommended the question. I actually just didn't use part of it. It was more about how they felt in situations. Give an example of where your biggest success is, how do you feel or what didn't go so well, how did you feel and how would you, what would you do differently? How would you overcome that? I believe you deal with people no matter what you do, that's the key point here.

And I get frustrated because you see people advertising 8, 15 years’ experience in industry. Actually I've had many years’ experience and it's taught me a lot more, I think, in different industries. So it's about focusing on the key understanding of what Procurement could be and needs to be in that organisation.

And picking up on points made earlier, you've got to adapt that to the business need, rather than fantasise something that's not going to be real. And then you look at the behaviours of your individuals that you're bringing through. So it was focused on the behavioural thing. That's the most important thing to me. And I've learned that the hard way to be on a strict path throughout.

[00:54:33] Nick Verkroost: I could imagine. Thank you so much, Karl, for sharing that. That's a really interesting points. Mark, let me bring you in.

[00:54:43] Mark Nuttall: So I think the behavioural side is, it's an interesting one about whether or how individuals are developing that way. And it gets hard to do classroom based behavioural learning, because everybody approach to it is completely different. Like, as an individual, I learned far more about how I want to approach things by observing and watching others do it. And from a more on-the-job training. And it doesn't mean that I replicate what I've seen, should I adapt what I've seen to suit the way that I communicate with people and I deal with people. Which is why I think we're back to what Karl said a little bit, is really looking at our overall experience and behaviours that they want to bring to a role, rather than their technical ability and background in that role.

Because what we've all said, right from the beginning, Procurement is very adaptable across industries. You know, you can take the same skills that you have dealing with a soft services type business to deal with the hard services business. Even if you're not an engineer or into the oil industry, because the skills and the people are generally adaptable.

And I think as well in terms of influencing, I think, good Procurement people, and it might sound slightly harsh, it's part of their natural way of working, because we have to negotiate for a living, whether it's a saving, it's a cost avoidance, it's de-risking something, we are constantly influencing and negotiating in every day, every walk of life and everything we approach. But as I said, there are people that are a lot more comfortable in doing it, and there are people that have to learn to be comfortable with doing it. And I think that just comes from experience and on the job.

And coming back full circle to about hierarchical, where we sit in that in the organisation, for me sometimes if we look at job titles, they’re all over the place and salaries are all over the place and it's no longer straightforward to say if you're a Purchasing Manager, you've got a certain level in an organisation because a Purchasing Manager in one company could be a Category Manager in another company or just a Buyer. It really depends on how the organisation has structured these roles. But what it does do within an organisation sometimes where you can see it depending on the maturity of the business. If it's a hierarchal organisation, there is an element of the conversations become slightly easier depending on where you sit, because people will listen to you more.

If they don't really value the business that you bring, it's hard to even start that conversation sometimes because they don't see you as being at the same level as they are. So they automatically know more. And that, coming a bit back to what David said, as a Procurement professional it's the decision will have to be mine and just to decide where I want to sit in the organisation and fight that fight or let them get on with being transactional if I want to work more strategic now, go off and deliver some value.

Another key topic in all of this is that as Procurement, when I first came into this job, it was purchasing and it was about tactical, raising orders, making sure that the stock is there, and all the rest and the prices were set and everybody knew what was going on. Whereas now we should be only talking about value because otherwise, why are we here? If we're not delivering value, we're just another cost to the organisation.

[00:58:48] Nick Verkroost: It's a very interesting theme, Mark, just picking up what you said there about role models, the fact that you're often looking at the behaviours of others and, you're not necessarily copying them, you might learn not to not to behave that way if you don't agree with it, but it's a very helpful reference for yourself to understand how should you adapt what you do. And Karl there was also talking about as a leader of his team, actively taking the decision to do something differently, to not hire and the way that he was recommended by HR or his superiors, and it speaks to that role of us as leaders, how we exert such a huge influence about the culture of our teams and the makeup of our teams and how we collectively start to behave within that organisation.

Alison, this is absolutely where you spend so much of your time thinking. What would be a recommendation to all of us here, we're all leaders in our own various different ways in our teams, what would you recommend to us is something simple that we can all do just to help improve and drive our teams forward in the right way and with the right attitude?

[01:00:06] Alison Smith: Are you asking about what they can do for teams or for themselves? I think a lot of the problems, I remember writing a post about the fact that ‘rapport’ means that we look for similarities between other people. When we're dealing with other people that can mean that we think the other person we're dealing with is like us. And therefore we automatically communicate with them and deal with them assuming they're like us. So I think, I think if there was one thing everybody could do would be to note how the person they're struggling with, if they're not struggling with communicating, that's fine, but if they’re struggling to understand how to deal with somebody, is to look for the differences. In what way is that person different from them? Because I literally, when we were struggling with somebody, we had five different people, all coming up with strategies, but not one of us had got far enough away from our own preferences. And we all believe that that person was just like us. So on one hand, we're going, “oh, that person's detailed. No, no, no. That person's big picture. Oh, that Pearson's really visual”. It's like not one of us had actually taken our own preferences off long enough to be able to observe the other person. So for me, if it's one person you're struggling with, look for the differences, how are they different? Because that enables you to put a bit of distance between. It's the standing in the shoes of the other person that's pushing you away from this belief that you are all of a sudden.

[01:01:37] Nick Verkroost: Karl, I’m going to bring you back here as I see you you've put your hand up.

[01:01:41] Karl Hyde: Sorry. I don't want to start taking over. I just really picking up on Alison’s point there, and I look back at the time when I was labelled a Junior Buyer in a large FMCG firm, and I was told I’m a Junior Buyer so you deal with who wants to deal with you. There was an HR Director who didn't want to talk to me about the temp labour situation because of their status. So I deliberately took, I think it was a CIPS event or something at breakfast, on temp labour and the start and throws of what we ended up with now with IR35, and I then just send them the PowerPoint slides and said this might be of interest, but it did it in a way that it was a soft way. And they looked at it and then I had a meeting with them and all of a sudden, that was my, I guess, deck chair rather than proper seat at that conversation. And then we could influence and we could deliver more. It took us about a year to build that, but then I became a trusted advisor and it was about like what you say Alison, I think getting yourselves into their shoes, but not labelling them and quantifying them according to our own way as we do as Procurement. I mean, just understanding and sitting back and trying to understand who they are and how they think, because they might be different to us, but we don't need to be best friends down the pub with them. We need to engage and deliver business. So it was activating what you're saying.

[01:03:05] Alison Smith: I think we underestimate the power of the titles we give ourselves to actually undermine our own confidence. So absolutely, I've worked with teams where actually, I don't care what it says on your, you know, what your role is. What's the role that helps you be more confident? If we took Junior off, I’d suggested taking it off, I think I had to wait for permission, but suggested that the Junior Buyers also take Junior off because they felt every time they sense it, they were feeling undermined. It's like, if it's undermining you, then take the word off because actually you're going to be more confident. You're going to say different things in your emails, just because you've taken that word off. So I think we underestimate the power of words, but we'll be here forever if I do my…

[01:03:55] Karl Hyde: It comes down to your personal branding though, doesn't it. Understanding that, I guess that's the key.

[01:04:01] Rob Bonnar: You know Alison, you said what can we do for ourselves and then we didn’t get a chance to talk about what you can do for your teams. And one of the pieces that's an interesting one for me, because, in a similar vein, I saw a post the other day about, it was a provocative idea about diversity, saying diversity is not always a good thing. It obviously got me thinking about it. But the post in its essence was saying, look, if you're doing a 4x100 relay team and you could have four Usain Bolts, that's definitely the right answer. Right. There's no need to try and bring in some slower people just to make the team more rounded because your goal is just to win the 4x100.

Right. Okay. Got you. Good message. Right. I think in that example, we all agree, yes grand just clone Usain, everyone will be great. But… there's not another example I can immediately think of. Even in a tactical or operational role in Procurement, I still want some diversity. I still want some diversity of thought because your example, Alison, where you said about the five people all building the comms plan or the stakeholder plan. But we all have our own inherent biases and ideas and couldn't get our own blinkers off it. At least you had five ideas to try and sit and discuss. Yeah. So luckily you weren't all “me toos”. You were all sitting there with five different blinkers and I think that's a piece there around the build-out of the team that I, as I've gone through the different team build-outs, have become much more and more aware of throughout my career. There have been times when we first joined teams at the very start of my career and we did MBTI or whatever, and we all had exactly the same profile all team. And you say, right, okay, this is lovely, we're all extroverts. Great. So we're going to have those meetings. Yeah. You see them? Well, actually, no. As you're responsible for building out the team, it's diversity of thought, diversity of everything is so important. And the beauty of the situation right now, as I see it, is that people are just really aware of that.

So it's unlikely you're going to come across too many traditional ideas where people would just shadow the leader. People that are actively promoting that idea, and what Karl mentioned about the idea of just looking for behaviours, that's great, as long as you're looking for lots of different ways in which those behaviours can be delivered as well. That would be my slight build on what you already said, which I'm sure you did as well. But with that idea of making sure that if you always just look for exactly the same thing that, classic Einstein, if you look for the same, do the same thing, you'll get the same result. And if we always just look for people with CIPS who happen to get such a degree and have X amount of experience, we'll end up with exactly the same people because we'll have selected for them so specifically. You have made the criteria so specific. So it’s opening it up wherever we can is a great team build-out for me.

[01:07:36] Karl Hyde: I should've added to my point, it was a blend of your team. Not just the same person. There had to be the blend, so we had different people.

[01:07:48] David Loseby: Just a quick one. Just listening to the conversation, because I spent six months researching and then delivering a white paper on cognitive diversity. So anybody that's interested find go and it. But what I would say is with cognitive diversity, the recognition is that clearly then you're going to have to manage the diversity of those ideas, thoughts, values, et cetera. So it's almost like, be careful what you wish for type of thing. So there is a direct, how can I put it, consequence, if I can call it that, to having a diverse team, you then do have to manage the diversity of those thoughts, opinions, views, values, et cetera.

And so therefore, and again, not to over-engineer it, but just making sure that they're not so diverse that it becomes unmanageable because there is a reality to that as well, as well as the team-play bit. So if you think of an eight Cox rowing boat, you're going to want pretty much the same strength on each oar, because if you haven't, you go around in circles. So you know, again, it's about making sure that you're putting it into the right context and the right way.

The one probably final point I’ll leave people with, which is from my sort of my background, which is, each individual has at least 188 cognitive biases, 5 personality traits on a scale of one to five, and you each have your own experiences, which is called heuristics, that you build through life. You multiply all those together in each individual, the reality is that nobody will think exactly the same or, I'll call it, conceptualise problems, information, whatever, in exactly the same way. They may be close, but also be alert and aware to the fact that they may be very different too, even though they might look very similar to you in terms of either gender, race, whatever, but they may well think completely differently. So don't go away thinking that just because they're a Procurement person, they're going to act and think exactly the same as you. It ain't true, unfortunately, I'm sad to say, but that's the harsh reality of life. I will say no more because I know we're out of time. Sorry, Nick.

[01:10:19] Nick Verkroost: No, no, David, that was absolutely fascinating.

Completely agreed. And as you were talking there, I was just reflecting. You were saying the challenges that we have to now manage that diversity, I'll have a mixture of introverts and extroverts, I’ll have people who may not have English as their first language, and we've got a complete mix of people around the table. There is a responsibility on us as leaders to understand how to engage with them and how to manage them. I know just for myself, I'm better at managing certain personality types and others. It's just the way it is, and I have to work harder at those where I struggle to build more of a relationship. But you also get that within the team itself. There are always louder voices around the table than others. That's not to say the loudest voice is the right one and how you help to engage those who are quieter or struggled a little bit in certain situations. It's really important and a big part. It comes back to the education piece again, where do we gain that knowledge? Where do we gain that experience so that we can all be better and produce teams that can deliver the value in the right way?

Absolutely fascinating. I was wondering if we did a quick straw poll off the back of the title of the session, how many people still think that they need a seat at the table, or whether there's been enough discussion here to help you get satisfied that actually we can get by as a trusted advisor and we can build relationships in the right way, but we're a little bit out of time, so I won't do that.

David, Rob, and Alison, Alison you've sort of given us your one big thing that we could all do when we all get back to our desks. So thank you for that. Rob, I wonder if I come to you, what's one thing that we could each do; we're going to go back to our desks now and sit with our teams and get on with our day. What could we do, reflecting on this conversation, to change the way we operate and build better relationships and deliver that value.

[01:12:12] Rob Bonnar: I think I focused on the idea of what you truly stand for, that idea of what shines from you. Because if you focus on that piece, then people would respond to it.

[01:12:23] Nick Verkroost: Fantastic. Brilliant. Thanks Rob. David one last one from you?

[01:12:27] David Loseby: Very simple. Be authentic. Simple as that. Nothing complicated. And then people will then naturally trust you and you'll come through then as a trusted advisor.

[01:12:42] Nick Verkroost: Alison's just put there in the comments, “don't be afraid to be human” and I think that's a fitting way to end.

David, Alison, Rob, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for giving up your morning to be with us. An absolutely riveting conversation. We could keep going forever. You could probably imagine.

And thank you to all of you for joining and attending. Thanks for all your contributions. It's been great to see you all.