I just heard an industry professional say these exact words the other day, verbatim:
“it’s a never-ending cycle. You go into the workday with an idea of what’s on your plate, and then you get a serving of something else put on your plate.”
Sound familiar? Is that what it feels like day after day on the job as a purchasing professional? I know it does because I’ve been working with people in our profession for the last 20+ years, in 19 different countries and counting.
It’s what all purchasing professionals tell me, no matter the geography or industry or commodity. They can’t get anything meaningful done because there is no time for strategy.
Here’s the clincher though. This wasn’t a purchasing professional making this quote above. Do you know who it was?
Think hard. Really hard. Are you ready?
******It was a crime scene investigator.******
A crime scene investigator, being interviewed on one of those CSI shows. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Now THAT’s a profession that should be allowed to be reactive. You can’t forecast murders and robberies and violent crimes.
You can try to prevent those kinds of things, but you can’t crystal ball when they are going to happen and nicely manage your schedule around that planning framework. It doesn’t work that way.
So why did this quote catch my attention? Because this is the life of a purchasing professional. “Management by distraction” is what I call it.
If you don’t believe me, clear your day of meetings tomorrow, write down five things you want to get done with that time, and then see how many of them you actually get to at the end of the day. You already know the outcome, don’t you?
And I will tell you this: This is NOT an epidemic that is plaguing other service providers too, like finance, accounting, human resources, etc. Don’t fool yourself, because it’s not. Purchasing is uniquely allowing themselves to get relegated to a back office reactive function.
Then you look back after 20 years and find out you don’t have 20 years’ experience, but rather, you have 1 year experience 20 times! No wonder your career isn’t going at the pace you would like.
Our profession needs to have total cost strategic objectives that are broken down into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and yes, daily activities. Those need to take priorities over the fires.
Actually, the fires need to stop happening. And they are preventable. 90% of the things you reactively get sucked into day after day are preventable.
The root cause? It’s two-fold. The first part is that end-users are being treated as customers. Our goal is to satisfy the end user’s business needs and objectives, not to do exactly as they say.
The stockholders, board of directors, and (for the public sector) the taxpayers are the customers. We should have full allegiance to them and should be exclusively acting in their best interests.
The second, and this is the much bigger piece, is that I find that purchasing professionals are buying goods and services instead of performance results.
This means that the front end of the purchasing process goes very fast, but the back end creates endless chaos because you contracted for goods and services, but your end-user was expecting performance results. That creates a huge divide after the supplier has your money! Let the reactive activities begin.
There is the same sort of root cause analysis that needs to happen with all of your time allocations but suffice it to say that your goal should be to have not more than 3 hours of meetings a day. If you think that’s impossible, that’s the sign that you’re in this mess pretty deep.
Challenge every single area that is sucking your time that is not contributing to TCO reduction. Be polite about it but be ruthless. Shorten meetings, reduce meeting frequencies, eliminate meetings, and find out the root cause of why certain blood-sucking meetings are happening in the first place. Are they reactive in nature? If so, you know what to do. Get to the root cause and fix it!
The opportunity cost of your time is too high. Every hour you spend on administrivia is an hour you could have saved your company thousands of dollars or more instead. And could have been putting your results and your career on the fast track in the process.
Now go make it happen.
Be your best!
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