Written by: Donna Kirk – The Pro Forum Community of Practice
Project Management as a discipline has evolved from a Cost| Quality| Time methodology to a less rigid approach that incorporates those non-technical skills of teamwork, conflict resolution, creative thinking and networking. Skills not easily taught through theory.
Procurement is following suit and may well overtake Project Management in this area as Procurement professionals move to a more strategic position within the private and private sectors.
There has been a noticeable shift from what was once considered a tactical role contained within the accounting or contract administration roles of an organisation to include a focus firmly on the destination or the future with procurement playing a vital role.
Learning from Project Management (lessons learned in anyone’s language) would suggest that now is the time to pay particular attention to the skill base of our profession. While a number of private associations provide training, options geared towards developing existing skills mainly at a tactical level, few focus on the skills and attributes that someone in or progressing into a strategic role. If they do, the cost can be prohibitive and/or the course outcomes are not definable in the sense that they are a nationally recognised qualification, after all why would you go to all that effort with nothing to show….
The skills required are not intuitive, nor easily learned in a work environment. They are skills that begin at a tactical level in some form and are developed as the individual develops their career path. Some people may enter a strategic role from outside the industry with a very different tactical background. Others will simply work their way up and or find themselves in the role because were the ones deemed knowledgeable enough.
Sadly, this can often produce burn out amongst good people – they are part of a larger picture but are missing one or two of the corner pieces so it just doesn’t come together as easily as it could if all the pieces were on the table.
So, what are the skills we are referring to:
- Highly adaptable – the ability to see beyond the current considering what others may not have thought of
- Critical thinker or Synthesism – the ability to ask, “So what….?”
- Business or organisational acumen – the comprehensive knowledge of the organisation as a whole, of its objectives and drivers.
- Comfort with uncertainty – that self awareness that over time a deeper understanding of what comes next will happen
- Creativity – a unique ability to success within constraints because they know and understand the boundaries of the framework and push to extend.
- Communication master – being able to confidently voice dissension or inspire in a way that is clear, but more importantly heard, understood and connects with the audience
Note these skills are highly valued transferable skills. They are not solely dependent on an industry or organisation. An example of this is Business Acumen being very transferable – the nuances of the organisation may be different, however operational matters vary only slightly.
How to gain these skills in a variety of ways.
Learning on the job:
A tip from CEO Phil Sealy, principal facilitator, consultant, and executive coach recommends you “Watch Your Language!”. By this he means consider the questions you ask in relation to your current role or task. Can you ask questions in a more forward-thinking way?
For example: “Where will the organisation’s growth come from in the next five years, and how does it compare with where growth has historically come from?”
The 2nd item he suggests is to Observe and Reflect because the flip side of asking questions is being able to answer them strategically.
For example: Explain how did the current situation occurred and demonstrate why something happened and how it can be improved or if it ran well, how it might be duplicated.
These are simple techniques that can help individuals begin to think strategically. And finally use your current role to consider opposing ideas, play devil’s advocate and look for weakness’s om your argument. This is a very powerful exercise that can produce opportunity from seemingly nothing!
Formal learning options:
Cost: $2,000 per person in a group – $17,040 (yes it can cost that much with some course providers- We recommend you shop around!!)
- Classroom training is effective because it builds on the collective experience of the participants. Qualification programs in the VET sector are gaining in popularity as businesses demand more focus on skill evidence and not solely degrees. We already know that a key strategic skill required is ability to be creative. In a classroom with a facilitator who has lived experience, you may well gain more than just information. Insights and discussions take place. And with the ‘observe and reflect’ learning skill noted above by Phil, in a classroom environment, the ability to have someone play the devil’s advocate and the challenge to ask questions is made easier and faster leading to a more efficient process.
- Self-paced online modules where you are forced to read and explain to a screen can be incredibly stifling, however may provide an option if you are very disciplined, have sufficient time outside of work hours available and can work alone.
As procurement gains in popularity in much the same way that project management has over the past decade, with approximately one procurement professional to every project professional (Aus & NZ) we can easily learn from years that project management remained in the tactical space.
We can avoid the Cost| Quality| Time dogma and instead leap forward and focus on Strategic and take our seat firmly at the helm – if we choose to!