4 Ways to Strengthen Your Procurement Team

I like gardening……

I’m not suggesting I speak to trees or anything… (therein lies the route to madness)… But it made me think last week as I surveyed an old pear tree…. 

“You’re a great asset to my garden. You provide great fruit every year, and you’re central to my garden design… but recently, the fruit is not quite as good… there are a few dead branches and…. well honestly, you’ve seen better days!”

Who, in a CPO position hasn’t done the same with their own organizations?

What can you do to rejuvenate and get back to top quality fruitfulness?

Well, there are four pretty well tried strategies.

First, Prune

First, you need to be harsh with dead wood… and you need to remove crossing branches.   

Translated, that means that you, as a leader need to make sure that every member of your team has space to grow… and deliver something meaningful…. Too often, good team members are hidden in the shade or hampered by another team member with over-lapping responsibility.

Work out which of your team members is in this situation and then either remove the obstruction, or train the emerging shoot in a different direction.

And remember – Over-pruning is also not a good idea… it can kill the plant or damage the fruiting that can take years to recover.

Next, Feed

Your team needs nutrients to grow and do their best. 

Translated, that means Learning and Development.   The more you invest in developing your people the greater the engagement, skills, influence and motivation… and that leads directly to results.

Feeding means providing the conditions that are conducive to great performance… and getting the mix of nutrients right…. Too much…. And you’ll just get lots of pretty leaves…. Too few challenges and you’ll get fast weedy growth that can’t cope with adverse conditions. 

Find a healthy balance of learning situations that test and stretch your team.

Then, Access to Light

Sometimes the problem is not inside your department, it could be that something is overshadowing like a difficult stakeholder, bad reputation, poor compliance, or even a tactical delivery. 

Your role as the leader is to work out how you can give your team the access to the right  stakeholders and resources to make the best fruit…. 

If there is a problem that is holding back effective delivery, you should be working with your counterparts in other functions to see the procurement value and to give it the chance to do its best.

Lastly, Encourage new Branches

You will always need a succession of new team members that can take over production, when the older branches lose their vigor…. Cultivate the strongest emerging talent to create a future proof framework that can cope with un-expected changes.

Look after the shape of the tree so that it is well balanced and has a healthy and diverse range of talents that can adapt.

“You can’t always prevent a good steady branch from occasionally coming down in high winds…. You just need to make sure that there are enough emerging branches to re-balance the tree and to continue to deliver.”

It seems like a suitable metaphor as we all look out of our locked-down offices to the autumn outside, but, from experience, there are times when I’ve looked at my own team and not taken the above advice…..



David Lyon
Author: David Lyon
David is a CPO with experience across multiple industry sectors. Having started his career in textiles and retail, he has since had senior roles in the Electronics, Pharmaceutical and Financial sectors, including Global Head of Corporate Procurement for Pharmaceuticals at Novartis Pharma AG. David led the Cancer Research team that won the 2015 Procurement Leaders award for Transformation and has since delivered "Transformation of procurement" in several well-known multinationals. David is a multilingual professional with over 25 years of Procurement and Supply Chain experience.

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