Change is the only constant

Following the success of last year’s series of blogs taking an in-depth look at procurement technology and data, I wanted to follow up with a similar series on change management. For procurement technology and data to bring about a paradigm shift in procurement performance, organisations will have to provide excellent change management.

Organisations today perceive themselves as less and less stable, and more as a work in progress undergoing continuous change (Burnes, 2009). The frequency of mergers and acquisitions, new technologies, product innovations, all contribute to the continuous state of flux. Procurement often find itself at the forefront of many of these changes so adding some change management tools to the procurement ones make procurement professionals even more valuable.

The good news is that many of the skills required for procurement are also required for change management. Looking at the CIPS core skills programme the key requirements are negotiation and performance management. The Centre for Creative Leadership found that the competencies required for successful change initiatives were communication, collaboration and commitment.

Before going any further, it’s worth defining change management. It is the systematic approach to adjusting and transitioning organisational processes, procedures, strategies, attitudes, functions or technologies from their existing state to one that is considered superior (Burnes, 2009; Cameron and Green, 2009).

Change occurs in three ways:

  • planned change is driven by management and employs a structured approach. Much of the theory of planned change was developed by Kurt Lewin, among others, and lies at the heart of organisational development. It is often perceived as slow and time-consuming producing outcomes that are out-of-date. An example of planned change is the successful implementing a new ERP solution like SAP Ariba
  • unplanned change shares many characteristics with planned change but is initiated outside the organisation. When a government passes new legislation like GDPR, for example, organisation have to change their processes in order to comply
  • emergent change is the continual process of experimentation and adaptation that takes place across an organisation. It is the most important development in change management in recent years. Given the organic nature of the change it is often perceived as inefficient and messy. The manager’s role is to maintain the organisation’s cultural characteristics so that good change can occur. Kaizen, the Japanese word meaning “change for better” is an example of emergent change. A more recent example is Facebook’s mantra for developers, “Move Fast and Break Things.”

Over the next four months I’m going to look at ways change management techniques can support procurement and provide hints and tips for making procurement programmes more successful.

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