Daily Archives: May 24, 2011

Is Great Leadership Culture Independent?

There’s a very interesting post over on the HBR blogs on Leading Across Borders that suggests that if you want to get it right, you don’t change a thing. The author, who has managed in India, the U.S., Europe, and Asia, states that while he was always advised that you don’t live in <blank> anymore, and the quicker you figure out the differences, the better, experience taught him that their warnings were totally misguided.

The author states that regardless of geographic location or culture, what drives people to the highest level of engagement is innately human and universal and that great leadership looks the same wherever you are because the most effective executives are the ones who draw energy from a clear sense of purpose and a set of deeply held personal values. Furthermore, they also energize their employees by ensuring that their expectations about three overarching elements of work — the natoure of the role, the work environment, and their professional development (RED) — are in line with the organization’s purpose. (In fact, the blog post author wrote a book on this theme: Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders.)

It’s a very interesting post, esepcially when he draws the similarities between Tony Fernandes, founder of Air Asia, and Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks, and their companies and how similar styles have led to success. I think I agree with the first commenter though — the what is definitely the same across cultures, the “how” probably does varie with local norms and values. For example, in Japan, the “role” is very dependent upon what the “group” wants, but in America, the “role” is very depndent upon what the boss wants. The environment needs to be very well defined in some eastern cultures, but can be wild west in some western cultures. And professional development desires vary too. Some people want to become “manager” as soon as possible to impress the future father-in-law, and some just want to cut code until the day they croak. It’s definitely worth reading and thinking about as you transition to a global operation in your quest to be a true Next Level Supply Management organization.

Lessons Learned from Best-in-Class, Part II

The following are some more of the lessons learned shared by some of the participants at this year’s Hackett Best Practices conference in no particular order.

05. Be approachable
Remember that the ultimate goal is 100% of spend under management, and this will only ever be achieved if the Procurement organization is trusted to at least advise on all spend categories. But for an Procurement organization to even dream about getting to this point, it first has to be trusted with spend categories by each business unit — and no business unit is going to ask for Procurement’s advice if Procurement isn’t approachable.

Procurement has to be willing to help with any category and any challenge at any time and be excited to do so.

06. Be realistic about how things get done
The vast majority of processes, procedures, and relationships in an organization will be inefficient and Procurement will have to live with them for a while as established processes don’t change overnight. Procurement might know that a more efficient process will complete in half the time and get results that are at least as good, if not superior, but the business unit may not have that experience or willingness to trust a new process, especially if it is the first time it is bringing Procurement in for advice. Procurement needs to respect the existing processes and work with them until the business units are ready to change.

The same goes for relationships. Even though a relationship may not be optimially managed, or a supplier not the best possible choice for the business, if it’s a long standing supplier with which the business unit personnel have a deep relationship, Procurement will have to tread carefully and slowly introduce new management styles and new suppliers to the business, starting with less critical categories in the beginning.

07. Constantly evangelize the message and direction
This was one of the most common themes across all of the presentations I attended. Procurement needs to “comunicate 7 different ways” to the point where it “overcommunicates” and constantly spreads the message about its capabilities and successes. Remembering that it’s seat at the table is, in most companies, still a seat at the kiddie table, Procurement still has to build credibility and respect, and, most importantly, continue to get noticed.

08. Continual service expansion and innovation is critical
No matter how great of a success story Procurement is able to achieve on a category, in a business unit, or for the organization as a whole, it’s never enough. Everyone always wants more, and Procurement always reaches a point where that “more” will not come from cost reduction and avoidance alone. Procurement will have to find additional ways to offer value in the form of reduced risk, reduced complexity, and process and product innovation to the rest of the business.

Our next post will continue our overview of the lessons learned that were shared by some of the participants at this year’s Hackett Best Practices conference.