Procurement teams are similar to other teams. They differ in exactly the same way as other teams from informal teams and they need to satisfy each individual team member's wants and needs.
Procurement teams need the same widespread variety of skills and types of persons and it is a challenge for procurement managers to identify those persons with the right types of skill and talent when building their teams. This is particularly important when working with cross functional teams. There is often a tendency to try and recruit very similar types of person to teams in the hope that they will work better together. Homogenous teams are less liable to suffer from disruption arising from team member conflict. On the other hand, they are less productive than heterogeneous teams. Peace comes at a price.
Key aspects of team management are facilitating the development of a team (through the processes of forming, storming, norming and performing); identifying and developing the task; managing the environment and leading the team.
There has been increased recognition of the importance of team working in procurement. This reflects the increasing importance of services in many economies. It is usually less easy to compartmentalise the work of specifying and managing services. Despite its importance, very little attention is paid in procurement training to understanding and applying good team techniques which might account for procurement still occupying a relatively junior role in many organisations.
Leadership of a procurement team requires the leader to act in a variety of roles. He/she has to be an expert in procurement, an inspirer of subordinates, an inspiration to internal customers, a reliable subordinate to senior management and a trusted manager of suppliers.
Such leadership depends on a variety of factors, not all of which are under the control of the procurement expert. The ability to respond to situations and make the most of them is essential and so is the ability to recognise that different leadership styles are required for different tasks.
Within procurement teams, there is a need to change the style and adapt to differing circumstances and to do this without being a source of confusion to the team members. A procurement leader balances various mutually contradictory demands. Leaders need to understand the basics of leadership theory in order to do this.
Various studies have been conducted to identify the competencies which procurement professionals require. They are not vastly different to those required for any other service function but they give useful guidance for recruitment purposes.
Studies have also indicated that procurement professional rewards are improving although it is generally recognised that financial reward structures like job satisfaction are only components in motivation.
A common set of core motivational factors apply to individuals working in procurement. The individuals tend to apply these in a structured way. This is, of course, not vastly different to other workers in other management services. However, motivation of staff is not usually considered in procurement even though motivation is generally recognised as being key to enhancing professional performance.
The causes of stress in procurement are much the same as the causes of stress in other activities. What is new is that those engaged in procurement work are increasingly subject to stress. Why is this?
It is because procurement now has a higher profile in many organisations. Increased competition and low inflation have forced organisations to find better value for money and to spend less but get more. In the public sector, it is no longer possible to rely on inflation to provide the money and, in the private sector, low inflation and increased competition make it difficult to hide inefficiency, particularly inefficient spending.
An activity which had previously been seen as something of a backwater is now under pressure to generate real value. However, procurement is still not seen as a stressful occupation. Consequently, procurement practitioners are often quite ignorant of the sources of stress and how they may combat them. A problem which all organisations will be facing is how to keep their procurement practitioners active and keen to add value but protect them from the stress associated with their roles.
The obvious answer is for stress related to the working conditions of procurement professionals to be recognised and identified and for procurement professionals to understand the reasons for stress and how to avoid it.
Although IT systems and devices to facilitate low value procurement, such as the procurement card and some e-procurement systems, have taken much of the paper pushing away from procurement, time management is still an issue. This is because the procurement professional is now involved in a wider variety of issues, in particular the drafting, letting and management of contracts for services.
Most procurement practitioners are unfamiliar with the concepts of time management and many do not see the need for it. However, time management has improved productivity and reduced stress in other fields and it can do the same in procurement.
The techniques are not in themselves difficult. For the individual, the prime difficulty of all time management is the imposition of the self-discipline needed to make time management effective. However, the rewards can be more time to devote to what matters and less time spent on the less interesting jobs.
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