Monday, 19 December 2011

The value of a profession

Who places the value on a profession?  Is it the profession, say the BMA? The user, say the patient? Or the patient's agent, say the PCT? Or even the professional, say the GP? To all those stakeholders the professional accreditation demonstrates something to do with quality but is the value of that accreditation the same to each of those stakeholders?

I remember well the day the envelope arrived confirming I had gained the final results of my professional qualifications. I knew I only had to demonstrate sufficient practitioner experience and I would gain the magic MIPS, yes, it was pre-MCIPS. I had invested in student fees, exam fees, books and hours of home study - I obviously valued MIPS at least worth those costs otherwise why would I have bothered - my employer, at that stage placed no value of MIPS. But I also placed a longer term aspirational value on IPS differentiating the profession and maintaining high value positioning, particularly when 'Chartered' status was gained.  

CIPS, at one time, had a remarkably successful marketing campaign that led to many procurement vacancies requiring MCIPS - it was the professional qualification to open doors but also to close the door to snake-oil salesmen and charlatans. 

Now let's consider the medical profession.  The BMA are robust in defence of the profession, while CIPS appear to join those who throw stones at their members (what else can be take from the CX's responses to recent criticisms of public procurement).  1,000 doctors are currently under investigation by the BMA over their competence - it's the profession who are now investigating competence to practice, post qualification.  When was the last time CIPS reviewed the competence or even ethics of those in the profession and can it?  We hear about 'licensed to practice' but is that an answer or alternative?

So what triggered my train of thought today.  Well it was triggered through the appointment of a Head of Procurement.  Three MCIPS professionals (two of whom also held Masters in Purchasing) successfully navigated the assessment centre along with a Building Control Manager.  Who got that position?  Of course it wouldn't be worth discussing if it was one of the three MCIPS - it was the Building Control Manager!

This raises interesting questions for anyone interested in the value of MCIPS as we have stakeholders ascribing value.  I'd be interested in your view.

Why did the appointment panel view MCIPS of so little value that they looked past it? To them the value appeared zero?  

How did the Building Control Manager assume that a Head of Procurement post was so 'un-specialised/unprofessional' that they could so easily beat 'the professionals' for the post?  Implies zero value for MCIPS there too.  Then we can make some assumptions on the likely future value placed by the new Head of Procurement's in appointing and rewarding staff on the basis of MCIPS? A very unlikely investment when Building Control qualifications seem to have been more personally rewarding - should the procurement team follow the example and train in Building Control, if they do, what is their likelihood of getting shortlisted for a Building Control Manager position without experience? 

So the analysis implies the appointment panel, the Agent of the user (purchasing's internal clients) in this situation did not consider MCIPS a differentiator and indicator of professional competence nor did the new Head of Procurement. The MCIPS candidates, I assume, now also question the value of the professional membership.

What about the actual users of the new Head of Procurement? We will have to wait and see - perhaps the value will be established by the organisation after they face a public procurement challenge, in which case the value could be the cost of the challenge?  

Probing deeper the Head of Procurement role being discussed required the successful candidate to introduce category management, amongst other specialist skills.  I've learnt that, surprisingly, no technical questions were asked during assessment or the interviews.  Could the value be the savings lost as a result of the absence of technical competence to deliver savings?

Finally we can try to establish CIPS value of MCIPS through this appointment?  Do they scan advertisements or use social media to spot the vacancies and then take the initiative marketing the value of MCIPS? Did the consider the risk of what could happen if the organisation appointed a non-MCIPS Head of Procurement?  Did they offer to provide a professional adviser to the appointment panel to ensure the person had transferable technical competence, given that this appointment was for the most senior procurement position in the organisation and there was no one in the organisation with that know how? All that suggests low value allocation based on acceptance of the risk of a none MCIPS appointment.  Finally, what value will CIPS give to MCIPS if the new Head of Procurement at some stage in the future applies for MCIPS through some sort of 'I've been doing the job' route. If, in that eventuality, CIPS award MCIPS, the three MCIPS candidates, the appointment panel, the Procurement Unit, the users of the Procurement Unit will make their own judgements.  Well, perhaps the value could be the new Head of Procurement's potential membership fee set against the potential loss of membership fees for those adversely affected - is that a net loss?  We've seen this before and no doubt will see it again! 

Perhaps it is time for CIPS to go back to a major proactive marketing campaign of demonstrating  the added value of an MCIPS professional procurement manager, why the procurement profession is so unique and MCIPS the only licence to practice.  Such a proactive strategy is starting to appear necessary although it may well be a distraction from world domination through numbers.  Perhaps 'bums on seats' do not represent value, but the cumulative value placed by the stakeholder community. Perhaps CIPS should be leading appeals in these types of situation but I suspect the legal services benefit does not provide such access, anyway that's about bolting horses and shutting doors!

What do you think? 

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