Saturday, 17 November 2012

If it's broken reach me a hammer, an antibiotic or procurement strategy

Some of my earliest memories are of my grandfather's approach to technology fixes. Despite seemingly being able to fix any problem with bicycles, motorcycles and cars; when the TV appeared to have a fault his first solution was to give 'the box' a delicate 'tap', well, aggressive thump. Surprisingly his solution seemed to work! I didn't inherit his DIY expertise, except that I do frequently view a hammer as the solution to whatever is broken - sometimes it is the right tool for the job but on other occasions it has cost me a lot to have my solution rectified!  

Over the last few days we have learnt of the medical equivalent - the prolific medical and self prescribing of antibiotics. Now I have a personal affection to Penicillin. When my father was a child his parents took a risk with the experimental drug being used on him - there was everything to gain as he was expected to die. This time last year I was having as many antibiotics administered as my system could cope with. But Alexander Fleming warned about overuse of antibiotics - using the same solution could be expected to reduce its effectiveness. Now his prophesy is being fulfilled

While we recognise these flaws, how good are we at recognising that there is a tendency to do the same thing with procurement strategy. We tend to one approach and that's the answer, regardless of appropriateness. Sometimes the solution is much more extravagant than is required, but yet provides some satisfaction to the advocate. Sometimes the solution is inappropriate and others would have been more appropriate.  Sometimes, because there is a trend within the profession to adopt one approach, we follow the pack, yet, pursuing the opposite approach may actually deliver a superior result, for example, buying spot frequently beats the framework price! 

I am not advocating being a maverick. I am advocating competence in a wide range of procurement tools and being sufficiently astute to carry out a wide options appraisal of those solutions prior to selecting the most effective tool for the job. It may be a hammer, it may be an antibiotic but too much of a good thing, or using the wrong approach can end up being a very, very bad thing.

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