One of the key reasons people enjoy working in procurement is, quite simply, like many budget holders, they like spending money. You could say we are shopaholics. But enjoying spending money is also perhaps one of our greatest weaknesses, too often we should be stronger in questioning the justification for the procurement and cry out loud 'stop this madness'.
So, in a perverse way I congratulate both Liverpool and Tesco for both effectively saying 'stop this madness'.
Liverpool had been planning a new Column to celebrate the 2012 Olympics. The problem is that the Olympics are past and the 'Column' still isn't completed. Over £500k of arts funding has gone down the drain (excuse the pun) on the three mile high water vapour art project. You don't need to be particularly clever to have recognised the deadline for completion was missed. Going over budget also justified questioning the project. But was there ever a business justification, and if there was, when was it tested? The whole rationale behind Gateway Reviews is to make sure projects deliver to time, cost and quality and if that looks highly unlikely, cry out, 'stop this madness'. But crying out also requires bravery and to be in a position to have your voice heard at the right time. But maybe if gateway reviews had been used at Liverpool they would also have recognised and addressed some of the potential problems much earlier - ambitious and innovative projects are very far from being immune to technical and environmental impacts, and of course we have also discussed the perennial 'planning approval show stopper'. My personal favourite was the H&S issues of Manchester's 'B of the Bang' which Liverpool's solicitors may want to read up on.
Tesco is slightly different. Today we have learnt of their decision to withdraw from the US market at a cost of £1.2bn. I am sure that Tesco have difficultly celebrating their withdrawal but Procurement need to be braver in following their example of saying, 'Stop this madness'.
Could it be that if shopaholics said 'stop this madness' more often with clear business justifications their voices may resonate more.