Friday, 30 August 2013

Can procurement learn from the vote on Syria intervention

I'm not going to discuss whether or not I agree with the idea of military intervention in Syria, but yesterday's Commons vote was clearly a setback for some. It was also something of a triumph for what the UK believes is worth fighting for, namely, that democracy and the voice of the people.

We heard of lessons learnt from the past - which must be a good thing. We've heard commentators declare that the vote is also a vote on the PM's judgement and that confidence in that will be irreparably damaged. Sadly, there was also a 'bad loser' syndrome, obvious after the vote, with some of those who failed to win over hearts, minds and votes denying the value of our treasured democracy and instead railed about the international implications. While Cameron said he "got it" the post-debate debate may have made us wonder which particular part of the message our leaders actual did get. However, I think there are some lessons from last night which are relevant to CPOs, particularly when they want to sell a new procurement strategy:

  1. Make every effort to learn from the lessons of the past - what's gone wrong is unlikely to have been forgotten and the legacy needs to be addressed before you can go forward;
  2. Regardless of your academic and professional pedigree, you need humility and excellent communications to bring key stakeholders to a position of accepting your strategy if it is to be adopted and implemented;
  3. You need to bring people with you and be seen to really, really, really listen to their fears and concerns - that means being seen to have taken those concerns on board and reducing, if not removing, their fears;
  4. Remember that key stakeholders are influenced by their key stakeholders too, for example, the PM appeared to view winning MPs voted as critical, but the MPs may well have viewed their own constituents voices more precious and recognised the problems they would have selling the strategy on doorsteps; 
  5. Recognise that losing credibility in your judgement will have long-term adverse impacts on virtually every piece of advice you subsequently give; 
  6. It is far more important to be viewed as having the good judgement to rip up a proposed strategy which lacks stakeholder ownership than to be so precious about it that your credibility is lost;
  7. Forcing through an unpalatable strategy is 'no win' as you can never predict with certainty the future and those you were against the strategy, with the benefit of hindsight, can always say, "but if only ...";
  8. Don't create unnecessary deadlines for decision-making - if you try to force a deadline on people sometimes it's easier for them to just vote for 'no change';
  9. If you can't sell a strategy it was unlikely you were ever going to successfully implement it;
  10. If you were unsuccessful in selling a strategy there's little since in saying "but I still know best'.

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