Critical Skills for Category Management – Know your Stakeholder.

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Knowing your stakeholders can be quite a challenge for sourcing teams in lots of businesses.

How do they identify and constructively work with the many and varied personalities that are influential in delivering procurement led change to an organisation?

Look around and you will find lots of text book definitions and methods for classifying stakeholders. Consult any change manual and you will be advised to assess whether your stakeholder is a decision maker, specifier, influencer or consumer amongst many other definitions. Then create tailored engagement plans to suit. These, while helpful, are process means by which we identify just who the stakeholder is, and their role in a change program or sourcing decision and are not adequate on their own to deliver change through a senior stakeholder group.

For me, knowing and working with stakeholders boils down to the most important (and simplest) piece of advice that I have been given. “Remember Steve, people do business with people,” (though not delivered in the style of Obi Wan Kenobi). This does not just apply to the relationship between buyer and seller, but is equally appropriate in relationships with business stakeholders. Knowing your stakeholder as an individual, taking time to sit on their side of the table, understanding their personal win scenario, as well as the business opportunity…how is what I am working on going to improve your ability to deliver your job, will allow you to get past the misconception that change driven by procurement will somehow be painful.

Those of us old enough to remember the brilliant TV series Yes Minister and will recall Jim Hacker, Minister for Administrative Affairs frequently inquiring “are you asking me to make a brave decision Humphrey?” of his civil service advisor.

The question lays bare all of his underlying uncertainty….will there be consequences that I am not aware of, will it be unpopular, could I be criticised, will it damage my standing and ability to do my job.

Working with your stakeholder, understanding their motivations, challenges and goals (both personal and professional) will mean that the decisions you ask them to take could be strong, influential and well informed – brave maybe, but not in the Hacker style.
Recognise that when you ask your stakeholder to make a decision to support you and your sourcing activity, they will do so having undoubtedly considered your business case, your analysis of the market and the size of the opportunity. In the end however, their level of engagement will come down to whether they trust you to deliver and not to force them to make the same brave decisions as Jim Hacker.
Know your stakeholder as an individual. You just can’t perform if you don’t.

Steve Trainor

[email protected]
Tel: 01625 526 161
Mob: 07449 394 149

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