Traditional procurement organizations across government are not only hierarchical, they are designed to minimize the number of different functions that the typical acquisition professional performs in that organization. The thinking is that if the functions are narrowly defined, productivity can be realized through having the workforce only know precisely how to perform his or her narrow function, and nothing else.
This narrow focus does not work particularly well in an innovative organization, since the responsibility for thinking about alternative ways to accomplish the organization’s mission is spread throughout the organization, combined with the inability think innovatively if you only see a narrow view of the big picture. If you are merely told what to buy and how to buy something, and not being told why these actions must be performed, you will hardly figure out that there are not only better solutions, but better methods to acquire the capability from better firms, and at a lower price.
If the acquisition workforce is going to understand the big picture, they need to be freed to think more creatively, and have more strategic work. By having the workforce perform jobs with a narrow focus, innovative thinking is stunted. Broadening the operational responsibilities of the workforce is necessary if they are to achieve their innovative potential.
Procurement organizations produce more innovation when the workforce is linked in multiple ways, and when they are encourage to “do what needs to be done” within then strategically guided limits of the mission and goals (discussed in Part II of this series), as opposed to just than confining them to the letter of their respective jobs.
Rotational programs are an excellence to opportunity for the workforce to develop new skills, and think creatively, such as the Procurement Leadership Development Program at Johnston & Johnston.
The Procurement Leadership Development Program (PLDP) is a two and a half year, rotational full-time hire program that is designed to fill our pipeline of future leaders. The program is based on a model of “Education, Experience and Exposure.”
The PLDP curriculum includes both functional & leadership training, senior mentorship, formal leadership assessment & mentoring, numerous networking opportunities, and culminates in a year-long “capstone” project in support of a key business challenge strategic to the procurement function.
Creating the opportunities to move people into jobs with different procurement responsibilities helps to broaden their understanding of the overall purposes and functioning of the procurement organization and advances the opportunities to innovate.
Although procurement functions need to be executed (especially in the 4th quarter of the fiscal year) the trade-offs between moving people into new jobs and the costs of training people for these jobs should be considered for long-term benefits of the organization.
In the short term, workers who learn from different parts of the organization are more engaged and provide the much-needed understanding of the big picture that helps them contribute innovative ideas into the organization.
In Part IV, we explore incentivizing the workforce to be innovative, and helping the workforce be creative with executing procurement.