In part 3 of this 4-part series, I am covering some of the insights from a powerhouse panel of CPOs and other procurement leaders we had at the last Summit. Our own Dawn Evans facilitated a fireside chat with a group of sourcing leaders, including Linda Behan, Senior Vice President, Iron Mountain; Clyde Dornier, Head of Global Sourcing and Procurement, Visa; Cory Locke, Vice President, Global Categories, Hewlett-Packard; and Todd Podell, CPO, Alcon, who shared some pearls of wisdom on what keeps them up at night and how they have achieved success in their careers. With all due respect, I can't even begin to capture all the fantastic feedback, insights and advice our panel provided, but in my opinion, these are some of the highlights:
Being uncomfortable teaches you to succeed. This nugget came after a question regarding how the panel overcame challenges at the beginning of their careers. If you think about this one, it makes a lot of sense. Innovation doesn't come from the status quo. It comes when people are shaking things up. If you are comfortable in your job and going with the flow, you may not be looking for ways to make things better. But if you are uncomfortable for any reason — worried that something isn't "quite right," you are probably seeking ways to make things better. Makes sense, doesn't it?
You must have tenacity in procurement. It's safe to say that tenacity is a virtue in just about any career, but in procurement, it may be even more critical. Said one of the panelists, "You need to have the doors slammed in your face to become good (at what you do)." Hopefully there aren't too many slamming doors, but the reality is that talking business units into collaborating with procurement isn't always an easy sell. Tenacity is a must.
Several months ago a valued SIG member suggested we consider asking Dr. Tim Elmore to keynote at our Summit. A leading authority on generational diversity in the workforce, Tim has authored more than 25 books and appeared on CNN's Headline News and had media coverage in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, and The Washington Post among others. It was immediately clear that what Tim had to say was something our delegates needed to hear. As entertaining as he was instructional, I once again found myself taking notes as quickly as my fingers could type. Discussing what he calls "Generation iY" — the second half of the Millenial Generation, so called because they've grown up under the influence of iPods, iPads, iPhones, iTunes, etc. — Elmore's keynote was on how to understand this generation to enable them to be successful in the workforce. My key takeaways from this fabulous speaker and my interpretation of how to apply them: 26 is the new 18. In generations past, many 18-year-olds left home to enter the workforce. Not only is this not as common today, but many young adults are living with parents after college, where they still have their cell phones paid for, laundry washed and meals fed. Not a bad gig if you can get it...but isn't this in fact enabling this generation to be narcissistic? Having low empathy, being ambiguous about the future, "slack-tivists," technology-savvy, self-absorbed, and postponed maturation are all characteristics/adjectives that have been used by Elmore to describe the Gen iY group.
At the last Global Summit, we hit the jackpot in our keynote speakers. We had fighter pilots, CPOs, Ph.D.s and MBAs...we had practitioners, motivational speakers and authors...and we had people who have viewed things from the trenches and seen them from the sky. In each, we received pearls of wisdom...anecdotes to apply in our daily lives and corporate positions. In this series, I'll try to capture some of the key messages our general sessions provided. We kicked off the event with Carey Lohrenz, a former U.S. Navy Tomcat Fighter Pilot. Her session was inspiring and had the audience scribbling furiously, trying to capture her lessons from the flight deck that we could carry into the business world. As the first female fighter pilot, Carey learned to thrive in adversity. Some of the more poignant things I took away from her presentation...and my interpretation of how they apply to those of us in civilian clothing:
The weeks following a Summit are always kind of sad. The euphoria of the event is over...the anticipation of seeing colleagues and friends behind us. But the things we take away from the event--the new peer relationships, the insightful things we learn--carry on for years to come. I attended some incredible sessions on topics I knew little about previously. One such session was with Ernst & Young (EY) and Caterpillar on Conflict Minerals. In the sourcing world, the term has become fairly well known, but for those unfamiliar, conflict minerals are minerals--namely tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (aka columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, wolframite and gold)--that, much like "blood diamonds," are mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, most namely in the Congo and adjoining countries. To me this was still a little ethereal until I dug a little deeper and learned that the "miners" are often hired by gunpoint or physically forced to do this work to protect themselves or their families. The work conditions are horrific and in themselves may result in death to the miners. In fact, more people have died in Congo Civil Conflict than in the U.S. Revolution, Vietnam War and Korean War COMBINED. Without more transparency in the supply chain, consumers don't have any way of knowing if their purchases, primarily in industries like electronics, aerospace, industrial products, automotive and jewelry, are funding armed groups that are widely known to commit human violations and mass atrocities unfathomable to most people. To address this, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was written that requires companies to identify where the minerals used in their products originated from. The Dodd-Frank Act has successfully reduced the amount of revenue militias are receiving by around 65% by dissuading companies from engaging in trade that supports regional conflicts.
It's that time again...the final leg of the race...the last hurrah...the end of an era...the week before a Summit. Dawn summarized it nicely last spring when she talked about the elves busy at work preparing for "the big event." It is a lot of work...but by the time we get to this point, we know that right around the corner, we get to just enjoy the fruit of our labors. Unlike the holidays, the SIG Summits roll around twice a year, so we don't get twelve months to work off the extra weight gained from the ice cream sundae breaks. In fact, between this Summit and the one last spring in Amelia Island, we've had a mere FIVE months to prepare. But all the nagging we’ve done for presenters to turn in their abstracts and decks...all the emails we've sent reminding you to register...all the phone calls we've made asking for you to use your seats have paid off! We have an INCREDIBLE line-up of companies and speakers coming to our Summit next week. Once the Summit begins, we can sit in sessions and hear the amazing presentations we've read about for several months. We can meet the members we've communicated with by email. And we can enjoy learning about new issues our members are facing and hear the latest concepts to address them. The agenda is so rich, it will be difficult to do it any justice. The list of companies presenting is, in itself, a reason to attend...
Two weeks ago my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It rocked my world. We've been blessed with four healthy and happy children and frankly haven't had many concerns when it came to their well-being. But there we were at a regular doctor's appointment, being told that our daughter, Hayden had blood glucose levels that were so high that we needed to go directly to the hospital. It doesn't run in my family, so it wasn't a condition I would have ever thought would "happen" to us. But it did. And now for the rest of her life, my little girl will be dependent on insulin to do what her pancreas cannot. For several days, I wondered what I could have done to prevent this diagnosis. But in the case of Type 1 diabetes, the answer is...nothing. It is non-preventable and currently non-curable. But it did make me realize that I could become more aware of the risks associated with it. I could tap into every person I know with first-hand experience, including one of the best resources I could find, my own CEO Dawn Evans whose daughter has been diagnosed for 10+ years. Through Dawn and every contact, website, blog and organization I could find, I could educate myself on the possibilities associated with a Type 1 diagnosis, and prepare myself for what MIGHT happen down the road. In much the same way, companies that engage in global sourcing strategies must also be aware of the risks and understand how to mitigate them. At our upcoming Global Leadership Summit in Fort Worth, we have many sessions focusing on this topic. Companies engage in global sourcing because the benefits are thought to be greater than the risks. But understanding the risk categories, weighing the possible outcomes and coming up with a risk mitigation plan can help companies find the balance between lower cost and higher risk.
About eighteen months ago, at the SIG Global Leadership Summit in Seattle, we concluded the event with an evening at "Lucky Strikes," an upscale bowling alley and billiards hall. For those of us who work for SIG, most of the heavy lifting for that event was behind us. It was Thursday night, which made it time to enjoy the fruit of our labors with our members. I don't know about most of you, but I for one become a better bowler as the night progresses. Liquid courage, perhaps...or maybe it's that I put too much pressure on myself to do well and if I don't, I embarrass quickly. Against my better judgment, I joined a few members and colleagues in a game. Yet, imagine my horror when in the first frame I threw not one gutter ball, but TWO. Mortified beyond belief, I removed my bowling shoes and walked away from the game without looking back, even with my colleagues encouraging me to stay. Having grown up with a pool table, I moved on to the billiards room where I knew I could build my confidence. After playing a few rounds, I went back to check on my friends who had continued bowling without me. One of our members — a fairly athletic guy, I might add — was not doing too much better than how I imagined I would have done if I'd had the courage to continue. And yet he did what I had been unable to do — he stuck with it and had fun despite his low score. Again I found myself being talked into joining a game one lane over. I did so fairly reluctantly, as I was still reeling from my earlier failure...but only agreed to play because the bowlers in that lane had the bumpers up, and I knew it would be nearly impossible to throw a gutter ball! With the confidence I had lacked in the game that I'd abandoned like a coward, I bowled my first ball straight down the lane, knocking down eight pins. Phew. The idea that I would fail again was looming over me, and yet I bowled not just decently, but with gusto, throwing spares, strikes and respectable scores frame upon frame.
This post originally appeared in the Allegis Group Services blog, but is relevant and with a few minor edits, worth posting here as well. Lets face it...not so long ago, being in procurement wasn't seen as a very sexy occupation. Ok...I know some of you are chuckling thinking it's still not that exciting, but I beg to differ. And I'll give you five good reasons why you should give procurement and sourcing professionals more credibility and respect.
Two years ago, McKinsey & Company published an article on Big Data, calling it "The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity." I recently ran across the article and it struck me that in many ways it was spot on. Frankly, analyzing large data sets isn't a new concept...it just has a title now...Big Data. And now that it does, as I mentioned in my last Big Data post, I can't stop thinking about what it is and how it can be better used in the world of sourcing, outsourcing and supply chain. One of the things that really captured my attention in the McKinsey article was their reference to the issues that need to be addressed regarding Big Data, including privacy and security. Imagine the collective power of the information consumers give to various sources--banks, loyalty programs, online retailers, healthcare providers--most of the time, the information you provide in one place isn't meant to be accessed by another. We expect our information to be kept private and confidential. Disclosing personal data is a slippery slope. As Jeff Bertolucci recently said in InformationWeek, "...companies implementing big data strategies might consider this informal motto: 'Don't be sneaky.'" Be honest with how you plan to use the data you collect and don't share it without prior knowledge, unless you are ready for the mistrust that will follow. Ideally, Big Data should result in something that benefits both the company collecting the information and the consumer or organization providing it. Why else would people be willing to give freely of private information?
I have to admit, when I think about the power of Big Data, it is a little bit creepy. I mean think about it...it's a little like being stalked...and at times, by ourselves. I go to a website like Overstock.com and look at kitchen chairs. The next time I am on my personal email, an ad for those very chairs pops up. From a marketing perspective, it’s called “retargeting.” The chance of my purchasing those chairs increases when that same ad pops up again and again, following me from website to website. From a business perspective, it’s called Big Data. The company...in this case Overstock...can take the information that they’ve gathered on me, a consumer who is interested in purchasing chairs for my kitchen, and use it predictively.
By definition, Big Data refers to three Vs: volume, velocity and variety. But it’s what you do with all the data you have (volume), the speed at which you can access it (velocity) and the types of sources you pull it from (variety) that provides the real insight. One of the best known uses of Big Data analytics is Amazon...and they’ve been using it for years to suggest items you might want to purchase/read/etc., based on your search terms coupled with other people who viewed/purchased the same items. Sometimes I select an item just to find those that are similar. But Amazon goes one step further too and sends relevant emails down the road, just when you’ve nearly forgotten about that item. Talk about a good use of predictive analysis.