An Unlikely Change Leader


Last week I ran a three day Strategic Sourcing process workshop for the new hires of an existing client. The workshop participants will be responsible for leading cross-functional Sourcing teams across the organization.  Only one of the three days was spent on the actual eight step sourcing process (1/3 of the time).  One day was spent on Change Management (1/3 of the time) and the remaining day was spent on the consulting process (again 1/3 of the time).  The rationale for this mix is based on the roles the Sourcing professional should play (these ARE in order of importance):

  • Change Agent
  • Strategic Business Partner
  • Internal Consultant
  • Process Leader

I must admit I have a strong bias toward and passion for Change Management as an accelerator and believe that Strategic Sourcing (when done right) is ALL about change management.  Therefore, Sourcing professionals must be competent in leading and managing change.  We illustrate that in so many ways in our workshops but the best way to do that is by asking the participants to articulate their greatest challenges in doing Sourcing.  99.8% of the responses are INTERNAL – which has NOTHING to do with suppliers, negotiations, contracting or anything else one might associate with the Strategic Sourcing process.  Yet, those challenges MUST be overcome in order to be successful at facilitating that process within your organization.  That’s where change management comes in – getting your business partners to understand the value of the process / change, how the process/change meets their value drivers (in addition to and/or in place of cost savings) and how they will personally benefit by purchasing goods and services in a more strategic way.  If we can get through those challenges early (that’s where the acceleration comes in) we have a chance of getting to our business benefits and getting to them quicker.   Making change happen is the hard part but also the most FUN (!&?$#@%^&)!

Now let me get to the unlikely change leader I mentioned in the title – the Pope!  Huh?  What does the Pope have to do with change?  After all, he is the head of the oldest / largest (1.25 billion followers) organized Christian religion in the world which has seen very little change in ideology in the last 1,800 years or so?  This blog is not about religion, beliefs, morals or any of the rest but instead is a lesson in change management and leadership that we all could learn from.    There are two recent articles that highlight the Pope’s process for leading change – “Pope Francis wants to change the way you think about climate change” (from Fortune) and “The Wily Political Strategy of Pope Francis” (from New York magazine).  Forget about whether you believe in climate change or income inequality because the “content” of his mission is really not the point.  Rather it is about how leadership (character and competence) can be used to drive change GLOBALLY. 

In June, the Pope released his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si which demonstrates both his character and competence in leading change:

  • Creating a sense of urgency is the first step in mobilizing change. “When he writes about “a very solid scientific consensus indicates we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climactic system,” he is trying to create a sense of urgency”
  • Providing a compelling vision is also critical. “At the core of any inspiring vision are the 2 W’s—the Why and the Way. In terms of the why, he identifies the problem that “our contemporary lifestyle…can only precipitate catastrophes.” In addition, he reframes the environmental debate in moral terms — responsibility, adverse impact on the poor—thus providing another reason why action is needed. In terms of the way, Pope Francis identifies sensible steps on how to live more sustainably.”
  • “Leaders are “signal senders.” In writing Laudato Si, Pope Francis has sent a powerful signal to the world in a call for change. This encyclical is just one, albeit major, step in this dialogue and debate on climate change and the environment.”

As I noted earlier CHANGE IS HARD.  For those of us that have spent our careers doing so we know it is no small task.  But, if one man from Argentina can make a dent in modernizing the Vatican AND provide leadership to other global issues, then there is certainly hope for the rest of us 🙂  !

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . . .  



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