Do you Know the Difference Between Strategic Sourcing & Category Management? – Context ALWAYS Trumps Content


Let’s continue to focus on the Differences between Strategic Sourcing and Category Management and what it takes to get there.  I love this discussion and am so pleased to see the overwhelming response to this topic.  Who says Purchasing, Procurement, Sourcing, Strategic Sourcing, Category Management, etc. is boring? Phew –  you just don’t get it.  I sat through two days of training last week on Blockchain technology and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and walked out with my head spinning on all the ways it could be applied to our profession (Procurement, Sourcing etc.).  Unfortunately, I was there representing the Accounting / Finance function (I am on the Board of the ILCPA Society) and the training was appropriately applied to CPAs and the processes they lead.  My intention is to share that information in my next blog to illustrate the importance of that technology to Category Management but I mention this here because the context under which that training was delivered (for CPAs) was AS IMPORTANT as the content.  As you think about making your journey to Category Management consider this:


New competencies are required and those “strategic competencies” must be taught and learned in the context of our profession and our core processes.  I read an article in HBR entitled “Corporate Learning Programs Need to Consider Context, Not Just Skills” and I thought – BINGO, they get it!   The main point of the article is that spending on corporate learning, especially leadership development (those are the “strategic” competencies I refer to) has been “increasing at a staggering pace” but with little impact on actual business results.  I would ask, “what’s the point?”  If there is no return on investment or real benefit to the organization then I would argue that it is a waste of money.

Consider this.  I am often asked if “strategic competencies” like Change Management, Collaboration, Problem Solving, Communication, Stakeholder Engagement, etc. can be taught and my response is always – YES, BUT . . . (don’t you hate that 😊)!  The reason for that is we have clients that think they can put their people through a Change Management course taught internally (usually by Corporate Learning) or externally by a third party that does NOT apply it to the functional process (Procurement / Sourcing) and magically the employee will return to work and be able to utilize it effectively in their environment (context).  In other words, they provide generic training and expect the employee to “connect the dots” – it is NOT going to happen.  On the other hand, those clients that are committed to 1) Moving to Category Management; 2) Ensuring adoption / application of the new skills and 3) Expect a real return on investment of their training dollars; are ensuring that training is delivered in the context of the real work that is being performed.

 In addition, to yield the business results expected from training, you need to be elevating organizational competency NOT JUST individual competency.  To do this, everyone in the organization should be learning the same content, applied to their context and be provided the opportunity to practice those new skills in the classroom and in their job as soon as they leave the classroom – that is the only way it will stick.  If you are committed to moving your people to Category Management, those strategic competencies are the only way you are going to get there.  Take it from me, they can me taught (The Mpower Group does it quite successfully)  but it must be done in the context of your functional role as a Procurement professional.  The HBR article ends with “People are smart – if you give them the right breadcrumbs, they’ll find the right way.”  In other words, you need to provide the right context (the breadcrumbs) because it always trumps content.

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



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