Monkey on your shoulder

The procurement professional as the company’s financial conscience. Over the past decades, buyers have firmly positioned this monkey on their shoulder. By challenging the business, in other words by asking them critical questions about their decisions, one hopes to keep them sharp in the cost area; make them more cost conscious.

Do you truly feel that this is what your colleagues are waiting for? Do they like to be ‘challenged’, or can they appreciate it? Will it motivate them to co-operate with you more frequently and more intensely? Or do you feel there is a good chance that they will avoid you even more?

Take the next example for comparison.

Say that you are a family of four. There’s your mom, your dad, you and your younger brother who is five years your junior.

Now you are eighteen years old and your parents feel that you are mature enough to take responsibility for your brother and the household for a week while they go for a short vacation. Full of confidence they trust you with the wallet containing a weeks worth of grocery money. “Take good care of your brother and make responsible choices in regards to the money. We trust you”. And out the door they go.

But just before backing up out of the driveway, your father turns to your brother and says: “son, keep an eye on your brother’s spending. Challenge him in the decisions he makes. Just make sure he spends wisely”.

Next day while shopping, you pick up a bag of Doritos; your favorite brand. “Shouldn’t you consider the Walmart private label stuff; it’s a lot cheaper” your little brother shouts from behind the push bar of the shopping cart. Will you take his strong advice, or will you just tell him to shut up? After a couple of these remarks over the coke, the cornflakes and what have you, is it very likely that you will take him on a shopping trip next time round? Or will you leave him at home and do the shopping all by yourself?

Right. Now how different is this from the behavior of many buyers in relation to budget owners? They are definitely not their peers and management has obviously trusted the owners with the budget.

If management is worried about the way the budget owners handle this responsibility, it’s them who should challenge the budget owner’s decisions. Not purchasing.

So stop being the annoying little brother. Help him make better decisions instead, by providing him with a number of valid choices and provide him with savings opportunities if so needed. So he can proudly explain to dad how he managed to keep you and himself happy for a week, and still have a couple of grocery dollars to spare. In the end, it will be his saving, not yours. And it is a lot less frustrating and definitely more fun for you.