How to Turn A Procurement Stakeholder From Protagonist to Ally

Guest Article: Stakeholder Engagement – How to Turn a Stakeholder from Antagonist to Your Ally

STRATEGY, stakeholder engagement
Blogs, Rules, 1. Reimagine Strategy

Overview

In the latest of our New Rules articles, Canda Rozier, experienced CPO & procurement evangelist, shares her insights on stakeholder engagement.

Procurement leaders often struggle with creating and maintaining internal stakeholder engagement, leading to challenges in delivering value and building partnerships. Canda recounts her own experience in building successful relationships, highlighting the significance of collaboration, communication, and trust-building.

Read on to learn how to turn stakeholders from antagonists to allies.


 

Is Stakeholder Engagement Just a Fantasy?

One of the top challenges for procurement leaders is internal stakeholder engagement—how to create it, and how to maintain it. Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced poor stakeholder engagement—sometimes through mistakes we’ve made, sometimes due to corporate culture, and sometimes despite all our best efforts.

Poor Stakeholder Engagement Is AChallenge For Procurement

Poor stakeholder engagement has long been a challenge for Procurement

 

But it is possible to create trusted stakeholder relationships even with the most reluctant internal customers.

Marketing is often seen as one of the hardest groups for procurement to build relationships with, and yet when I think of my own career, one of my biggest ‘successes’ was with Marketing.

I had been brought into a global technology company to build procurement from a Greenfield. The organisation had never had any formal sourcing function and was generally leery of accepting my team and the new way of doing things. The annual sales kickoff meeting was coming up. Marketing had done all of their own planning, sourcing, etc., having previously indicated that they didn’t need any help from Procurement.

A few weeks before the event, they found out that the venue had misrepresented their offering—everything from hotel rooms to banqueting facilities was not what was promised. In a bit of panic (well that was how I interpreted it), the Marketing executive came to me and asked me to help them (“Can you fix it?”).

My team stepped in and was able to void the existing contract, plus find a new venue that met all the requirements. The event was a big success, and stayed within budget. And the venue was so well received, we used it for several subsequent years.

Marketing quickly became one of Procurement’s biggest supporters.

Other departments started coming to us saying that the Marketing team told them what a difference Procurement had made, and they too wanted our help. And, most importantly, Marketing started working with Procurement proactively. In fact, the first formal category strategy was a collaborative effort with Marketing.

Procurement Can Foster Stakeholder Engagement By Doing The Right Things

Procurement must do the right things to build trust, deliver value and create internal partnerships

 

Did we just get lucky with that situation? Maybe there was a bit of luck involved, but looking back, we did the right things to build trust, to deliver value, and to create partnership.

I’m not saying there’s a silver bullet; there are no quick fixes to solve this, but there are some things you can do to better ensure your success.

Watch Canda and the other New Rules Changemakers debate this topic in the replay of the Reimagine Strategy Webinar (requires registration).

Be an Enabler, Not an Enforcer

Let’s face it, none of us like playing the role of policeman; we’d much prefer to be a facilitator and an enabler. So what does this entail?

  • Prioritise collaboration, communication, and positive relationships. Understand your stakeholders’ needs,
    actively listen, and communicate openly and honestly
  • Build trust by delivering on commitments and being honest about limitations. Don’t over promise!
  • Involve stakeholders early in the process, seek their input and make sure they know you are working together as a team
  • Be flexible to accommodate your stakeholders’ unique requirements if at all possible
  • Address conflicts constructively and celebrate your successes together

By following these strategies, you can create an environment where stakeholders feel valued and motivated to participate actively, and this will lead to successful procurement outcomes.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

No matter how long you’ve been doing it, and even when you do everything as best you can, building and maintaining relationships with your internal stakeholders can be challenging (and sometimes maddening). There are some common pitfalls that frequently seem to pop up. If you’re aware of these they can be avoided, or at the very least mitigated. Let’s look at the some of these common pitfalls

  • Lack of communication. Failing to keep your stakeholders informed and involved almost always leads to misunderstandings, and that will ultimately lead to a loss of trust
  • Not understanding the stakeholders’ needs and objectives. It’s important to actively listen and address their concerns to ensure their satisfaction. Remember, Procurement only has a role because the business needs to buy things. So their requirements and objectives, as well as the corporate goals, are what matters
  • Failing to manage expectations. Don’t overpromise! As issues arise, and they certainly will, talk to the stakeholders and make sure they are in agreement with the steps forward
  • Neglecting to manage conflicts or address issues promptly is a sure way to damage relationships. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. Procurement is often the voice of mediation—remember you are enabling, not enforcing
  • Failing to recognise and appreciate the contributions of stakeholders will lead to dissatisfaction, disengagement, and distrust. Celebrate your mutual successes; after all, you and the stakeholder are a team

No matter how hard you try, and even if you do the right things and manage to avoid the pitfalls, creating trusted partnerships with your internal stakeholders is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s a process.

That process starts with listening and ‘servant’ leadership. It’s built on open and transparent communication, and like any relationship it requires ongoing care and nurturing. It’s not always hard work, but it is work.

However, the results speak for themselves—one of the top goals of procurement leaders is delivering exceptional value to their company and earning a ‘seat at the table’. Creating trusted partnerships with internal stakeholders is a prerequisite to achieving this.

To get more insight into stakeholder engagement and the New Rules of Procurement Engagement, join the Changemakers!

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August 2, 2023
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