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Aligning talent with growth strategies

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Conrad Smith, senior director of procurement at Adobe, talks about developing a procurement team designed to support growth

In procurement, as in many other fields, day-to-day talent management often boils down to common sense. But, when it comes to meeting the needs of your organisation as a whole, many principles for ‘right-sizing’ your procurement department apply equally to choosing the right staff for each stage of your business’s growth – and cultivating a team capable of working with the company’s unique structure and needs.


It is the role of the procurement leader to choose and cultivate a team who effectively meet and adapt to the business’s evolving needs and changing maturity


Out of touch, out of fit


I once reported to a CFO who came from a startup background. He was both smart and extremely good at handling his core functions. But in the two years I worked for him, I never had a single scheduled one-on-one with him, and he never scheduled a single staff meeting. When we worked together in a small startup company, his approach was a perfect fit for the organisation.


However, a few years later while working together in a larger company, this ‘startup’ approach to leadership and communication was not nearly as effective. In a large organisation, one-on-ones and staff meetings can be important for keeping people informed, motivated, and working together. While he had been assigned some of the organisation’s key projects, he wanted more responsibility and wasn’t getting it. It was almost as if the large company had antibodies working against individuals with ‘startup’ personalities and approaches.


A person who is out of touch with their team – or out of touch with the organisation’s culture – is like an outsider. This may sound like an extreme way of phrasing it, but the principle holds very true: when people in the company view a certain person as a ‘poor fit’ for the company culture, they sequester that person and gradually push them out of the loop.


Again, just because a person doesn’t fit, it doesn’t mean they’re bad at their job. The CFO I worked with, for example, was a peak performer in companies in the early stages of the S-curve, working in tight-knit teams where communication happened on the spot, and where best-fit solutions were a greater priority than precise compliance.


As this guy moved quickly, acted decisively, questioned everything and didn’t take any nonsense, other executives valued him – but only as a sort of hammer they could send in to eliminate flawed processes.


Imagine the status someone can achieve if they can recognise an organisation’s needs and adapt their personal approach to the make-up and approach of that organisation?


The ability to match specific people with specific stages of growth is crucial to right-sizing your procurement talent profile.


The traits we value


Before you try to group your team members into categories, ask yourself whether you are more of a startup person, or a run-process person. We often value different people and skillsets based on our own personal experiences; the skills we’ve most closely associated with success in our own careers. And while you and your team may be ideally suited for your business’s current stage of growth, that may not stay true for long.


If you have a startup-type personality, and you tend to hire other startup personalities, you may find your team struggling to keep up as your business enters a new, rapid stage of growth, where building processes and compliance become more important.


By the same token, if you’re more of a process-run personality, you’re going to run into a culture conflict when your company acquires a small startup, and your team tries to force your structure on them. The startup’s ’antibodies’ will detect outsiders, cut your team out of the loop, and do everything they can to push you out.


This is why it’s absolutely necessary to have a diverse range of personalities on your team. You need the people who can run the processes for those stages of growth where compliance is crucial. But these same people aren’t going to give you big breakthroughs and innovation when you need to work with a startup. That’s what your rule-breakers are for. Make sure you don’t weed those people out as your business rises to the top of the maturity curve – because you’re going to need them again when you start acquiring smaller companies.


The highest performing teams and individuals reflect, recognise, and reward broad aspects of diversity. The more dynamic the business you support, the more diverse the personalities, experience, and approach your team will need to adapt to the complexities of a constantly changing business.


Above all, you need dissenting voices on your team. You need forward thinkers who’ll ask, “Are we tightening up control as much as we should?” And, in equal measure, you need rule-breakers who’ll ask, “Are all these constraints really adding value?”


Don’t forget that most companies have business units and functions at various levels of business maturity. Be ready to align strategy, process and maybe even policy to best support goals and objectives.


The goal, as always, is to enable the business’s overall success.


Conrad Smith is senior director of procurement at Adobe. To read more from Conrad click here.


This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.

Conrad Smith
Posted by Conrad Smith

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