Global Leaders in Procurement & Negotiations (

The People Who Get the Most Respect in Procurement

There’s a problem in procurement.  The wrong people are getting recognized. 

Sure, there’s the people who are nailing their results and moving mountains.  They’re getting promotions and pay raises, which they should. 

But then ask yourself, who are the people who are viewed as being veterans.  Savvy.  Able to tackle the toughest situations.  The ones that solve problems.  The worst problems.  The “stop everything” problems.  You know who these people are.  Get out of their way, because they’ll solve the problem.   We’ll call them the Fixers. 

But before we take that further, let’s talk about who these people are *not*. 

They are not the people who quietly just get things done.  The ones who run smooth ships, hit and exceed their metrics, have high performing teams, and operate with a pretty much “no excursions” sort of business model.  Things just work.  Their management update presentations go smooth and quick – if they do them at all.   We’ll call these the Executors.   They execute to a tight business model, efficiently and effectively.   No fuss, no drama, no excursions.  

Now back to the Fixers.  Do you know what else characterizes them?  The Fixers are so good at putting out fires because they’re the ones starting them, or they allowed the fires to start on their watch – same thing.  

The Fixers are visible, because problems are visible.  If there’s a fire, they’ll put it out.  And that’s what they’re getting awards, and formal and informal recognition for – their ability to put out fires.   But is this what we really want in our profession?

Or do we want someone who prevents fires?  It’s kind of like football, with the cornerback position.  The BEST cornerbacks of all don’t really have any flashy statistics, because they are so good that opposing quarterbacks don’t throw their direction to begin with.  They are Executors.   There’s no pass to breakup or intercept, because the ball was never thrown their way.  They’re that good.   They prevent issues from ever arising.

In the United States, we value Smokey the Bear – the cartoon bear who teaches children and adults in TV commercials to focus on *preventing * fires.   We need to value this in procurement as well. 

We need to be building organizations that value people who know how to drive preventative practices in procurement, because the sad, painful truth is that procurement professionals are spending 70-90% of everyday in unplanned activities, largely driven by firefighting.  Firefighting by smart, capable, procurement professionals that haven’t stepped back to realize that they’re focusing on addressing symptoms instead of root cause.  

There was a high speed rail project in the United States that was budgeted at $34B.  $11B was spent and it was found out to require another $100B to finish, and with a shorter route than originally planned no less.   And do you know who was the hero who came in and put the fire out – cancelling the project – and received all the accolades for putting this hot mess to bed?  That’s right, the same person who sanctioned the project’s funding up front to begin with.   Nobody really made the connection. 

This happens in procurement all day long. 

Meanwhile, the Executors fall into a state of misperception.  People – peers and management alike – think that the reason this person’s job goes so smoothly, with so few excursions, is because they have an easy scope. An easy job. Their suppliers are easy.  Their commodity area is easy.   The space they operate in is easy.  Rarely is any of that true.  Proper planning and foundation building results in low maintenance execution.  It doesn’t mean it was easy.   It just means it was executed right. 

We should be elevating the Executors.  But the organization still needs Fixers, because problems arise and capable people are needed to put them out.  They just can’t be starting the fires too. 

For every excursion – or fire – that arises, peel the layers of the onion and ask yourself “why?”.   Was the contract put in place for goods & services instead of performance results?   Was the sourcing model flawed?  Was there overreliance on certain suppliers?  Was the product design off?  Was something left out of the SOW or Spec? Was the wrong supplier selected?  What is the true ROOT CAUSE – at the center of the onion -of what happened? 

And do you know what happens if the Fixer address the problem?  They usually just address the symptom.  That’s right, and the root cause will still be in place, dancing away.  And as sure as the sun will rise, that same fire will take off again soon, because the root cause was never addressed.   So if we’re going to have Fixers, they need to know how to solve problems ONCE.   And once they solve that problem, the right controls need to be put in place to ensure non-recurrence.  Now THAT’s a valuable Fixer.  

But let’s give those quiet Executors some recognition.  They’re the ones that truly make procurement go.  

Now go off and do something wonderful.  Be your best! 

Omid G. 

“THE Godfather of Negotiation Planning” ~ Intel Corp

P.S. The CPSCM™ Certification System, which has had almost 50% of the Fortune 100 send employees through it, gives you the deep dive on how to drive preventative procurement practices – ensuring SOW/Specs, contracts, negotiations, and most importantly, supplier performance results all are focused on prevention of excursions and delivery of results.  And our clients tell us that the 70-90% of time that they were spending on unplanned activities – firefighting – reduces to closer to 20% after learning and implementing our proprietary methodologies.  Contact us at to find out more today about getting your organization certified through our online program or through in-house capability building.