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What Procurement Can Learn from Successful Soccer Teams

A successful team needs different people to excel at different tasks

Germany Players Celebrate Winning World Cup on the Pitch

Germany’s players celebrate winning the World Cup as the final whistle blows. Picture: Marcello Casal Jr (Agência Brasil – Licensed under Creative Commons)

Procurement teams lack the multi-skilled staff they need to pursue more strategic activities, but that doesn’t mean they have to find employees who excel at all of the six competencies they need, from the boundary-breaking “innovator” to the foundational “functional expert” competency.

Think of a successful soccer team (or football team for anyone outside the US), composed of players who perform well at specific aspects of the game: scoring goals, defending, or goalkeeping. Since procurement employees generally lack proficiency at multiple competencies, and training has only a limited impact, procurement managers should assemble a team that, collectively, excels in every area.

For example, managers will need someone to build relationships to gain support for your initiatives, and also someone to keep projects on track and meet deadlines (see chart 1).

This is much the same as a soccer team might need a holding midfielder to break up the opposing team’s chances and a playmaker to spur the team forward. Leave out one essential piece and nothing works.

The lifecycle of a strategic procurement project

Chart 1: The lifecycle of a strategic procurement project  Source: CEB analysis

This approach help employees make the most of their individual strengths: CEB data show staff in teams with complementary skills are 97% more likely to demonstrate strategic performance than staff who are not in such teams.

The Procurement employees who do not excel at any of the six main competencies can still support the team, but they should be placed in the 28% of Procurement roles that don’t require strategic performance.

 

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