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  • Kathrine Western

What did you wish for as the clock chimed midnight?

Two weeks into 2022 and many of us are struggling to remember our New Year’s resolutions, let alone stick to them! For me, a wish to shed a few pounds has been hi-jacked by leftover Christmas cake and wobbly willpower. What, I wonder, makes for real success?

Getting back to work after the holiday, it struck me that we procurement professionals could be inspired by category management. It is, after all, a powerful process designed to deliver sustainable change.

As the new year’s clock chimed midnight, we all took stock of the past 12 months and wished for something better. Right now, we know well enough that not everything is within our control, but much is and, in that moment of hopefulness, our New Year’s resolutions are born.

Perhaps yours were related to the pandemic, or perhaps they were focussed elsewhere. Either way, it isn’t enough to wish for something to happen. We have to make it come true. This is the distinction between vague intentions and specific actions. The bottom line is that the more detailed and specific you are, the more likely things are to happen. Take, for example, a general intention to ‘exercise more’. Contrast this with a decision to exercise three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7-8am at the local gym. How much more powerful is that?

So, what might help you out?

1. Be crystal clear about your goals and pinpoint exactly why you are going to all this trouble. Remind yourself of this when the going gets tough.

2. Make things easy for yourself: for example, get your sports bag ready the night before and you won’t find yourself hunting for kit at the last minute.

3. Keep track of your progress and when you’ve hit your goal make sure you celebrate in style!

Let’s look at the parallels with category management. If the beginning of a new year prompts us to set resolutions, another kind of trigger initiates category management. Usually, it’s a change in circumstance or a change in perception: it could be the need for improved value from suppliers, or the need to procure certain goods or services differently in support of business aims.

Whatever the trigger, category management provides a framework for systematic analysis and robust implementation. It enables people to stand back, understand the big picture, explore what they could be doing better and then make it happen. This strategic approach is in positive contrast to (and hopefully helps to avoid) many of the knee-jerk reactions required to solve unplanned-for supply problems. Category management aims to provide lasting solutions rather than sticking plasters.

Achieving this requires focus, commitment and a clear plan of action and here’s how category management can help:

1. Done well, it breaks the process down into manageable and meaningful steps with distinct milestones.

2. Critically, right from the start, the why of the activity is defined, and clear goals and benefits spelled out.

3. Since these are business (rather than individual) goals, stakeholders are actively involved and clear reporting structures put in place. (For personal goals, you could ask family or friends to provide support).

4. From here, targets can be agreed, responsibilities and accountabilities assigned and regular review meetings set up.

Critical to any change programme, these steps propel you forward on a path that has every chance of bringing success. Ownership is shared across the business and benefits are felt by all. With so much to gain (whether for you or for the business), why wouldn’t you do it like this?

Wishing you and your colleagues a happy and successful year in 2022!

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