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Agility in procurement requires adaptive planning

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face” – Mike Tyson

One of the tenets of Agile is that while planning is important, too much up-front planning is wasteful and may lead professionals to doggedly stick to a plan in the face of rapidly changing conditions. This is particularly relevant for procurement professionals facing a rapidly-changing technological landscape and tumultuous trade conditions.

Refusing to adapt in the face of change not only increases the risk of missing goals and targets, but is likely to lead to a situation where the procurement profession becomes increasingly irrelevant.

“Adaptive planning” is an agile way of working that focuses on anticipating, adapting and responding to change. It’s a mindset shift that will speed up procurement processes and remove decision-making roadblocks.

Think about how much time is wasted running decisions up and down the hierarchy in the average organisation. Hours can stretch into days while teams sit idle; their projects completely stymied until a manager somewhere higher up finally gets around to reading and answering an email. This situation is compounded when a key decision-maker is absent or on leave.

To make high-quality decisions at speed, teams must be empowered – and trusted – to make their own decisions so they can keep moving forward with a project. Adaptive planning will not work when teams report to a manager who wants the final say on any decision.

Empowering teams to make decisions does not mean throwing them in the deep end with no survival tools. Leaders should focus on building cohesive teams with mutual trust, ensure the creation of shared understanding of the project, and provide clarity around the project’s targets and goals.

The term “adaptive planning” comes from the military, as described in this quote from Cougaar Software:

“The accelerated pace and complexity of military operations requires commanders to have the ability to respond quickly to dynamic threats and challenges. The fluid and uncertain international situation requires a transformed planning and execution approach … which quickly generates and/or updates detailed contingency plans containing multiple options that can be readily adapted to the given circumstances and then rapidly transitioned to execution.”

“[A traditional] mission planning process requires manual production of monolithic plans and orders, using a slow sequential production process. This process cannot possibly leverage the volumes of data available via the rich net-centric environment in modern command centres, and the resulting orders cannot sufficiently respond to the dynamics of a modern battlespace situation.”

One of the keys to empowering teams to make quality decisions is to create generous boundaries. This means establishing an understanding among your team that there is more than one path to reach a goal – if Plan A fails, the team can use their creative problem-solving abilities to build a Plan B that allows for the changed circumstances yet still reaches the end-goal.

Research by leadership experts Zenger Folkman has revealed that empowerment improves productivity. The study found that only 4% of employees will make an extra effort when they feel disempowered, while 67% are willing to put in discretionary effort if they belong to an empowered team.

Join PASA’s Competitive Advantage Via Lean-Agile Procurement workshop, a two-day certification workshop (LAP1) taking place from 18-19 September 2019 in the Sydney CBD.

The workshop will be facilitated by Lean-Agile Procurement’s Mirko Kleiner, Thought Leader in Lean-Agile Procurement, CIPS Award Winner 2018, international Speaker, Author, President of LAP Alliance, co-founder Flowdays, Agile Enterprise Coach, Certified Scrum@Scale Trainer. Register here.

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