What ‘Lord of the Rings’ dragon Smaug can teach us about procurement

by Ron D'Andrea| September 12, 2020

The procurement department gains nothing by standing at the gate, unleashing bolts of fire and vicious whips of the tail at your company’s other departments.

Evil Lord of the Rings dragon Smaug tried it, and [SPOILER ALERT] it didn’t end well.

Yes, he did a stand-up job of protecting his hoard of treasure, but how much more could he have reaped by sharing? Even just a bit.

Don’t be Smaug

All too often, other departments see procurement as their very own Smaug, something to plot against and battle, building only resentment and dysfunction.

It’s on procurement to change that paradigm, to come down from the mountain and share the wealth. By being open and sharing procurement’s treasures, you can fire your company to great heights and truly deliver cost leadership.

Partially, being open and sharing IS about increasing efficiency and nurturing a top-notch purchasing approach, but all the brilliant procurement best practice in the world won’t make a difference if your relationships are broken.


Leave Procurement Mountain

Healing wounds and building positive relationships with all company stakeholders will elevate procurement’s value in the company and align procurement’s objectives with the company it’s serving.

Spend time building cross-department relationships—both personally and professionally—and focus on understanding other department’s success drivers.

  • What do other parts of your organization define as ‘good’?
  • What drives other teams (hint: it’s not always cost!)
  • What objectives shape other stakeholder groups?

It’s no secret that making an effort to understand other people and their interests builds a more positive relationship. When people feel listened to and heard, they are far more willing to return the favor.


Rebrand procurement

It’s entirely possible that if Smaug had taken a step back and realized how damaging his behavior was for others, he might have made a change. An invitation to tea and a chat about how he was managing risk, rethinking his green choices and encouraging supplier innovation could well have saved him from Bard’s arrow.

Aligning procurement’s success criteria and KPIs with other parts of the organization—a result of opening conversations with those other stakeholders—shows a willingness to play as part of the team and work towards a common goal.

In doing this, procurement takes steps to being a greater strategic partner in making business decisions, enabling a more proactive rather than reactive role. And by finding non-cost reduction innovations and benefits, the procurement function shows company stakeholders it has value beyond treasure guarding.


Put procurement out there

Stats suggest two-thirds of procurement decision makers cite stakeholder engagement as problematic, so you’re not alone. And lack of internal engagement holds the crown as the main reason for missing targets.

As the procurement team, you could hide away and tut about other parts of the organization not asking you to play, or you can get out there and engage. Invest in developing your team’s engagement skills, so they feel confident in meetings with other stakeholders. Encourage them to find out what’s important to others and how diverse stakeholders feel procurement could help tackle their challenges.

With better engagement skills, clearer awareness of company-wide challenges and a positive, creative approach to procurement, everyone wins. 


What character best describes your procurement department?


Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

About the author

Ron D'Andrea

30+ years of experience helping salespeople transform their sales dialogues and engage with even the most challenging professional buyers.