A veteran industry expert has urged young practitioners embarking on their first procurement jobs to be fearless about starting new initiatives and to seek mentors not only in the profession but also in adjacent business units, such as IT, Finance, and Accounting.

Bill McCouch, a seasoned US procurement executive, who this year made it into the prestigious annual ‘Supply and Demand Chain Executive List of Procurement Pros to Know’, told The Strategic Sourcererthat in the early days of his career, he soon understood that the traditional procurement processes in place at the time needed to be challenged with bold innovations. The function was failing to realise its potential, encumbered every step of the way with “manual workflows and disparate objectives,” he said.

On recognising this, McCouch set about “bringing order to chaos,” encouraging his colleagues in supply chain jobs to consider the supply chain holistically and to begin coordinating shared objectives. Bringing order to chaos, it turns out, involves risking innovative reforms that, while promising improved results – his reforms quickly produced cost savings and increased efficiency more broadly – can also fail. For this reason, McCouch believes that the kind of practitioner who is destined to become a ‘Pro to Know’ in the future is fearless.

He said: “You’ve got to enter initiatives with courage and you can’t be afraid of constructive criticism.” Fear, he believes, is the enemy of innovation and will cause organisations seeking genuine change to stall. Alongside fearlessness, McCouch believes that the most outstanding pros, whether permanent employees or supply chain or procurement interims, will be lifelong students, keeping abreast of the endless evolutions inherent to increasingly complex Supply Management. There’s always a new idea or a new perspective to integrate for practitioners who want to maintain an edge.

For this reason, McCouch believes the most talented professionals should seek out mentors not only within the procurement space, but with leading talent in adjacent business units, such as IT, Accounting, and Finance.

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