It’s that time of year here at Next Level Purchasing where we are thinking ahead to what we want to accomplish in the year ahead. And though we set and accomplish goals of innovation each year, many times our innovations come from spur-of-the-moment ideas.

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We already have some game-changing initiatives in our plans for 2010. But all of this planning has me reflecting on goal setting from a leadership perspective and how goal setting and innovation relate to one another. I remembered one of the old timers I used to work with at an airline saying “Plan the work, work the plan.”

Generally, putting together a plan, following that plan, and accomplishing a plan is a noble approach. And we certainly do that here.

But, in my mind, the key to success and corporate growth is also having the flexibility to innovate. Sometimes, a business situation comes up that prompts an idea from the team to solve a problem or create an improvement.

What are you supposed to do? Say “We’ll put that in our goals for next year” every time?

Sometimes, you have to prioritize and defer some good ideas so that the current ideas can be accomplished. But some ideas are so good and so timely that you should act on them right away. Yes, even if that means having documented goals being delayed.

I think it is important to have a culture that encourages room for innovation and doesn’t strictly adhere to the “plan the work, work the plan” mantra. One famous example of a company that leaves room for innovation is Google.

Google allows its engineers to dedicate 20% of their work time to working on their ideas. In fact, some of Google’s most popular features came from this “innovation time.”

I believe in this and, here at Next Level Purchasing, we have been doing many different things to support continual innovation. In 2010, we are making a change to our goal setting process to support innovation.

You see, all of our goals have a start date and a target date. In 2010, we are not going to have any goals with a start date in the fourth quarter as we have had in prior years.

Why not? Because we always come up with innovations throughout the year. It’s not like the goals that we set forth in January are the only things we will accomplish in a year. New tasks will get added as they do every year. Goals will get deferred as they do every year. Plans will be shuffled as they do every year.

And this will allow us to continue to grow as an organization and capture more market share. However, I know that there are companies in every industry – maybe even your company – that sets a plan at the beginning of the year and sticks to it for the entire year. They “plan the work and work the plan” and that’s it. However, if their competitors are more agile, who is going to win more market share?

So procurement leaders: how do you feel about goal-setting in this regard? What are you going to do to ensure an agile culture in your department? What can you do to help your company stay ahead of competition that doesn’t sit still?

It’s time to plan for 2010. I suggest planning on accommodating the unplanned. Doing nothing other than “working the plan” is an indication of corporate decline.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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