Happy Procurement Month! March has arrived and it’s time to celebrate procurement’s impact on our agencies, chapters, communities and our profession. It’s that time of year when the spotlight shifts to procurement professionals to recognize the value that you bring, the hard work you do and the contributions you make on so many levels. It’s the well-deserved and hard-earned moment of acknowledgement that says, “you matter, you make a difference and you are appreciated”.
But this March is different, isn’t it? March 2021 reflects a year of living through the pandemic, transitioning to remote work environments and adjusting to new ways of living life. It has been a year like no other and we have all been profoundly affected because of it. No matter where you live, no matter what your position is and no matter what your personal life is like, this past year has impacted us all. It has been, as I recently heard someone say, the “true equalizer” affecting every professional, every agency and every community.
Recently, I had the honor of facilitating a panel with an amazing group of women about the impact of this past year on procurement professionals. While our focus was on women in the profession, many of the topics transcend gender. We talked about how challenging it has been for so many of us, separated from our peers and colleagues, adapting to new ways of doing business and juggling our home/life balance like we were standing on a yoga ball. Despite all the challenges we faced, we shared our observations and admiration for how incredibly resilient our fellow procurement professionals have been this past year. Throughout the pandemic, you have been adapting, adjusting, pivoting (insert your own adjective here… you have experienced them all haven’t you?!) and ensuring your agencies were able to continue providing critical services to your communities. If ever there was a time to celebrate public procurement professionals, I’d say it is THIS March. In fact, I’d say we should be celebrating all that you did the entire year of 2020: The Year of the Procurement Professional!
Reflections of Resiliency
Without a doubt, you have been the heroes and the “ProcStars” of public service. You found new and innovative ways to secure goods and services that were not only scarce, but sometimes non-existent. You forged new partnerships to vet sources, as you maneuvered around fraud landmines and powered through multitudes of emergencies. You leveraged your creativity, your intelligence, your resourcefulness and your dedication to find new ways to work in completely new environments. You demonstrated all the many reasons why procurement is essential to public service. You were the essence of a civil servant, you were resilient…and you shined!
Throughout the past year, you created connections and communities. I’m honored to be part of a number of groups that have intentionally created forums of connectivity for individuals in our profession. Some were existing communities, some were new communities, but all were essential this past year. The newly formed Procurement Women Leaders group, which was specifically created at the start of the pandemic, has now connected over 450 women. Members regularly comment that the group has given them a connection to a community where they can learn from, share with, seek support and offer encouragement to one another. The NIGP Mentorship community (formed in 2020) and the NIGP Mentorship Program (launched last month) are connecting mentors and mentees to leverage experience, insight and wisdom for professional and personal growth and development. The NIGP Pathways Learning Leaders, the community of NIGP Pathways instructors, has continued to innovate and create new ways to help public procurement professionals develop their core competencies to be better prepared to deal with the many challenges and opportunities in your roles. Around North America, many of you have created and expanded your own connections and communities this past year to be a resource and even to be a safe place for your peers to seek guidance, assistance, encouragement and camaraderie from professional peers.
Continued Conversations and Celebrations
While we may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, we recognize we have a long way to go before we have a better sense of the “new normal”. We realize the world will be different moving forward. Some of you are likely rejoicing at the possibility of returning to the office, to connect in person with your colleagues. Others are rejoicing at the possibility of working remotely on a more regular schedule or at least on a part-time basis. Whatever changes you experience in the coming months, don’t forget all that you have learned this past year. Don’t make the mistake of walking away from the life lessons of 2020:
- Procurement is a profession of relationships, and it is through these relationships that you were able to succeed, despite all that you were hit with this past year.
- You are strong and resilient, especially under pressure. You did much more, in less time, with fewer resources and you were often working outside your comfort zone.
- You are part of an incredible professional community. You leveraged your colleagues from around North America to find solutions, to work through challenges, to learn new ideas, to renew your energy and to soothe your soul.
- You made a difference and continue to make one every day. Government leaders and politicians took notice of how critical the supply chain was to managing through the pandemic. You rose to the occasion and showed the value of your service, the strength of your core competencies and the magnitude of your commitment to service.
There is no doubt many more lessons you learned. You must carry all of them throughout 2021 and into the rest of your career. The reality is that the pandemic created opportunities for all of us. There is indeed a silver lining to the pandemic’s dark cloud. For some it’s realizing that the old ways of doing business have been inhibiting the service to customers. Maybe it’s time to change that policy, revise that process or select a new tool. For others, it’s recognizing that you have so much more to contribute to your agency and your profession. Maybe you have been holding back, fearful of taking that first step or certain that you don’t have anything new to contribute. For many, the pandemic created an opportunity to contribute in new ways, to engage in new ways or to offer that new idea. Now it’s time to take that next step and volunteer for that leadership role, offer up that new idea or get involved in that community you’ve heard about. Make that commitment, bet on yourself and take the step forward!
Don’t Forget Your Neighbor
While we celebrate one another and our profession, let’s not forget that there are many among us who have struggled and continue to struggle during the pandemic. We have friends and colleagues who, whether they share it or not, are dealing with feelings of isolation, who lack a support structure, who don’t realize the value of their contributions and who are not connected to a community. These are the individuals we must intentionally reach out to and build relationships with. We know that while our procurement community is strong, we are only as strong as our most isolated and discouraged member. We must take time to check on our neighbors, whether they are in the office next door, or they are that professional colleague we met in virtual class who mentioned they were having challenges.
So, pick up the phone—yes, those things still work for making actual calls— start that email, send that message or schedule that Zoom session and reach out to someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Ask them how they are doing, ask them if you can help and ask them if they would like to get connected. You might be the one person in their professional or personal life that develops a relationship, creates an opportunity or inspires them to take action that leads to a future procurement superstar, a future instructor, a future mentor or a future leader in our profession.
You Are Making a Difference!
As you celebrate this March, remember to reflect upon ALL that you have achieved this past year and take pride in how this past season has helped you grow into a more effective, more strategic and more confident procurement professional. Sing the praises of your colleagues and peers not only during Procurement Month, but throughout the coming year. Make it a priority to share what procurement has accomplished within your entity and your community. Pursue that procurement proclamation, host that procurement virtual event, publish that article about your procurement team and share all the successes you have achieved this past year.
By acknowledging and learning from our challenges, embracing our opportunities and celebrating all that we have achieved, we will continue to show the world why public procurement and procurement professionals are vital to our communities. Remember, YOU are the unsung heroes of this pandemic and you are to be celebrated, this month and every month.
Marcheta Gillespie is President of NIGP Code & Consulting. NIGP Consulting provides expert procurement consulting services and solutions to help transform public procurement into a value-added, strategic service provider in government. Powered by Periscope Holdings, Inc, NIGP Consulting will be presenting “Women in Procurement: Reflections of Resiliency”, a conversation with friends about celebrating the profession. For further information on the NIGP Consulting Program, please visit the NIGP website or contact Marcheta at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com