Learning Labs

Creating Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams

This 10-part webinar series is from edited recordings of the two-hour Learning Lab series hosted by NIGP beginning in August 2020.  The Labs were designed around the 10 chapters in Seeing Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams (Hugo House Publishers, 2012). 

1. Focus the Team’s Purpose

Compelling purpose is the compass that guides effort, decisions, and learning. After a short introduction about continuous improvement, we focused on the power of purpose, charters, and their central role in leadership and team effectiveness. Stories about the State of Colorado, Sound Transit WA, Multnomah County OR and the State of Oregon.

Guest: Dugan Petty, former Alaska and Oregon CPO, Oregon CIO, former President of NASCIO and NASPO

Handout: Approach to Continuous Improvement; Brainstorming; Key Questions

2. Find Opportunities: Practice the Art of the Question

By asking the question, “what if?,” you start the process of change. Questions are central to team engagement and innovation. Curiosity and inquiry is the spark that motivates change and teammates. Stories about Longmont CO, Port St. Lucie FL, and Cobb County School District GA..

Guest: Danielle Hinz, former Purchasing and Contracts Manager, City of Longmont CO and King County OR

Handout: Closed Question Exercise; Opportunity Summary with Instructions and Exercise

3. Learn from the Stars

Best practices. Benchmarking. What are they and are they useful? How does do NIGP organizational awards help frame excellence? And what are the unintended consequences of action—the systems perspective? How is systems thinking relevant to procurement cards and internal controls? Stories about Thornton CO; Tampa International Airport and NIGP’s Quality Public Procurement Department (QPPD), NIGP’s Pareto Award, NPI’s Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award; and NIGP Global Best Practices.

Guest: Ed Haines, former Vice President—Procurement, Tampa International Airport

Handout: Benchmarks/Best Practices Exercise; Systems Thinking; Key Questions

4. Step to Their Side Often: Help Mold and Promote the Team

There are specific actions taken during a team’s lifecycle that improve a team’s prospects for success. The Tuckman model—forming, storming, norming, performing, and (added later) adjourning—helps illuminate those actions and the coaching that teams may need at the early, midpoint, and later stages of the team’s life. Stories about NIGP’s Leaders Edge Program, the State of Oregon, and the Colorado Public P-Card Group.

Guest: Valerie Scott, Purchasing and Contracts Manager, City of Longmont CO

Handout: Tuckman Model Discussion; Conflict/Disengagement; Virtual Teams

5. Use Just Enough Structure: Plan, Communicate, Follow-Up

Teams have specific tasks to perform. Project management skills are important to move a team from the early establishment of purpose and goals to achieving its objectives. Learn the role of charters and the importance of engaging stakeholders, planning backwards, and thinking ahead during implementation. The episode uses a story about event planning to illustrate project planning.

Guest: Dr. Dan Price, DM, PMP, Winning Ways Management, author of Takeoff!

Handout: Project Planning/Management Exercise; Initial PM Steps; Procurement Planning Checklist

6. Use Meaningful Measures of Merit

In an exploding world of big data, understanding quantitative methods (like basic statistics and variation) is important to identifying and assessing trends and patterns. Moreover, measurement is critical to assessing procurement office operations: performance and cost savings. Stories about Rockland County NY, the State of Ohio, Dallas Area Rapid Transit TX, and the State of Colorado.

Guest : Paul Brennan, Procurement Director, Rockland County, NY

Handout: Balanced Scorecard Exercise; Metrics and Survey Activity; Paul Brennan Materials

7. First Ask How? Then Why? Then Decide?

Author Simon Sinek says, “First ask why.” Good advice for strategic organizational planning, but for procurement teams solving problems, the first step is to understand the “as is” state. Then ask why to understand the value of steps in the process and the root cause of problems. Decision making is a process, and this episode explores possible errors and ways to reduce them. Stories about Punta Gorda FL, Six Sigma and Lean, State of Utah, an example of a board making privatization decisions, and decisions in an e-procurement implementation.


  • Jason Soza, former Alaska CPO (certified Six Sigma Black Belt)
  • Douglas Richins, former Utah CPO, NASPO President, and CEO, NASPO ValuePoint

Handout: Root Cause Activity; Flow Charts and Value Analysis; Decision Retrospects

8. Manage Risk and Change

Risk management and change management are two sides of the same coin. Procurement professionals identify, assess, and mitigate risks. Sometimes operationally—think hurricane or pandemic—or more modestly when a team plans a large conference. Other times, resistance by employees and even suppliers is the greatest risk.. This episode explores well known models and tools for risk and change management. Stories about Dallas Area Rapid Transit TX, risk/change management in event planning, and the State of Arizona.


  • John Adler, former Vice President of Procurement, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)
  • Lourdes Coss, former CPO of Cook County IL and Houston TX

Handout: Pre-Mortems; Procurement/Proposal Risk; 10 Principles of Change Management

9. Keep Learning and Make It Stick!

Teams encounter learning in two primary ways. They look back at their team performance and make adjustments going forward. They also have projects that may involve application of adult learning principles. Have you ever specified or evaluated train-the-trainer requirements or proposals in an RFP? Have you been on a team in an NIGP chapter that set up a training event? This episode provides tools to make teams and their leaders more effective at learning. Includes stories and examples from Port St. Lucie FL, Cobb County School District GA, Purchasing Gone Wild!, and Sound Transit WA.


  • Barb Johnson, NIGP Instructor and Manager, Radio NIGP
  • Laura Shelters, former Director, NIGP Content Research & Development

Handout: After-Action Reviews; Learning Model; Onboarding Topics; Shelters’ Leadership Tidbits

10. Lead Laterally: Choose to Help

Offered as a webinar in May 2021

The theme of team leadership travels through this series. This webinar distinguished the dimensions of leadership, from transactional through team to transformational leadership. It focused though on five behaviors of effective team leaders. How might leadership in larger organizations be different from team leadership? This session ended by challenging the participants to Find the Gap, exercise leadership, and begin the process of change. Stories about Montrose County and the Black Canyon Boys and Girls Club, San Diego County, and a young procurement professional in the State of Ohio.


  • Sue Wheater, Manager of Property/Contracts, Montrose County Airport CO
  • Jack Pellegrino, CPO, San Diego County, CA