You do not need a ‘seat at the table.’

Being Welsh, I love a good refrain; but one that I read often and have come to loathe is the one that goes like this:

Procurement must have a seat at the table,

the C-Suite table,

the C-Suite table,

Procurement must have a seat at the table

or else we can’t do anything.

I admit that I used to believe it. But I have also come to realise that executive committee ‘seats’ are not the only way by which to get things done, to have sufficient perceived influence, or the clout to get investment.

Not only does this refrain delegitimise procurement (and other) professionals’ efforts, successes, and explorations; it nullifies all aspiration and ambition to spark or effect change.

In effect, what this lazy song is saying — solidifying, even — is a culture of ‘we do nothing differently here unless the C-Suite (who are the only ones who have ideas or make decisions) say so.’

And if the only way anything happens in an organisation is because its executives want it to, very little happens.

Procurement needs the support of its business’s senior leaders, yes. It needs their sponsorship, advocacy, and direction. It needs good relationships with the people that sit on the executive committee (or its equivalent). Moreover, it may need their example of how to want something different.

But to think, dream, do, behave respectfully, want, be motivated, be a team, or succeed, Procurement itself — its CPO — need not physically sit at the oval table however-many times a year.

Setting aside that rarely does any single functional department denote a ‘seat’ at C-Suite level, it is not necessary in order to be, to exist, to be helpful.

Those of you without a ‘seat’ need not pack up your coffee cup and photo frames and head home. You need not despair, feel constrained, or demotivated, or helpless.

Please: ignore those who disenfranchise you, or at least ask them to explain. Your team, when well-formed and well-lead, can do without your boss being sat at this table.

Focus on your team, not on whether your presence as a function at a meeting connotes aptitude. Focus on your stakeholders and what they need.

And remember that the best advocates are those that advocate not because they run your department, are told to, or feel obligated; they’re the ones that advocate because you do something they value. In the corporate lingo, you ‘add value.’

When you see the ‘seat refrain,’ add a new verse and ignore the chorus.

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