Succession planning starts with you
Take a minute and stand up from your desk. Stretch, scratch (first check to make sure nobody is watching you) and look around. Where do you think your office or department will be in 10 years? And what have you done to either make yourself more marketable or to plan for your successor? I’m sure you don’t want that person with the honky voice of a drowsy seal to get the next promotion.
Succession planning is not something that we consciously think about, but it needs to be addressed. Before you leap down that rabbit hole and get your fluffy white tail dirty, let’s keep this very personal and worry about how you plan your future.
If your organization has a strategic plan, or has set goals for itself, or otherwise has looked into the future, you should be a party to it. Purchasing is a control position and occupies an important place in the scheme of an organization. Become familiar with the strategic plan and see what you can do to integrate yourself into it.
Take an inventory of your skill sets. What do you do well? What do you do better than anyone else? What do you hate to do and do it poorly?
Take those items and work on all of them. Improve your skills on items that are mediocre or that you do poorly, such as oil or electricity calculations, and become the department expert. Position yourself so you are indispensable in those areas. Look for specialized training to improve yourself in these areas. The training doesn’t have to be formal; it can be from a colleague or a supplier. Just get the knowledge and market it!
Take on the tough assignments, even if they are distasteful to you. Get into a position of expertise that makes it impossible for upper management to think of anyone but you for the next promotion.
Give sage advice freely. Once you have developed expertise, share most of it with whoever wants it. Retain that small portion for yourself so they will have to come back to you. It builds relationships and your advice will be sought after as an expert.
Ask to be put on special assignments that deal with the future. Become involved in replacement decisions (which is different than succession planning). Get on the panel that interviews new hires. Even if your candidate is not chosen, you will see what is new and trendy in the marketplace and what skills are desired for new hires. You can gauge your own skill sets from what you see the new people bring to the table. Make your ideas known about both your future and the future of your organization. HINT: It may also give you some ideas for your own resume.
Make a list of where you think you will be in the future, and see if you are happy about it. If not, decide what chances you have to improve yourself in your area. If they are not favorable, it’s time to start thinking about a move to a more favorable area to improve your career. Many in our profession have done just that and become successful.
Find a mentor. Kipling had Kim become a chela; you can do the same. Don’t think of someone you have drinks with at chapter or forums, but about someone you can rely upon to give you good advice about your career. Find someone who has accomplished much in their lifetime and now wants to pass it along to a worthy successor.
You still have time to do all this. Get cracking!
Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO, is a retired purchasing officer who has held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org.