What’s in a name (or title)? by Jon Hansen

Posted on March 17, 2015


Great post Charles.  Just to be clear, that quote actually came out of  a CPO Agenda Roundtable discussion in which senior execs from major global corporations assessed the role of the buyer/purchaser/procurement person.

Similar to the difference between the term purchasing and procurement – which I believe is largely semantics, the big issue is how the profession is viewed by those from the outside looking in.

In this context, the statement by the roundtable execs that the best person to run a purchasing department is someone who does’t come from a purchasing background, is telling.

Here we are in 2015, and while progress has been made, we are still not far enough along the road from this original sentiment.  As such, and no disrespect to the client organization intended, their focusing on the titles or designations for their procurement team, is tantamount to Nero playing the violin whilst Rome burnt.

This individual should instead direct their attention towards a more holistic view of the enterprise, and look beyond the traditional scope of putting a name to what they do, to how their efforts actually impact their organization.  (Note: When I say impact, I am not talking about the antiquated measurements associated with cost avoidance or lowest cost.) 

The above comment – which for some reason I was unable to post directly on Charles Dominick’s Next Level Purchasing Blog – thanks Chrome, was in response to his post regarding an inquiry he received from a “procurement leader at a client’s organization.”   According to Charles, this individual was “tasked with standardizing the titles of procurement team members from two organizations that were merging into one.”

You can access the post which, as indicated in my comment, is a worthwhile read, through the following link; Changing Your Buyers’ Titles: A Procurement War Story.

I know, we have to be called something.  However, it seems that our profession spends far too much time agonizing over the minutiae of self-revelatory insight, in which our eyes are firmly looking downward at each step we are taking, without actually looking up to see where we are heading. Hence the Nero reference.

In this regard, Charles made a key point when he wrote the following about a US Airways purchasing department uproar over a proposed name change; “I don’t think the titles were the cause of resentment so much. I think it was more the fact that the leadership imposed the new titles without seeking the input (or getting the buy-in) of the rank-and-file.”

You can call me . . .

You can call me . . .

So what’s in a name?  Not has much as the impact you ultimately have on your entire organization. From my perspective, if you create change and opportunities for increased organization-wide success, in which your contributions are both recognized and applauded, you can call me chief cook and bottle washer for all I care.  You could even call me Al.

Given the sentiments expressed in his last paragraph, I am sure that Charlie/Chuck/Charles would also agree . . . although perhaps with a little more decorum.

Skewers anyone?

An Added Thought . . .

Executive Coach and Branding Expert Roz Usheroff offered an interesting perspective on the importance of titles in her June 17th, 2014 post You have 30 seconds . . . WOW ME!  Procurement professionals should take note of the following excerpt:

In this context, the 30 seconds that you have to make that first impression or deliver a powerful elevator pitch, has already been established based on your values and how others perceive that you have had an impact on their lives.

When you think of it in these terms, here are a few examples of what you should say when someone meets you for the first time and asks; “what do you do”?

Leadership, image and branding specialist – “Hello, I’m Roz Usheroff, and I have the privilege to work with top talent globally to help executives expand their personal power and leadership.”

Investment and insurance advisor –  “Hello, I’m Brian Ashe. I get to help families live out their dreams by advising them on sound financial investments. Not only do they get to see their portfolios grow to their expectations, they feel greater peace of mind about what their future will look like.”

Marketing director – “Hello, I’m Stu Cheung. I develop innovative/integrated marketing campaigns to support my organization’s corporate brand. This helps improve patient care, which really motivates me to do what I do.”

Once again, and as you will note, there are no references to titles or positions.  The focus is instead on how your expertise benefits others.



Posted in: Commentary