NASPO Response Explains Why Some View Procurement As A Second Class Profession

Posted on April 20, 2016


Over the years I have been a passionate advocate for the procurement profession.

While I dutifully covered stories such as the 2007 CPO Agenda Roundtable, in which participating executives expressed the believe that the best person to run a purchasing department was someone who doesn’t have a purchasing background I, like most in our profession, took exception to such statements.

Such sentiments are nothing new. In fact, and as reflected in Kelly Barner’s opening quote for the first chapter of our new book Procurement At A Crossroads, “Some executives used to think of procurement as the place you send staff away in order to never see them again.”

Just to be clear, these were not Kelly’s words. They are from the book Leading Procurement Strategy by Carlos Mena, Remko van Hoek and Martin Christopher.

The point is, I always believed that procurement – both the individual professional and the industry as a whole – got a bum rap.

You may have noted my use of the word believe in the “past tense.”

I still think that the majority of procurement professionals are top notch, hard working people, who care about doing a good job. However, I now have a better understanding of  why both Dr. Robert Handfield and Kate Vitasek have little faith in the contributory value of the older generation of professionals. In fact, Vitasek went so far as to suggest that the profession will never come into its own until all of the old dinosaurs have died off.

But who are these old dinosaurs?

Based on the “official” NASPO response to the call out of the association in my recent post, it appears that the dinosaurs can be found in positions of leadership, such as State CPOs. At least from the standpoint of their attitudes and mindsets.

a mindset (also known as mental inertia) is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools – Wikipedia

As an interesting aside, countless studies show that the up and coming generation of procurement professionals i.e. Millennials, have a greater sense of social responsibility than previous generations. In fact it is a top priority with them. I doubt that their reaction would mirror that of their present day “leaders.” This creditability gap will make it increasingly difficult for Millennials to take organizations such as NASPO and the NIGP seriously.

The following, which is from my e-mail exchange with NASPOs Executive Director DeLaine Bender, CAE, will illustrate my point:

Hello Jon. As you requested, I read your posts today. I wanted to share with you NASPO’s core values and mission, which describe our approach to association governance. You can find them at

As you may or may not be aware, NASPO and NIGP are two separate and distinct organizations. NIGP is in a better position to comment regarding their operations, which are outside NASPO’s scope.



I must admit that I wasn’t completely surprised by the response, although I did hold out the hope that there would be a more substantive reason than the perfunctory “it is none of our business.”

That said, here was my reply:

Thank you, Ms. Bender.

Unfortunately, your response is not nearly sufficient.

To begin, your members oversee the purchasing departments of their respective states. This means that they spend taxpayer dollars to procure goods and services – including electronic procurement platforms. Any external factors, be it questions surrounding NIGP strategic relationships or any other points of influence that have an impact on said purchasing decisions, is something with which NASPO should have a great deal of interest. Especially if it threatens to compromise the integrity of public sector procurement. On this point I am certain that you will agree.

Sadly, your initial response reflects an attitude similar to a person waiting on tables who, despite a patron’s request for service, tells them sorry but you are not sitting at one of my tables. Like the patrons of a restaurant, the taxpayers that public sector procurement serves, cannot be confined to artificially created silos. Or to put it another way, when there is a breakdown in the procurement process that affects one area it affects all areas – especially when taxpayer money is involved.

Within the above context, if and when a problem occurs, you have to ask yourself will your response be sufficient? I do not believe it will. In fact I believe that you will discover that should news report that there is a serious problem, your reference to NASPO’s “scope” will mean very little.

So before I print your response, I will ask you; is this your official position?

Thank you.

Now, and this may be purely subjective on my part but, when I make a statement – such as the one Ms. Bender made, I do so having done the prerequisite research to support my position.


As a result, and being totally confident in said response, had I been asked the question are you sure that this is your “official position” I would have, without hesitation, immediately responded YES!

Unfortunately, all NASPO has to offer is continuing silence.

So . . . what do you think about the NASPO response (or lack thereof)?

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