CIPS Implements Major Structural Change Without Member Communication or Agreement

The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) is currently making major changes to how the Institute is run, its governance and structure. Unfortunately It is implementing the changes after only limited consultation with selected members, and without communicating openly what it is doing, let alone asking for members’ approval to the changes. The most significant change would remove members’ voting rights; a disenfranchisement of 20,000 CIPS full members.

I know this has been a difficult time for all organisations, and I’m sure the CIPS Board believe they are doing the right thing. But as a member for 30 years, a Fellow and a Past President, I do not think this approach has been appropriate, and CIPS could lose a large number of members if it does not handle this well. So it feels like time for an open debate about exactly what has been going on here “behind closed doors”.  

There is undoubtedly a need for some review of CIPS structures; for instance, I don’t believe that the Congress has established a clear role since it was formed.  But change must be managed properly, and members must be involved and treated with respect. 

The major changes in progress

  • The Congress, which advises the Board, and is elected by members voting on a regional basis, has already been abolished – without communication to members. In its place, a global Membership Committee is being appointed, reporting into the Global Board of Trustees (GBT), which is the ultimate governing body of CIPS. The Membership Committee will be appointed following applications and interviews carried out by the Nominations Committee (NC), which itself is a sub-committee of the GBT.

  • Currently, half the members of GBT are appointed by the NC and half are elected by Congress from amongst Congress members. This means all full members have at least an “indirect” say in GBT membership – we vote for Congress representatives, and Congress elects half the Board from its own membership. Under the new proposals, the NC will appoint all members of the GBT following an interview-type process.  There will be no member voting.

  • The position of President is being abolished – a move which in my opinion seems to be based as much as anything on the last Presidential appointment not working out as well as was hoped.  

What does this mean?

  • CIPS members will no longer have a democratic vote of any kind to elect the people who run CIPS.  We will only be a “membership” organisation in the sense that the AA is a vehicle recovery “membership organisation” – we will simply be consumers of a service. That will be a different model from pretty much every other professional Institute as far as I know. All that I have checked retain some sort of membership democracy.   

  • There is a worrying ‘circularity’ in that the Global Board of Trustees (GBT) is appointed by the Nominations Committee (NC), but the NC itself is appointed by the GBT and largely consists of GBT members anyway. This does not appear to represent any sort of good governance.  I appoint you, you appoint me, I appoint you, and so on and so on!  

  • Making appointments purely via the NC and eliminating all democratic voting could easily lead to cliques, “chumocracy” and conflicts of interest.  Such a move seems unlikely to give members a greater sense of ownership, belonging or commitment to CIPS.

  • In terms of the Presidency, there will no longer be a professional leader for the Institute, a respected professional who can speak on our behalf. The CEO takes on some of those responsibilities but we can’t always guarantee that the CEO will be a credible procurement professional themselves (as our last two have been) and their core role is pretty demanding in itself.  There has been vague talk about “regional ambassadors” being appointed but no concrete proposals for replacing the President.

In conclusion

In my opinion these changes have not been fully considered, members have not been properly consulted, and I believe the disenfranchisement of members is simply wrong.  I fear the changes could lead to many members leaving the Institute.  If we want to get formal about matters, proposals and indeed actions already taken also appear to be in breach of CIPS Regulations and Charter.  Finally, the lack of communication to members so far is disturbing. If the Board has a case to make for the changes, it should make it openly and in consultation with members. And members must be given a vote on any proposals that fundamentally change the way a 90-year-old, globally respected and influential professional Institute is run and governed.


So, in the absence of CIPS consultation, I believe it might help move this situation forward if members follow the link below and complete a brief survey form. It will only take 5 minutes and will be strictly confidential. The results may prove me wrong – perhaps members think all of the ideas are fine and democracy is over-rated. I will happily shut up if that is the case. I have tried to make the questions unbiased, and I know some members, including a couple of Past Presidents I have spoken to, just don’t really care, so I have included that as an option for responses.

I will publish the results (anonymised of course). Please follow the link and give your views now. In the absence of CIPS pro-actively involving members in these important decisions, this approach seems like a sensible option to test views and indeed to provide some feedback to the CIPS Board. 

Link –


10 replies
  1. Malcolm Ian Budd
    Malcolm Ian Budd says:

    As a Congress member, I take issue with your point of view. Congress has been a significant part of this discussion and decision. I was part of a working group 5 years ago that challenged the value of membership representation, and a separate Congress group has been instrumental in proposing the solutions being adopted. We are CIPS members ourselves and have consulted the membership through various conversations and surveys. However, when Congress is elected by less than 6% of CIPS membership the credibility of Congress has always been questionable.

    So I have supported the change in governance as I believe it is the best way forward. The governance of CIPS imposes constraints in terms of agreement with the GBT and Privy Council where necessary before public announcements can be made, so on behalf of CIPS and Congress I apologise for this. However, recent conversations with both Malcolm Harrison (CEO) and Marc Hutchinson (Chair of Congress) has confirmed that a formal announcement will be made in the near future, and I shall not usurp this platform to pre-empt that. I shall say that I believe that the new governance structure is robust and inclusive and to the benefit of the whole membership.

    • Peter Smith
      Peter Smith says:

      thanks Malcolm – I’m delighted that someone has finally had the guts to argue in favour of the changes – you are the only one!
      So you don’t believe the democratic element of CIPS brings any advantage? thats a fair viewpoint but don’t you think members deserved a say in that rather than a small group of people imposing that decision on 20,000 others? I agree that Congress has had a credibility issue, which is one reason why only 6% bother voting! but I don’t think that is an argument for scrapping voting entiely. If we were voting for something more meaningful then perhaps it would be 16 or 60%! Personally, I’m not too unhappy about the membership committee idea, to be combined with a proportion of Board and nominations Committee members to be directly elected.

    • Peter Smith
      Peter Smith says:

      I’d love to debate this with you publicly – perhaps we can arrange a webinar? I have considered your comments further and would add 3 things.
      1. Agreement with Privy Council before you ask members if they are happy about the changes? That seems the wrong way round surely.
      2. “Various conversations and surveys” – could you publish the results of the surveys? Or let me see them? I’ve committed to publishing mine. I’m interested what the questions were – I have spoken to a couple of people who were slightly involved in the consultation but were shocked when I explained the changes meant they were losing their vote.
      3. I’m glad you think the new governance structure is inclusive – can you define what you mean by inclusive? I can’t for the life of me see how you can make that case when it is all based on a small cabal appointing people to governance roles. I’m sure Xi Jinping says the same thing about governance in China – it’s not democratic though.
      I’d be delighted if you – or others – want to reply to this. thanks again for taking the time to debate. Peter

  2. Mark Tserkezie
    Mark Tserkezie says:

    This has similar feel to the decision by CIPS to complete destroy the vocational route to membership. A highly valued method at the time and a major contributor to the membership and growth of the institute. Again, decisions made without consultation and the way it was handled lacked any transparency whatsoever. Despite qualifications accredited independently by Ofqual CIPS simply ignored and cut off this route without any fair reasons. Many procurement colleagues were working through the levels and in good faith and CIPS pulled the plug. The bahaviours from CIPS hounding SME training providers out of business is something that will stay with many people for a long time. I’d be interested to know if CIPS are taxed as a charitable organisation or as an aggressive commercial procurement monopoly. CIPS complained that NVQ providers were using the words fast-track in their marketing materials yet do so themselves now that many providers have been squashed. They stopped recognising alternative qualifications for membership without any consultation and I really delighted to hear after all these years someone is highlighting concerns about the decisions made by the Institute. I, for one will be fascinated to see the answers to your questions. As a group of SME providers at the time we sent many letters emails and questions but, despite being members ourselves, we’re never given the courtesy of a reply. Good luck with your challenge.

    • Peter Smith
      Peter Smith says:

      Andrea, I have closed it now – I think we have a strong enough outcome to carry weight with CIPS -see article tomorrow. thanks for trying. Maybe next time, or if CIPS decide to run one themsleves! Peter

  3. David Tomey
    David Tomey says:

    I also found the survey closed but understand now why. The removal of the vocational route to membership certainly had a bearing on the approach I took with my team when looking to enable them to qualify in their chosen profession. 2 qualified before the ‘gates closed’, several did not. This directly resulted in losses to the membership. I retained my membership when I retired earlier this year but am following this thread with interest. I wish you luck.

  4. Steve Bucksey
    Steve Bucksey says:

    I left CIPS years ago due to its self obsession and I don’t recall it holding me back. This sounds like more of the same. Until such organisations realise they live for their membership and not the importance of their executive they will suffer these crises.

  5. David Morgan
    David Morgan says:

    This looks like Animal Farm why should members have a vote those at the top know best. I wonder if CIPS is selling out to a VC like LV mutual. What is the volunteer’s committee? I am also a member of the IET ( ) and get far more free lectures than at CIPS, is CIPS turning into a commercial organisation rather than a members organisation?

    Info below why you do not need a vote.
    Member engagement with elections has historically been very low, with an average of less than 10% of members voting in elections. Additionally, our most recent membership survey showed low interest in elections. This points to elections being ineffective in achieving their aim of providing a democratic way of deciding how members are represented.

    Membership of the Committee was open to the entire volunteer community and then shortlisting and selection, against the role and skills criteria, was taken by the CIPS Nominations Committee.


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