How will CIPS measure the success of its big changes?

A few weeks ago now, CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) announced the result of the consultation process on proposed governance changes. It proved to be a vindication and a victory for the Board of Trustees, with over 75% of those who responded agreeing with the Board’s recommendations. That means no more democratic voting for members to elect Congress and (indirectly) Trustees, and no more CIPS Presidents.

I campaigned for a proper consultation to be held, as it looked at one point that CIPS might just force through the  changes – and indeed had already made some (such as abolishing Congress) which it should not have done without such consultation. I wanted to retain some democracy, which I genuinely thought would be the result of the consultation. I also wanted CIPS to retain the President’s role, which I thought might be a close call in terms of wider opinion.  I “lost” convincingly on both those counts.

One learning from this is to beware of the positive reinforcement or “echo chamber” effect. The vast majority of people I spoke to – and who responded to my quick survey I ran here – agreed that democracy should be retained. I can only assume they were generally people similar to me, perhaps a lot of older members, Fellows or perhaps just liked-minded folk –  which is why they read my stuff here or on LinkedIn. But I really thought I would “win” on that point, only to find a clear majority disagreed with me.

What is really disappointing is that only one person ever debated with me publicly and was prepared to discuss the issues a little on LinkedIn. So either those who voted with the Board don’t hold very strong views or are terrified of my amazing debating powers… who knows! But my point is that it’s easy to think that “everyone agrees with me”. We must be careful not to fall into that trap when it comes to important business decisions too. Look for the contrary view, for the person who doesn’t agree with you.

So, CIPS members, you no longer have a vote. CIPS is similar now to your gym or the AA, where your “membership” means you are a customer with a right to use the service, not the National Trust or CAMRA (just to take two organisations I’m a member of) where you have a vote and hence play a (minor) role in the running and governance of the organisation.

Nothing wrong with that, but you might feel differently when you don’t have that role. You certainly expect a good product (service) from the gym or the AA – you act like a buyer, not a “member”, I suspect.  So this change might just focus CIPS members’ minds on what they get from the Institute, which would not be a bad thing.  

And CIPS faces a challenging competitive situation. There have never been as many options for professionals wanting to feel part of a community, or to access useful intellectual property, information and knowledge, or to participate in events.  Much of what is available in those areas is free to users too. Even on the qualification side, which is CIPS’ main area of competitive advantage, new options are emerging.

The other point I’ve been considering is how will the CIPS Board measure the success of these changes? Here are some suggestions.

  1. The new appointment process will lead to better people sitting on the Board, says CIPS. OK, that is somewhat subjective, but lets compare the Board membership in 2 years’ time with where it was in 2021. But I’d also want to know how active Board members are. How many meetings or  CIPS events (both large-scale and branch type meetings) did they attend? It is no good having high profile global CPOs as Board members if they never turn up or actively support CIPS and its members.
  2. CIPS will appoint a range of people to fulfil representational roles instead of a President, they say. So let’s measure media coverage of CIPS “representatives” as a reasonable proxy for activity.  In my opinion, CIPS really missed out by not having a Presidential figurehead as a spokesperson during the pandemic.  The CEO did his bit, but he had a business to run in difficult circumstances too.  
  3. Another aim of the new structures is to improve member engagement. So let’s see the number of branch and other meetings organised by or for members, including virtual gatherings of course, and number of attendees – those seem like good measures. Plus perhaps number of “projects”, task forces, groups or whatever set up for particular purposes or to carry out a piece of work.
  4. Ultimately, the best measures are probably the core metrics – full members of CIPS and total revenues.

We won’t be able to judge whether the changes have paid off for a while, so let’s see where the Institute is in two years’ time. Put May 2024 in your diary. Whether I will still be interested enough in procurement matters to be writing about it then is another matter altogether!

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