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Webinar Notes: Herding of Cats: A Strategic Approach to Enterprise-wide Procurement

Webinar Notes: Herding of Cats: A Strategic Approach to Enterprise-wide Procurement

This week’s webinar notes are from the October Next Level Purchasing Association members-only webinar, and featured Donald Jean, CEO of Focused Buyer, a purchasing and trading website that also provides payment services and financial records support. If you are not already a member of NLPA, we highly recommend that you sign up. Membership is free and includes benefits such as their monthly webinars.


The topic of Don Jean’s presentation is one that all purchasing professionals have experienced at some point in their careers. When buying is done in a distributed fashion, the result often feels like ‘herding cats’ or trying to get a group of independently minded (and motivated) people to follow a standard process. The causes of cat mentality range from lack of training or language challenges to reporting structures or compensation programs that incent people to act against a desired process.

Don offered up what he calls the “10 D’s Model” for increasing the coordination of your cat herd. The 10 D’s are:

  • Develop
  • Data
  • Discovery
  • Direction
  • Deliverables
  • Deployment
  • Discipline
  • Determination
  • Dedication
  • Debriefings

All 10 elements are important, but in this case a few stood out to me as particularly important and equally relevant in all sizes and structures of organizations.

Develop: If cats are going to fall in line behind a common goal, that goal needs to be clearly articulated and communicated. The conditions under which a plan is put in place have a significant impact on its ultimate success. It is important to be working in an atmosphere or culture that is open to change as well as to have a catalyst to build momentum behind a new approach. A sponsor and executive level champions will help keep the plan on target and can assist in dealing with the inevitable naysayers purchasing will encounter along the way.

Direction: Once an overall plan is in place, the details of executing it need to be clarified. There will always be more opportunities than resources to manage them, and cats are notoriously easily distracted when too many variables are being managed in parallel. Having general company-wide priorities around leveraging combined volume with fewer suppliers versus purposefully distributing volume to mitigate supply chain risk builds a foundation on which individual efforts can be built.

Dedication: In order to have a chance of moving cats in a similar direction, there must be a shared vision of the herd’s destination – even if that vision is long term or high level. When challenges arise and any collective thinking starts to falter, having that anchor in people’s minds to latch back onto makes it possible to bring the effort back on track. Dedication is best built by setting clear expectations and establishing a clear understanding of the goal that everyone is working towards. All learnings and experiences gained along the way should be re-absorbed in a tribal knowledge-style process and used to improve efforts going foward.

The high level message of Don’s 10 D’s Model is that the more you think through and get buy-in for in advance, the easier it will be to contain your cats. No one wants to be in a situation where a precedent-setting decision has to be made based on an example where an errant cat has a lot of political clout. Working through a list of considerations in advance gives the organization an objective opportunity to decide which path is right.

Don’s next speaking engagement is at the Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on October 22. You can also contact him through the FocusedBuyer website or via LinkedIn.

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