Action Centred Learning

The development of procurement specialists is a continuing challenge. There is no requirement for procurement to emulate, for example, the legal profession where have to, annually, obtain credits for keeping up to date. If they fail to do so, they do not get their certificate to practice. So why is procurement different? Upon reflection, procurement is in a worse situation because anyone can become a procurement specialist without qualifying.

The CIPS examinations, at the various levels, are essential to having the bedrock of learning. At the time of studying the professional content, it will satisfy the current syllabi issued by CIPS. Of course, the ability to teach the content will depend on the ability of the tutors. Sadly, some of them will not have been engaged in a live procurement role, hence the learning will not be evidenced based.

There remains a powerful alternative, action centered learning. BFL have a model that can be used in any environment. The process begins with a two pronged review of i) assessing the capability of the procurement team in its individual capacity and ii) assessing the challenges facing procurement over the forthcoming twelve months. A programme of learning is then formulated, whereby each individual is given a programme of learning based upon their identified needs and the business needs. This blending of needs is a unique feature of the learning programme. Objectives are agreed in business terms. These objectives can be on any facets(s) of the business needs.


The BFL support can be provided on site, or at a distance, or a combination of both. The support is at agreed intervals, often provided over a six month period. It can be shorter if the business challenge is immediate and needs solving in the short-term. An actual example is a client with a significant capital investment programme. The engineer leading the programme had little respect for procurement, believing that engineering were quite capable of handling every facet of the procurement. When BFL got involved in this learning situation, one of the objectives was to find a way through which procurement could promote their skills. This was done by engaging in supply market research, developing a robust cost model, tailoring the contractual terms to meet the specific needs of the project and developing a negotiation strategy that would involve engineering. The project was a great success.

During the above project and other action centered learning ‘projects’ taking place at the same time in this client (there were twelve projects running concurrently), the procurement team were assembles to transfer learning from one project to another. This is an ingredient that ensures the individual learning is transferred to all members of the team. This angle is missed in most organisations because there is no basis for capturing the learning. In the procurement team being referred to, there were auditable savings made of £1.5 million over a six month period. Obviously there were many other benefits, including higher motivation, lower risk, improved contracts, improved relationships with suppliers and demonstrable benefits to the business.

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