Malcolm Dare: "Investing in people and collaboration is the pillar of a successful commercial function"

The Executive Director of Commercial, Supply Chain and Procurement at National Highways shares his thoughts on how to have success as a leader in procurement
Malcolm Dare

“If morale is good, the higher the performance of the team," said Malcolm Dare, Executive Director of Commercial, Supply Chain and Procurement at National Highways, understanding the importance of investing in his team. Not only is it critical to develop the best commercial function, but to ensure it provides value for money in public spending.

National Highways is responsible for some of the largest and most expensive infrastructure projects in the UK, and Dare is a leading voice in commercial decision-making in the organisation. In a recent conversation with Proxima, he shared his thoughts on how to be a successful leader in public-sector procurement.

Fostering a positive working environment 

Dare emphasised the importance of a healthy team dynamic for CPOs. “You need to invest in people and ensure that the working culture is collaborative, streamlined and robust so that you can grow, develop and attract the best talent possible," he said.

“Building talent means making your team feel empowered and engaging them along the journey. This means being less mechanistic about processes and thinking more about how you are most likely to succeed as a team in delivering the required output for the business. Over the past three years, at National Highways, we’ve invested significantly in improving our employee engagement.”

This year National Highways came out at the top of their Commercial Continuous Improvement Assessment Framework (CCIAF) cohort with a score of 87.5%. The National Highways Employee Engagement Survey results are also good – 93% response rate, with overall engagement at 75%.  

A function built for its people

Dare's team structure means building a strategy based upon those at the foundational levels of the team, and this is how he approached the National Highways’ Contract Control Framework (CCF). “As a Directorate, we should function from the bottom up aligned to business needs," he said. 

"I encourage all my teams to focus on their people first and take the time to really understand problems before solving them. Our strategy should set our employees up for success, and this means building structures that work for the core functions first in order to benefit the whole employee network and the business. It’s about listening to our employees on how they work best to deliver the best possible value for the taxpayer.

“This was our approach to CCF – our end-to-end commercial and procurement process, which was designed specifically with employees’ feedback in mind to embed a consistent and universal approach. It was designed by the employees for the employees.”

Building relationships across the business is key

Dare believes that a key role of any CPO is advocating for the commercial importance of their team. He explained: “You always have to sell the value commercial, procurement and supply chain areas bring to the organisation. Don’t assume that people know what ‘good’ looks like – you always need to be switched on and sell solutions’ importance to the wider organisation. It’s our role to demonstrate where we are adding real value and positioning procurement, commercial and supply chain aspects as a driver towards achieving commercial goals.

“A CPO’s ability to impact their organisation cannot be underestimated, and a lot can be said about its maturity based on whether they have a CPO on their executive team. As part of the executive team at National Highways, I’m always thinking about issues from a business perspective and how commercial and procurement can add value, focusing on how the organisation can operate cross-functionally and how I can effectively communicate the impact commercial has on the business as a whole.”

If you are interested in learning more about what the world’s leading procurement specialists see as the key drivers for success, take a look at Proxima’s recent report, which shares insights from 15 leading CPOs on what it takes to be a leader in the procurement industry of today. 

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Commercial Leadership
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