Keith Bird CPO of the Year The Faculty Roundtable Queensland Rail THE FACULTY QUARTERLY 

Autumn, April 2014

Year in Review 

Interview with Keith Bird

As the time approaches to hand over his crown, 2013 CPO of the Year Keith Bird reflects on the year that has been, his leadership philosophy – and what ‘Tough Love’ means for him.

The theme for the 2014 Asia-Pacific CPO Forum is ‘Tough Love’. How does this need to balance the tough with the tender sit with your own leadership philosophy?

I think ‘tough love’ must begin with the standards that you set for yourself. If you have an organized and disciplined approach, this will flow on to the staff and then filter to the enterprise.

Leaders need to inspire and influence rather than manage. We need to listen, understand, and create rapid change where required. Have empathy – yet the courage to say enough is enough. 

I have principle-centered leadership philosophy: be authentic, lead the team through uncertainty, follow and support them through their development and capability-building phase. And get out of the way when they’re making progress.

Reflecting on the past 12 months since being awarded the highest professional honour in the region, what have been the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a procurement team leader? 

Most procurement leaders face challenges associated with delivering consistent bottom-line results and meeting the dynamic expectations of our customers/shareholders. The key focus for the CPO is seeking alignment with the wider organisation. We need to identify opportunities through visionary strategic thinking and leadership.

This approach will deliver innovative and sustainable benefits – plus return on investment and an increase in shareholder wealth. The team will be seen as a commercial advisor to the organisation, rather than a procurement policy and procedures function. 

The CPO’s expectations are continuously changing and increasing. The challenges we all face are:

• Generating long-term benefits that align to the speed, flexibility and key objectives of our business functions.
• Developing global supplier partnerships.
• Ensuring we have the right risk mitigation strategies in place to protect the organisation, key executives, and the Board.
• Continuously being innovative and developing a competitive advantage.
• Retaining talented staff for the long term.
• Having a short-tem plan to meet the imminent challenges facing the enterprise, while developing a strategic plan to meet the enterprise’s long-term objectives. Sometimes it’s about ‘gut feel’ and ‘crystal ball’ stuff.

What are you most proud of in the past year? 

Our entire Commercial team: how they’ve managed change, continue to learn from our customers and deliver innovative solutions and enterprise-wide benefits. All while maintaining a sense of humour.

Being named the CPO of the Year was a great opportunity to showcase the entire team that have supported me over the years. Additionally, it provided a voice to the enterprise demonstrating that the procurement leadership and team had substance. Our team has been named the Most Improved Procurement team in Australasia. We’ve recently obtained the global CIPS Corporate Certification Standard in purchasing policies, processes and procedures.

Yep, I’m very lucky to have a great bunch of men and women to work with.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a leader? 

Communicate, communicate, communicate.


The 2014 CPO of the Year Award will be presented at a Gala Dinner on 14 May at the Asia-Pacific CPO Forum. Once again, we are proud to partner with Pacific Brands Workwear to present the Award.

Learn more about the Award here.