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The Keys to the SPD Kingdom: 5 Ways to Become 'The'​ Decision Maker for Your CS Department Purchases

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

You want it.

You need it.

Your team is asking every day, "When are we going to get a __________ ?"

It was a patient safety issue like, yesterday, and things are only getting dicier by the day.

So why haven't you already cut the PO? Why don't you already have that shiny new piece of machinery or high tech new software installed in your department?

"[F]ewer and fewer CS leaders have the ultimate say on what's bought and when for their departments."

Well, assuming you have the budget for the purchase, the most likely bump in the road to buyer's bliss is the simple fact that fewer and fewer CS leaders have the ultimate say on what's bought and when for their departments. More likely than not, your CS purchasing power is circumscribed by different levels of approval limits, supply chain recommendations, and OR oversight. Simply put, you don't have the keys to your CS kingdom, you're just living in it.

But it doesn't always have to be this way. There are at least five things you can do as a Sterile Processing leader to push the decision-making needle back in your direction:

1) Shake Hands and Kiss Babies

More important than anything else, you need to realize that every purchasing decision that is made in your department has a political component to it. I'm not saying that you have to go around shaking hands and kissing babies in order to get a new sterilizer -- but I am saying that these decisions are rarely just a matter of dollars and cents. More likely than not, there are existing relationships between certain vendors and your facility, there may be previous preferences from supply chain leaders or conflicting outcomes for the project (cost-savings v. green initiative, etc). Simply put, there are votes out there that have to be won before you ever get to the decision making table, and if you want to get what you want, you have to summon your inner-lobbyist to make your cause known and appreciated. In short, you have to politic.

2) Build Your Own Chair

In addition to the politicking discussed in point one, you need to know that if you want a seat at the decision making table (and definitely if you want to become the primary department decision maker), sometimes you have to build your own chair. If you're a new leader or just a leader without a lot of cultural capital in your organization, as things get started you may very well have to invite yourself into these kinds of decision making meetings. In order to do this well and do it professionally, you may need to build your own chair by establishing yourself as a subject matter expert in your facility, in the eyes of your peers, and in the perception of your administration. This may mean doing things like asking to join hospital quality meetings (where you get to network with other department directors and VPs), attending daily safety huddles where other leaders are gathered, or collaborating with high profile departments (such as Infection Control or Safety) on various improvement projects. What does this all have to do with getting approval to purchase your new take-apart laparoscopic system? These are the things that make you look like a natural fit at the CS purchasing decision table, instead of a last minute agenda item. These are the activities that build a chair in the boardroom that has your name on it.

3) Get Ahead of the Curve

As I mentioned in the introduction, part of getting what you want in your SPD department has to do with getting ahead of the purchasing curve -- or, as Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon argue in "The Challenger Sale," it not only means "getting ahead of the RFP" but actually tailoring the RFP to fit the product, service, or company that you want. For instance, if you're convinced the only long term solution to your rips, tears, and holes in disposable blue wrap is the Belintra UFlex Storage System, then you need to focus your facility purchasing conversation around the need to reduce "touch points" for wrapped trays throughout the