How Maslow’s theory applies to sourcing

Posted on September 6th, 2013 by

Reading the BBC’s recent article about the 70th anniversary of Maslow’s theory about human motivation ( made me wonder how his hierarchy of needs might relate to procurement.

‘Business Needs’ motivate procurement projects just as human needs motivate people, and once basic business needs are satisfied then the ‘Business Wants’ become more important.

Taking haulage as an example, the physiological needs at the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy may be represented by the basic need to transport goods from A to B. Once a haulier can demonstrate they can do this, then we need assurances about reliability and risk minimalisation – i.e. safety needs.

In order to fulfil our social needs we need to keep the business (our society) happy. This can be achieved through a contract that is seen to be value for money and meeting stakeholders’ expectations.

Moving higher up the hierarchy, the programme may be heralded as a breakthrough in some way – say, innovating fuel efficiencies such as teardrop truck designs – boosting esteem for the project.

So, what would correspond to the pinnacle of motivators, self-actualisation? Maybe the peak of this hierarchy is the perfect synergy of a ‘Key’ buyer-supplier relationship, which will fulfil the project’s potential.

On the left: Procurement hierarchy. On the right: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs


This may be a simplistic view of things, but it’s an interesting avenue of thought. Do you agree with this hierarchy? What motivates your projects?