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What’s your strategy for refuelling your car? Or more precisely, what’s your trigger for action?
Seeing the fuel indicator get to 1/2 full or perhaps a 1/4?
Maybe it's reframing the dial and seeing that it's 3/4 empty?
Hearing the alarm tell you the tank is approaching empty?
Filling up every Saturday morning?
Heading for fuel when you’ve a long journey ahead?
When you notice a cheap price?
Only when you start to feel the panic about running out of petrol?
When you pass your favourite petrol station (for a while I frequented one such location due to the M&S food shop on site)
When you stop for a comfort break
When waiting to pick up the kids from a class
Or something else entirely?
Perhaps it's about exploring other options instead of a petrol fuelled car - electric? taxi and/or car hire.
Are you aware of the decision making criteria that you're using to support this trigger?
Lowest total annual cost
Lowest total lifetime cost
Retain maximum resale value for the car
Engine friendly - which I believe supports not leaving it till the alarm has gone off as we stir the bottom of the tank!
Minimising disruption to your day
Efficient use of time
Access to car 100% of time with 150 miles capacity
Predictability of your schedule
Criteria that each result in a very different trigger for refuelling.
The reason I ask, is that shortly I’m headed to refuel my car using a different strategy than the one I’ve used for years. A new strategy that will I believe will reduce my stress, use my spare time efficiently, minimise detours and I understand improve the performance of the engine.
You see, I’ve always resisted refuelling the car and my strategy for years, ok decades, has been the sound of the indicator telling me I have x miles till I run out!!
Little did I know, whilst using this example on a recent supplier management workshop, that in addition to helping expand delegates’ thinking about the triggers suppliers might have for taking action to avoid problems, it would help me solve my own resistance to refuelling. Understanding the decision making criteria and arising trigger people use for action can be a very useful tool for problem solving. For example, in the supplier relationship management workshop we were discussing complaints being received about the service provided by a supplier. A supplier who believed their service was 5* worthy, and yet user feedback suggested it was *2. Once we started to explore the criteria both parties might have for taking action, it wasn't hard to see how problems might have arisen. Even in the LikedIn post on the subject of refuelling the car it's easy to understand how the different criteria people are using could lead to heated debates if we were needing to find one optimal strategy for fuelling the car:
One fueller discounting the criteria for minimising stress (ie avoid the alarm strategy),
Another calculating the annual saving of always buying at the lowest price, and
Another getting annoyed at the frequency of arriving late for meetings having had to refuel to get to their destination.
I particularly love it when I am able to bring everything I do together into one workshop.
Last week I facilitated a 'supplier relationship management' workshop. Although we decided it should really just be entitled 'relationship management' as we acknowledged our own contribution to the relationship and outcomes we get (50:50).
I say facilitated, but perhaps the better word for it was coached, because whilst we did cover some theory and models there was also lots of discussion to help attendees to explore a subject they're already doing on a day to day basis.
Discussion that touched on coaching improved performance, rapport, influencing, developing trust, managing meetings, conflict, and rewarding great performance.
The aim of coaching is to help people to learn something for themselves - not to be told what to think. Coaching leads to long term changes in thinking and behaving - teaching not so much - unless its supported by coaching once back in the office.
We did touch on the GROW model for coaching performance of suppliers but we also tried a number of unconventional tools (see an advent series of posts from the archives introducing many of these).
Using nature as our coach and metaphor for supplier management was one of the tools that we used on the workshop that I was very pleased with the outcome about.
Imagine the following location:
"Idyllic rural location, ideal for hiking and climbing enthusiasts. Very sociable atmosphere with guests hanging out in the evenings, live music most nights. Unobstructed and breathtaking mountain views. Ideal for single travellers"
What landscape do you imagine as you read these words?
For IP reasons I can't share with you the image used in the workshop but if you imagine the image at the top of this post with a series of hammocks hanging across from one cliff to another you'll get the idea.
The description above, that one delegate read out to us before showing us the image, had us all imagining something very different. It was used as a reminder to ensure we have the same interpretation as our suppliers about the specification and 'spirit' of the contract.
Of course, we know this insight logically and intellectually. By using nature we're tapping into our unconscious and creative mind. Tapping in more deeply to our inner wisdom might just ensure the insight is not forgotten when we jump to blaming a supplier for not meeting our expectations. Or when we're drafting an action plan and believe the words we're using are obvious and could never get misunderstood - could they?
Other images and insights chosen in this exercise are shown below, although again I've had to use different images. You may want to view the pictures first and consider your own insights:
What action have these images inspired you to take?
Here's what we got on the day:
All the elements coming together and getting the balance right.
Penguins take it in turns to be on the outside of a huddle and take the brunt of the wind and cold. That is, they understand that can't do it alone and need the support of the whole colony to survive.
All parts of the garden need to be nurtured - watering, feeding, weeding, pruning etc. Other wise we'll just end up with an over grown garden. Which links to many post I've written about the link between supplier and plant management.
Rather than get too distracted with the trees we need to look beyond to the bigger picture to focus on the sky and what's at the other side of the current situation. To remember where we're headed rather than get side tracked or too despondent with the current landscape.
We should be this proud of the relationship we have with our suppliers. Relationships should look calm and serene from the outside even if there's plenty going on under the water.
Back to basics - we can only squeeze so much.
And one image that reflects another insight from the session was - that too much noise can dilute the message you're trying to make and you can lose the clarity both parties need in order to work effectively together. Which is why it's important to not over use the word "urgent" (but that's another post for another day!).
What did you notice as you read this post - what thoughts came to mind that might provide a different perspective on a situation you're facing at the moment?
I'd love to discuss how I may coach your team on any aspect of category management, or supplier management adding in or focusing exclusively on the very important aspects of emotional intelligence and creativity.
Alison Smith The Purchasing Coach +44 (0)7770 538159 email@example.com
For a wider use of nature as your coach see my Landscaping Your Life blog and also my book Can't see the wood for the trees aimed at helping you get back on track when you're stuck in a rut, up a creek without a paddle, going round in circles, are out on a limb, feel like a fish out of water or can't see the wood for the trees.
Funny how thoughts go – I was watching an interview with
Oprah and the topic of #Metoo came up. As I was reminded of the behaviours the
movement was fighting to eradicate, behaviours such as bullying, disrespect for
others, pushing forward even when they’ve said no or the distress the actions are causing is visible, and blackmail
(indirect or direct in terms of fear of losing the work/money if behaviours are
challenged), I wondered whether business, and procurement were hearing the call
for change too.
Can I stand here and say I’ve never shown those behaviours
to a supplier – no - however unintentionally and, I hope, however many many years
Can many Procurement departments say they’ve never done this
Can many organisations – no.
You see - to me - bullying is bullying, blackmail is
blackmail - the context in which is is taking place doesn’t alter its
appropriateness and yet it seems that’s not a belief shared by everyone. “That’s
just the way business is” is as prevalent a response to these behaviours today as
I’m sure “that’s just the way Hollywood is” or “that’s just men being men for
you” was years ago.
That’s just the way business is when suppliers fear speaking
up, or saying no to unacceptable requests for fear of the repercussions.
That’s just the way business is when buyers assume because
suppliers aren’t speaking up that they can keep doing what they're doing even though they know it's unacceptable behaviour.
That's just the way business is when sourcing send a 100
page tender to 15 suppliers knowing who they want to give the business too.
That’s the just way business is when Procurement ask
suppliers at 1700 on a Friday for a response at 0900 on a Monday even though it's been on their desk for weeks.
That’s just the way business is when …..
In January two years ago I invited us not to leave our humanity at the office door. Then life got in the way and, whilst walking the
talk, I didn’t do as much as I could to challenge unacceptable behaviour.
Perhaps #metoo has given me the confidence to once again return to this topic
and to want to explore with buyers and suppliers alike how we move to a new
paradigm for our relationship – one that doesn’t fall back on old stereotypes
and abuses of power.
Any thoughts on how to take this dialogue further much
appreciated. Perhaps you’re already managing to avoid these behaviours in your
organisation – and if so I’d love to hear from you.
As January 2018 started much quieter than in previous years I wonder if I’d drained my blogging juices with a post a day in December 2017 introducing a range of
tools I use in coaching, facilitation and problem solving?
A letter that outlined that procurement needs to get back to
delivering real value and not just the cost savings they think that organisations want
that actually diminishes the relationship between the two. That is, it could be a
match made in heaven and yet often feels like a one night stand or friends with
benefits! One element of the letter was expanded upon over on my Landscaping Your Life blog and touched on what happens when we've exhausted the low hanging fruit.
As ever, soft skills was a frequent topic in training and
coaching sessions and an index of soft skills posts was posted for clients to dip into
topics we’d discussed.
Other posts on this subject included:
The impact the roles we use to describe what we do has on
the outcome we achieve, and the impact of simply changing the description can
have. (Although wonder of this is really a words have power post :-)). After all procurement isn't just all about fire fighting!
Taking your rose coloured spectacles off – notes from a
presentation I did at a CIPS local branch meeting on self awareness being the
key soft skill that would have greatest impact on personal and organisational success
As a coach I’m often asked about the benefits of coaching
and also realise there’s some myths too that stop people considering coaching
as a means of them achieving more in their personal and working lives. I wrote
2 posts to help shed more light on what to expect from a coaching relationship.
Although if you’d rather not have a human as a coach
my recently published book Can’t see the wood for the trees provides insight on how to have nature
as your coach.
The book uses a process (LYL) I first developed over 20 years ago to help managers understand why suppliers needed to be managed, and how it was the same as looking after your garden ie I discovered that gardening was a great metaphor for supplier management. The process then expanded to using landscapes as metaphors for our lives.