Thursday, 22 August 2019

Procurement is full of perceived difference and separation

Procurement is full of perceived difference and separation.
  • Procurement vs suppliers
  • Procurement vs finance
  • Procurement vs engineering
  • Procurement vs operations
  • Procurement vs marketing
  • Procurement vs fm
  • Procurement vs hr
  • Procurement vs the mavericks
  • Procurement the bad cop vs the good cop
  • Us vs them
The post that inspired this list was one on inclusion and diversity from Helen Amery (I’d highly recommend reading it). Helen’s post started a thought process for me that was further fuelled by noticing other posts where there was a distinction being made between “us” and the “other”. It’s that distinction I often pick up in the language of procurement - a language with an “other” we have to battle with in order to win the day. These posts are inviting us to consider there is no separation we are all part of a whole and any outcome is only achieved by doing it together as an “us”. Notice what you notice today about your separation with others, and perhaps even try for yourself a little more “us”ness.

The mindsets of separation and unity will be explored on the forthcoming 5 day Procurement challenge starting on the 9th September. Join me and discover the obstacles hindering your progress.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Have you ever had a bad day?

Have you ever had a bad day & wanted to blame someone for your day? I remember many years ago slamming down the phone & swearing very loudly & a colleague asking “Have you stopped doing Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)?”
They asked because since I’d started my journey of how my mind works I’d started to stand in others shoes, & take responsibility for my reactions. I realised how I saw the world was only one view. In the words of a stakeholder I’d become “easier to deal with”. I’d become more conscious of the impact my thinking was having on any situation & how I was feeling. On bad days when we don’t understand how others think, & everything gets on top of us it’s easy; to not want to take the time to understand our own contribution to the situation; to have a day off from personal responsibility; to blame someone else; & to slam the phone down & swear. Ultimately though, our mind is with us 24/7 365, & a conscious awareness of the impact it’s having on the outcomes we’re getting is actually the quickest way to finding a solution or resolve a frustration. It’s such a pity that’s also true on a bad day because slamming phones can certainly make us feel better - momentarily. How can you take back responsibility for the outcome you’re getting?

The 5 day Procurement Mindset Challenge starting on the 9th September will allow us to become more conscious about the mindset we're choosing in any moment, and to explore the alternate choices we have. See link to join up.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

I can feel the frustration

  • I can feel the frustration.
  • I can feel me digging in my heels.
  • I can me whispering “over my dead body”.
  • I can sense the dogged resistance to them getting their own way.
  • I will not give up.
  • They will not win.
I wonder if this ever how procurement stakeholders feel about us?

I wonder if this is ever how suppliers feel about us?

The content & details of the non work situation driving this behaviour in me is immaterial – even if I would love to gossip, moan & justify why I’m right & they’re wrong.

That’s going to get me nowhere.

If I step back, I can certainly see the behaviours that got us here:
  • Changes imposed on another party with no consultation.
  • An objection procedure that relies on emails/letters & no human contact.
  • Facts & data ignored if it supports a different outcome or amended outcome.
  • Ignoring other people's opinions because we've labeled them as NIMBYs 
  • Key facts & data misrepresented or omitted at the final presentation.
  • Only one party in attendance when approving the decision.
  • Emails written when angry.
  • Emails that stray from the facts & data.
  • Emails that push the other party to defending their position.
  • Not pushing hard enough for a face to face meeting.
  • Not talking to another human being.
Which of the above behaviours may you need to step back from today?

There is another way, and among other things it involves: 
  • Consultation 
  • Communication 
  • Compassion.
Join me for the 5 day Procurement Mindset Challenge on 9th September where alternate mindsets to the ones that led to the mutual frustration and impasse above will be explored.

Monday, 19 August 2019

5 day Procurement Mindset challenge

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
In the procurement mindset 5 day challenge starting on 9th September we’ll be looking at ways of making a supportive mindset a habit.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Not in my back yard!

Are you listening to the “Not In My Back Yard” Procurement stakeholders in your life, or judging them as moaning Minnies defending their own self interest against a greater good?

NIMBYs are a pain, right?

As I reflect on my continued disagreement with the local council it certainly feels like I'm being judged as a NIMBY.

As I woke early, still feeling very frustrated, I realised how I'm feeling might just be how our stakeholders feel when resisting one of our brilliant strategies.

It's a feeling that's arisen from behaviours that certainly turn up in the many stories of procurement gone wrong (I have a Pinterest board full of the horror stories if you're interested).

Behaviours that include:

X relying on written communication
X avoiding face-to-face communication
X decisions approved behind closed doors
X not providing full details of the reasons and benefits for the strategy
X not providing the facts and data to support the reasons and benefits
X not addressing stakeholder facts, data, and concerns

I wonder how much of the behaviour we've experienced from the council is because we've been judged as NIMBYs. As if we and our concerns are invalid and are, therefore, dismissed because we're negatively impacted.

How do you handle NIMBYs in your life?

Thursday, 1 August 2019

The Word Collector

The reason I geek out about patterns in language is because our language is such a wonderful route to solving a problem, and I love solving problems so we can make progress rather than be in that frustrating no man's land of confusion and indecision.

I particularly love helping Procurement professionals find the solutions that are eluding them, to get back on the track they want to be on, rather than up a creek, in a rut, out on a limb, in deep water or going round in circles.

Caroline Myss talks about words having power, and for me that power comes in many guises:

  • Power to impact our mindset (and therefore outcomes)
  • Power to impact our behaviours (ditto)
  • Power to hide the solution within the very words we’re using 
Which is why when coaching, training or consulting procurement teams I can often be heard saying “I notice you said the word xxx” and then we’re off to see how exploring their language may help them turn round and head for their intended destination and away from that dead end.

Next time you’re not getting the outcome you expect, look to the words you’re using - they may just be the difference that makes the difference.

Monday, 29 July 2019

What your team needs from you

When you’re being pulled in lots of different directions and everyone wants you to solve their problems, it can certainly be frustrating.

Especially when you’d like to be focussing on procurement’s relationship with senior leaders within your business and your team isn’t stepping up to support you as much as you’d like, even though you know they’re perfectly capable at doing this.

It’s particularly draining when you’re still racking your brains about how to get your team to take more responsibility and come to you with solutions not just problems.

It can certainly feel as if they or the world are out to get you.

The good news is your team isn’t out to get you, and you’re right about their capability at doing the job you need, they just need a little more self awareness.

More self awareness about:

🔎 The specific behaviours you’re seeing that are getting in the way of them achieving their objectives
🔎 How their mindset is impacting the outcomes they’re getting, and
🔎 How to develop their behavioural and mindset skills to bridge the gap between where they are now, and where you know they could be.

What can you do today to help to help your team increase their self awareness, or would you like me to help you do that?

Friday, 19 July 2019

Don't you ever do that to me again

“Don’t you ever do that to me again” said my boss. “Well done, a breath of fresh air, congratulations” said another senior manager. I was in my twenties, & I’d just done a very "Alisony" presentation to 80 senior managers. “Alisony” involves enthusiasm, laughter & the unexpected, all aimed at achieving the goal. In this instance, conveying the outcome of a cross-functional project looking into how visitors were treated when arriving at the factory, & identifying a plan for improving it. What "Alisony" isn’t is: reading the slides, with a monotone voice, hands by my side, in a dark pressed suit. My boss wanted convention & nothing that drew attention to being different. The other senior managers reacted to my refreshing energy &, I would contend, remembered what I said as a result. Since that time, it’s been a constant challenge of which of those two voices I listen to. Having recently connected to a number of procurement leaders on LI, I could hear my old boss warning me to tone myself down, & be more conventional. Then I remember, convention & its lack are equally effective when in the hands of an expert. There are plenty of experts using conventional means, and I can do conventional. Yet I’m certainly more effective when I’m being unconventionally Alison(y).

Monday, 15 July 2019

My ideal client

Just to say, my ideal client is a procurement team I can get to know and spend a few days every month training, mentoring, and coaching individuals or small groups on ‘how’ they do what they do.
This will most likely include developing the team’s stakeholder engagement, communication, influencing, and creative thinking skills.
Other topics covered might also include mindset, confidence, values and beliefs, and other topics that increase individuals’ self awareness, which are the building blocks to having an affective and adaptable approach to ‘how’ things get done.
I’ve been a passionate procurement professional for over 30 years, and for 20 of those years I’ve been a NLP and soft skills coach and trainer, and geek on new and innovative tools for personal development and transformation.
If you’re interested in me supporting your procurement team to fully embrace their potential, do get in touch.
With capacity to only provide this to a small number of organisations it’s not something everyone will be able to get access to.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Forget digitising procurement, I want more humanity

Digitisation is coming to Procurement.

We’re embracing 4.0.

It will deliver huge benefits and transform how we work.


If we talk to our suppliers or to our internal stakeholders they’re telling us there’s one thing missing.

Our humanity.

It feels like we’re running before we can walk with many of us still struggling to get to 2.0.

Of course there are some trail blazers getting the mix right and delivering real value, but there’s plenty of examples that suggest there are Procurement peeps stuck at 1.99.

Someone on a category management workshop once said “oh, I didn’t know I could do that” when I simply suggested they use a wider range of their behavioural skills with a stakeholder i.e. be human; not a computer running a stereotypical programme from the 80s.

On another workshop we had a heated debate about whether there was room for kindness in procurement. Ok, it was me that got heated when I was told their KPIs wouldn’t let them be kind.

Which is why I don’t apologise for bringing the following qualities others have used to describe me into the soft skills procurement development I do:

Heart-led, intuitive, insightful, real, creative, trustworthy, unconventional, and passionate.

Because these are the qualities I want to see more of in Procurement.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Do you have a leak in your life?

Life can be a little like the plumbing in my flat’s kitchen last weekend - we don’t know where to look to find the source of the problem until we’ve got visible evidence of a leak. By which time, it’s starting to make a mess downstairs!

The leaks in our lives might include those found in our energy, motivation, focus, resilience, communication, patience and so on. With the symptoms being observed in our thoughts, feelings or actions. In life, much like my kitchen, it’s about taking action as soon as the evidence of a leak is observed. No burying our head in the sand hoping it will sort itself out; no denying the evidence, nor looking elsewhere for the source of the leak. It's about taking action before the negative impact gets worse. The first step is observing those small changes in mind or body that point towards something being off kilter or out of balance, and then taking appropriate action. With my kitchen, as I do not have the skills to replace the broken lead waste pipe myself, I rang my water pipe insurer.

In life we might have the resources to act ourselves, or may need to call a friend, mentor, coach or doctor. What evidence do you have of a leak, and what action can you take to stop it leaking further, and then resolve the cause?

Monday, 1 July 2019

The difference that makes the difference

As I watched their disappointment yesterday I could also imagine their earlier excitement - the sun was shining, wind was calm, they had a new jet-ski, had borrowed a trailer, left work early, and driven to the beach. Once at the beach, they carefully reversed down the ramp, and then excitedly jumped out of the van to manoeuvre the jet-ski into the water.

And then the dream disintegrated - where was the water? Low tide had only been a couple of hours earlier, and high tide a further 4 hours away. It was a low high tide so by my calculations they were at least 2.5 hours away from being able to take the jet-ski into the water. It’s funny... and then you start to realise this is a great metaphor for many areas of our lives where, when planning, we’ve not taken into account the difference that makes the difference between success and failure. I’m assuming the jet-ski guys will have learnt about tide height and tide times for this beach and ensure they check them for future excursions. During procurement training I hear many horror stories “oh yes that happened to me too” with no mechanism in place to learn from them. What post-activity reviews do you undertake and how can they stop you from being on dry land when you want to be in the water?

Friday, 28 June 2019

What do Procurement people tweet about when they get together?

The inaugural #procurementhour took place last night and as the invite didn’t get to all our procurement professionals in time I wanted to encourage you to join next Thursday evening at 2000 BST.

If you’re not familiar with a #twitterhour it’s much like following a person on Twitter but you follow a hashtag for a specific hour instead and everyone uses it during the discussions and peeps exchange ideas, ask and answer questions and generally have a chin wag over a drink of your choice about a topic you’re passionate about. Which means there will be one for where you live, for hobbies, passions and professions etc #cumbriahour #LDchat #BBCQT and now #procurementhour

This hour was facilitated by @deltaprocure @kershaw_MCIPS and whilst many future #twitterhours may involve more questions, and focusing on specific topics, it was q3 that got the party going.

Q3 if you could change one thing about procurement (processes, legal, governance, culture, other) to make delivery better what would it be.

What would you have said? And how would you have provided solutions to facilitate that change?

With so many tangents from this question I suspect this is only my interpretation of the key topics: 
  • Culture – to make embracing change easier
  • Stakeholder engagement – engaging them and doing so earlier because we understand the process but they understand what they want “we’re in this together” 
  • Mindset – to stepping outside our comfort zones
  • Process – ensuring it’s fit for purpose not a hurdle for innovation
  • Performance measurement – what would Unilever or Steve jobs do and would it really be so reliant on compliance?
Tweets that had me going “hell yes” included

@MCulleyMCIPS procurement isn’t boring, it’s there to change the way goods/services/works are purchased to deliver better things, it’s not all about saving money.

@noursidawi leadership is the difference – and we lead, and are led, at all levels.

#ProcurementHour reminded me we’re not alone, and need to work together to be the change we want to see.

Hope you’ll join the conversation next week to help do that.

Alison Smith @purchasingcoach

Thursday, 27 June 2019

"I was able to experience a profound shift"

I’m so much happier as coach than coachee - and yet I have to dip a toe out of my comfort zone and accept that keeping feedback to myself isn’t helping potential clients know what others think of the work I do for them. With that in mind, I’m starting with this fabulous feedback from Mel Sherwood - I can’t think of a better response to a session:

“I was able to experience a profound shift”. The outcome Mel achieved is why I do what I do to support others in releasing the blocks to achieving their goals. Whilst the majority of coaching clients are procurement team members (1:1 or group clinics focusing on behavioural skills) I do also provide one-off intensive coaching days/weekends or a programme of personal coaching for individuals. With a wealth of coaching tools in my LANDSCAPE toolkit there’s always something that will be the difference that makes the difference. Thanks so much to Mel, and thank you for reading.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Next time suppliers or colleagues are ‘ignoring’ you, best to check your language for clarity

“My manager has told me I need to provide less detail to stakeholders, and I don’t know what they mean.”

This quandary arose in a coaching session and is a wonderful example of people using language they understand and assuming others understand it too. I can imagine the frustration as the manager thinks “I told them they need to be less detailed. Why are they still giving too much detail? They’re just ignoring me”, and so on.
The challenge was the words “less detail” because, whilst the manager had a clear sense of what they meant, the recipient of those words had no idea. For that individual the instructions just weren’t detailed enough. “I only provide the detail that’s needed” “If I provide any less detail it won’t make sense” They just didn’t understand the request and, despite being very willing, had no idea how to change their behaviour. The resulting strategy we developed in the coaching session was something along these lines: 1. Provide short overview 2. Pause and wait for a question 3. Provide short answer 4. Pause and wait for a question
And so on. What this helped them model was if people wanted more detail they could ask for it. Next time suppliers or colleagues are ‘ignoring’ you - best to check your language for clarity.

Friday, 21 June 2019

"It's taken me over 100 hours to compose"

“It’s taken me over 100 hours to compose” Jon Schmidt from the Piano Guys said last week at the SECC in Glasgow, as he introduced his version of A million dreams.

A little later, as they played a mash-up of Beethoven’s 5 secrets - onerepublic, this quote from that great composer appeared on the screen in-front of us: “Don't only practise your art, but force your way into its secrets” Isn’t that what Jon was doing spending 100 hours exploring a song where the majority of the musical composition was already known that lasts less than five minutes? In his book 'Outliers', Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert. 10,000 hours to force your way into its secrets perhaps? As I listened to Jon demonstrate his musical expertise, a lyric from the song came to mind: “I think of what the world could be” Isn’t that why Jon spent 100 hours on just one piece, why experts spend 10,000 hours on their art, because they think of what the world could be and are motivated to take action? How are you forcing your way into the secrets of how the world could be? Me - I spend my time forcing my way into the secrets of coaching tools that help people be the catalyst for change for how they want the world to be - in procurement, business or personally.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Absurdity: how it can help us find solutions

Absurdity and laughter (turn the sound down first) could be my mission statement - but it is also one of the tools in the LANDSCAPE coaching toolkit, because sometimes it’s the only thing that will shake us out of our current ways of thinking.

If our mind is going round and round...and we’ve no idea how to find a solution, getting a little absurd might help. The theory suggests that absurdity pushes our mind to try to make sense of all the nonsense. As we laugh at the lack of logic it’s as if the laughter breaks the chains tying us to our repetitive thinking. In coaching sessions the absurdity has included: 💥Naming beliefs that will really hinder finding a solution - e.g. only one person in the whole world can do this 💥Different wording of well-known sayings - e.g. can’t hear the wood for the trees, can’t see the mountain for the molehill 💥Different interpretations for someone’s behaviour - e.g. PoTUS is telling them what to do You only have to listen to 'I’m sorry I haven’t a clue' for other ideas for absurdity - singing one song to the tune of another anyone? The aim is to shift the current thinking in order to have more choice going forward about what to do next. Don’t keep doing the same thing & expect a different response - try something different and notice what you notice.