Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Insight from nature applied to Supplier Management

I love my job - but you know that right?

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

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.

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