Saturday 28 July 2012

The Legacy of Olympic Pride

There are many aspects of last nights Olympic opening ceremony that I enjoyed.

What had me being most proud to be British was the Queen, James Bond and corgis - truly inspired and said what it means to be British. Mr Bean helped - so too the Drs and Nurses of the NHS.

What had me being proud to be a member of the global community was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. It symbolised so much about how this world could be if only we: 

  • Come together to celebrate our diversity and believe in the synergies available in our collaboration
  • Focused on unity and peace and not conflict

Here's hoping it's not just for 2 weeks.


Communication - keep trying

I came off the phone the other day knowing that I hadn’t got through to the person on the other end about my point of view.

The indication was that I had not, because if I had got my message over effectively, the person on the line would have been as annoyed as me, and the reaction would have been: “Let’s get this sorted”, rather than :“Okay, let’s look at that in a few weeks when X has happened” (meaning never).

I knew I’d forgotten to say the one thing that would have made all the difference. So to find out what that might be, I went back to a great book by Shelle Rose Charvet to remind myself what I could have done differently to improve the communication.

In this situation there were two things I should have remembered and paid attention to:

1. The type of information he needed
Did he need to see, hear, read or do something with the information? Over the phone he was only ever going to hear what I said, so perhaps I should have sent an email or information to back up the call? Or would PowerPoint or Excel have worked best for him? In this instance, using a webinar and spreadsheet worked a treat.

2. What was his motivation?
As I’ve written in a previous blog, I’m motivated by affiliation. The challenge for me is I often jump straight to saying that the problem is causing “unhappy or demotivated staff”, “friction” or “upset”. Those people motivated by achievement may well be turned off by these words unless I start talking about the potential outcome being “failure” or a “delay”. In this particular instance I think power, via financial security, was more the issue. In a subsequent call I simply mentioned the cost implications of ignoring the information (backed up by the Excel document) and he was suddenly on side.

Next time you walk away from a situation where you’ve failed to convince someone of your opinion, just think about what you could have done differently and try again. But, a word of caution, please don’t then become angry as I blogged about last week.

Alison Smith
Sowing the seeds of effective communication in procurement

* Previously blogged on Supply Management

Picture Source: via Alison on Pinterest

Thursday 12 July 2012

The cost of getting purchasing wrong

The hardest task I and my procurement and purchasing colleagues have is convincing our stakeholders and other managers of the positive benefit to the business of applying more rigour to how they purchase. The skills I have developed over 27 years are seemingly discounted with a belief that goes something like "anyone can purchase" or as someone said the other day "it's just shopping."

Until it goes wrong that is when the realisation starts to dawn that we might have helped them avoid the hole they're now in.

How we get around the problem I really don't know - we've been trying for so long and yet the profession doesn't really seem any more well recognised than when I started, other than in the larger corporates.

So here's how I'm going to try........ I've set up a Pinterest board and when I find examples of the impact of purchasing gone wrong I'll add to it. That way we'll all have an expanding visual reminder of what effective purchasing can help businesses avoid.

Today I've added examples of buyers going to jail, project overspend, contract termination, accusations of wrong doing in the media, delays, cancellation costs, ministers apologising on your behalf and complete service failure! And that's just been in the media over recent weeks! oh yes and one company's share price slumped due the cost implications of a product recall.

The most bizarre decision made of the examples found so far has to go to one authority who felt it acceptable to claim a deduction of £84,450 for a mousse that was 24 hours out of date. No wonder the court upheld the ability of the supplier to terminate on the grounds of breech of contract. Just think though of the cost to the business of retendering - one reason for getting it right first time I'd suggest.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds of effective purchasing in your business

Share price picture Source: via Alison on Pinterest

Making the most of Conferences on Twitter

With the National Speakers Association convention coming up this weekend (#NSA12) I thought I'd rerun a very popular blog from last year.

I’ve vicariously followed many conferences on Twitter over the last few years and 'met', followed and engaged with many great people and learnt much along the way. I've met some of my best social media buddies this way - HRD 2010 seems such a long time ago .. or was it 2009 and had a great time with #NSA11 last year. 

The following is a summary of my tips on achieving your objectives for attending and engaging more effectively for all involved (audience (live and vicarious observers), speakers & organisers).

NB: Obviously, in sharing, some of my own behaviours and beliefs about use of SoMe will become apparent. I’ve also made assumptions about the objectives of each of the groups involved. In other words these might not all apply – so do please share your tips so that we make this a more comprehensive list.


  • Understand your objective for tweeting from the conference.
  • Understand your preferred learning style and know if tweeting during the speeches will support or hinder the objectives you have for attendance – better to share learning and engage with twitter after the speech or even event if you know that will work best for you.
  • Find out and use the conference #hashtag.
  • Find out and use the @speakerstwittername - it helps them engage with you afterwards and others to follow them - expecially if what they're saying is of use to you - lets just hope their tweets are as useful.
  • Tweeting “great speech from @speaker” is ok but does this meet your objectives and does it help your followers and the followers of the #hashtag (ie potential followers)? (This is my biggest bug bear - you have the opportunity to tell your followers something useful and often the best people can say is "I've arrived" "just heard x speak" - why use the hashtag if the info is that unhelpful & unenlightening.)
  • “Great speech from @ speaker @#hashtag because I learnt this, will do this differently or even because he made me laugh, cry, jump up and down” is much better.With links to their web site etc even better.
  • Remember the conference is a wonderful opportunity to talk to new people not tweet to people you already have a connection with – you can catch up with them as you travel home? 
  • Just a note for vicarious followers of a conference hashtag - put time aside (a one day conference with active tweets can take time to engage with (NB: not all audiences are active tweeters - from experience HR, Trainers, Speakers, Technology, SoMe and young audiences are generally very good - I have to say purchasers aren't (yet))) and investigate ahead of time if there will be any live streaming. #OYW in October and #DalaiLama often livestream. 

  • Speakers

  • Ensure your tweet profile is up to date and ensure profile or more recent tweet provides links to website/blog or other means of finding out what you do (you might not use twitter but much of the audience using the hashtag will). 
  • If you can upload onto your website/blog/youtube an overview of what you're saying even better
  • Ensure people at the conference know your @twittername – getting it into your intro would be GREAT.
  • Understand what your objectives are for your audience and encourage tweets that support or reinforce that.
    ( Lots of claps at the end, demonstration of enthusiasm and "Well done" from the audience are great. I'm more interested if they heard my message and will do something different as a result. My concern is if they’re busy tweeting what we said will that translate into insight or action in the future? I do think tweeting can keep us at theoretical level rather than applying it. Evidence from conferences I’ve followed would support that as there is a distinct lack of sharing on things beyond what was being said. I’ve often asked what will you do differently and get NO reply – is that because people don’t know because they were too busy tweeting what was said? I get plenty of engagement otherwise. If your only objective was to get people talking about you then you may not worry about this - the issue is this is very short term. As they say here in the UK you'll be someone elses chip wrapper tomorrow. If they learnt something they'll always remember you and tell others too - and will still be telling others tomorrow, the next day, the next month and even the next year. Yes another bug bear)
  • Engage with those tweeting about your speech (More often than not I will follow someone who does that whether it’s my tweet they’ve replied to or someone else’s. It’s a great way of reinforcing a point or clarifying it).
  • If you’re tweeting about another speaker use their @twittername especially if they talk about the same topic as you. It can seem as if you're purposely not allowing others to easily find them when you don't take the trouble to find their twittername but are mentioning them. 

  • Organisers

  • Consider employing professional tweeters to raise profile of conference ahead of and during conference.
  • Agree and communicate in all marketing literature and tweet the #conferencehashtag – not halfway through the first day please.
  • Engage with attendees before the event (ask for twitter name in registration) – about #hashtag, speakers, venue, accommodation, food, networking opportunities etc.
  • Ensure all speakers know each other’s @twitternames.
  • Engage with those tweeting especially those using incorrect #hashtag.
  • Regularly tweet, throughout the conference, what the #hashtag means with links.
  • Ensure you have a transcript of #hashtagtweets at the end so those attending, those in different #timezones or those finding #hashtag later in day can review what’s been said.
  • Which is why employing a professional tweeter makes sense. 

  • What tip would you give to enhance everyone's use of twitter at conferences?

    That's me off to set an objective to be at #NSA13 in person - although I do find tweeting live from a conference very unsettling and have to write notes and tweet later.

    Alison Smith
    The Purchasing Coach
    Sowing the seeds for effective communication in Purchasing teams

    Tuesday 3 July 2012

    Professional Magazines - in Pending or to Action?

    There was a time in the past when the professional magazines (Speaker, Supply Management etc) would drop through the letter box and would magically make there way to the To Read pile. The problem with that, of course, was it never got read. 3, 4, ok perhaps, 7 years later I'd decide to have a tidy up and they'd end up in the bin. The intention to read them was always there but it never quite happened.

    These days with the support of Social Media it seems to be easier - perhaps because it's now more than just words on a page. People, and what they have written, become alive via blogs, videos and tweets. I can ask qualifying questions and I can get replies.

    Take for example last month's National Speakers Association (NSA) Speaker Magazine:
    • I followed all the speakers who are on twitter who will be speaking at the forthcoming NSA Convention - I wont be there but perhaps their tweets will share some of the same hints and tips.
    • I will also be following the convention hashtag #nsa12 from 14-17th July.
    • I followed on twitter or facebook those people who's article had resonated with me 
    • I shared with those people what I specifically liked about the article
    • I started a dialogue with those who replied - who knows where that will go 
    • I was inspired by Dan Thurmon's video using juggling knives as an example of how to cope with overwhelm - see also @danthurmon
    • I just loved Richard Hight's art on the stage - see also @visualmpact
    In the past using articles in Supply Management I've connected with people on LinkedIn and had conversations about potential work.

    With my recent move into using Pinterest I even now have a place to keep favourite blog posts and inspiration videos for reference later.

    If I receive the magazines to further my continuing professional development then it certainly didn't work in the past. These days I'm learning, I'm inspired and I'm taking action.

    How are you using those professional magazines for your continuing professional development?

    PS: It would help tremendously if those with web site makes their twitter and facebook contacts details easy to find and magazine publishers provide sufficient information in articles to find the people the article is about.

    Alison Smith
    The Purchasing Coach
    Sowing the seeds for continuing professional development in Purchasing

    Speaker Magazine picture Source: via Alison on Pinterest

    Monday 2 July 2012

    Have you reached a Choice Point in your life?

    A labour of love over the weekend pulling together a board of pins that reflected the learning from my attendance at the preview of the Choice Point film with reference to the book written by Harry Massey & David R Hamilton.

    There's a great mix of insights from the famous (Richard Brason) to not so famous (Alison Pothier and Brett Moran) and from all around the globe.

    It's about many things that resonate with me: being the change, interconnectedness, aligning our purpose, making a difference, listening to our own inner wisdom. The title comes from a quote by Gregg Braden.

    "Each time the cycle comes to an end it opens a window of opportunity called a Choice Point" 

    The three steps highlighted in both the movie and the book are:

    1: Understand your World
    Which includes the patterns in our lives that are reflected in nature - observe the trends: the highs, the lows and ups and downs. It's only by understanding the patterns that we can flow with, not against, the river of opportunity. 

    2: Align your Purpose
    What are you good at, enjoy and have a passion for and how can that be aligned with what is already happening in the world?

    3: Be the Change
    No use waiting for others - if you want the world to change then you have to change and be the inspiration for others. Even if we only impact one person - that's great - because how can we know the ripples that will spread from that.

    More can be found here on the Choice Point Web site and Facebook page. And for those with visual preferences through viewing my Pinterest board.

    Alison Smith
    The Purchasing Coach
    Sowing the seeds for change in Purchasing

    Choice Point picture Source: via Alison on Pinterest