Friday 27 December 2013

What works for your long term sustainability?

As I generally do at this time of year I was reflecting on the last year and the changes I wanted to make that would ensure that 2014 was even more successful than 2013. It came as no surprise as I did this that one of the new processes I developed during the year came to the fore. 
Landscaping Your Life (LYL) is a concept that uses nature as our teacher to provide insight on our life and current situation. I've been using it to facilitate change with others since the late 90s (even using gardening as a metaphor for purchasing with business leaders and managers to help them understand what the devil procurement is all about - but that's another blog entirely). A new LYL process that emerged this year was the ICECAPS checklist. 

The ICECAPS checklist is a reminder that in order to make progress in life we, just like the planet, need to preserve our ICECAPS (achieving this through: Integrity, Creation, Evolution, Collaboration, Action, Perspective and Sustainability). It's only by achieving all seven elements that progress is assured. 

As I reflected on 2013 I realised it was Sustainability with respect to Integrity that that had waned towards the end of the year and should be bolstered as I start the new year. 

Integrity is about knowing who we are, our values, our strengths and our passions. Integrity is about being true to ourselves and our essential nature. From nature's perspective if you're a rose then be a rose. If you're a butterfly be a butterfly. In nature a rose never wants to be, nor tries to be a butterfly. (A pity we so often forget this simple truth that the easiest, less stressful, person to be is yourself). 
Integrity is also knowing about what works for us and enables our energy to soar, and knowing what doesn't work and brings our energy crashing to the floor. Otherwise without this energy how can we move into the Creation stage of envisioning the future state we're wanting to move towards or taking the necessary Action to get there? 
Today I was reminded of the essential components that allow me to be me. The essential components, or actions, that provide the energy (whether mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually) to move in the direction of my goals and to stay true to myself. They're not difficult, they're certainly not new -  just very very (perhaps even too) easy in a busy world to forget. Yet when I do forget them the sustainability of my actions is lost, and I live one day to the next in a constant battle trying to retain some sense of balance and self and trying to get back on track. 
For me these essential components are:
  • Eating more of the right things throughout the day 
  • Drinking more water
  • Breathing in fresh air
  • Getting enough sleep 
  • Exercising - especially with weights
  • Doing more things I enjoy doing
  • Spending time with people I love
  • Focusing on the positive and things I have to be grateful for 
  • Long baths (a biggie for me as I think its when I'm at my most restful and contemplative)
And perhaps just as importantly:
  • Minimising eating the foods that negatively impact me (wheat, night shades & alcohol)  
  • Avoiding doing things that don't give me pleasure 
  • Reducing time in a state of negativity and fear
I said they weren't new ideas.
I know, however, if I follow through on these and commit to doing more of them daily the energy I have for everything else in my life will be significantly improved. A bit like the Buddha above that emerged from the garden this year after 3 or 4 years of being smothered by overgrown shrubs and plants. 

What do you know you need to do more of to help you be even more successful in 2014? Perhaps more importantly what will you do first and when? 

Do let me know how you get on - as you can tell from the frequency that wellbeing crops up here in my blog there's a constant dance going on between getting it right for me and not! 

Festive greetings and wishing you all a 2014 of your wildest dreams come true :-)

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

+44 (0)7770 538159

Friday 1 November 2013

Goal setting

As my 51st birthday approaches I've taken some time to review my goals set this time last year for my 2nd half century. As a result of lack of progress with some of those goals I found time to review why that might be, and have returned to many books, youtube clips and DVDs about achieving goals.

For clarity the goals were around my life generally rather than smart and specific goals for work. Although I suspect many of this first list, of common features in the theories of how to achieve our goals, equally apply to personal and work goals and include:
  • Clarify what the goal is
  • Understand why the goal is important - why should you get out of bed to take action towards it. Often the bigger the 'why' the more motivation - so think more widely about the repercussions of achieving your goal or pick a bigger juicier goal. 
  • Clarify how you'll know you've achieved it - what will it look, sound and feel like - perhaps even having a vision or Pinterest board pulling these ideas together 
  • Clarify the goal isn't conditional on other people - for example a goal of a job with x becomes a goal of an enjoyable and challenging job, or a goal of a relationship with y becomes a goal of being open and ready to being in a loving relationship
  • Clarify and work on the beliefs that may hinder you achieving your goal - you know the ones along the lines of "I can't do it" or "I'm not good enough". Or the not so easy to notice beliefs that limit the amount of achievement, pleasure or satisfaction you can have at any one time. Or other beliefs about what you'll have to give up in order to achieve your goal. 
These have all been common features over the last fifteen years at the coaching or facilitated sessions I've worked with individuals and teams on, and of course when I've applied them to my own life too.

Whilst its important to not underestimate the power of undertaking these activities, especially the beliefs we have that stop us taking action, its often the next step that's the difficult part. That is knowing what to do, and taking the action in order to move from where you are to where you want to be. 

Interestingly its this next part that the different theorists have different views on - even if they're not all mutually exclusive - and can include:
  • Reminding yourself daily why you want to achieve your goal
  • Reminding yourself daily of what your goal is
  • Visualising yourself achieving your goal - emphasising how you'll feel and what you'll be doing, seeing and hearing 
  • Having gratitude for having already achieved the goal NOW
  • Having gratitude for each small step you've taken
  • Just having gratitude every day for everything
  • Acting as if you've already achieved the goal - making room in the bathroom/wardrobe for 'his or her' stuff or buying a new suit for the new job or viewing houses you'd like to buy 
  • Not thinking, saying or acting as if its anything other than possible and your right to achieve the goal
  • Concentrating on 'what' you want and allow the 'how' to materialise later
  • Identifying a detailed action plan to achieve it and monitoring progress regularly
  • Having a buddy who keeps you accountable to your action plan 
  • Noticing the ways you sabotage achieving your goals and releasing the pattern
  • Just making sure you take the first action step NOW - getting momentum being the biggest hurdle to achieving your goals
  • Using affirmations to remind yourself you can achieve your goal
  • Once you've clearly expressed your goal, forgetting about it and allowing your unconscious actions to move you towards it
  • Letting go of your expectations and attachments to it being achieved in a certain way - ie there are many different solutions to achieving your goal. Don't get stuck on only one of them as you may miss the other easier ways of getting there
  • Being in a state of wonder about how life would be like once you've achieved your goal
  • Concentrating on being of service to others and trusting that as you give you will receive 
Perhaps in coaching sessions for others its always been easier to pick which of these I think most likely to work for that individual or team - not so easy for myself.

This week I found an additional action that for me personally has made such a HUGE difference.
  • Making a commitment - ie stating the goal as ... "I commit to ......" (Note the lack of use of 'want' 'need' 'desire' 'dream' 'would like' 'hope' or 'pray' or lack of any energy of 'desperation' 'fear' 'lack' or 'failure') 
Committing to my goals has:
  • Enabled the action plans to become a whole lot clearer
  • Provided the inspiration to change and therefore provided the motivation to take action
  • Alerted ever fibre of my being of the need to achieve my goals. Which has made it a necessity to find ways of achieving them. It's as if they've gone from green to red on a RAG report.
  • Set my filters to high alert to notice the opportunities to achieve my goals (will follow up in a later blog about the impact our filtering of the world has on our experience of it - in the mean time just set an intention to notice cars with coloured alloys and notice what you notice about the frequency you notice them)
  • Brought in a more peaceful energy about my belief in me achieving my goals - its as if because I'm now 'committed' then of course I'll achieve them 
I'm wondering if you've also had any ahhas when achieving your goals and discovered the difference that makes the difference to your success? If so please do share in comments below as I'd suggest different strategies work at different times for different types of goal - so a more comprehensive list to reflect on will always use useful.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in purchasing, procurement and strategic sourcing 

I'll also write a blog next week on the different ways the Landscaping your life process, where I use nature as our teacher, can be used to assist with goal setting. For now you can find out more about it on Facebook & Pinterest

Thursday 31 October 2013

A different perspective

The bottom fell out of the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet the other week which meant I couldn't open it. The challenge yesterday was I needed the documents contained in the drawer. The tactic of procrastinating would no longer help.
What to do?
I emptied the top drawer and tried to get that out hoping to come at the documents from above but it wouldn't budge - no matter what I tried to do.

Suggestions on social media had me considering hammer and screwdriver. Then Jo messaged me "Turn it upside down and then the drawer will open!"

As it happened I only needed to turn it on its side.

A reminder that often the simplest solutions come from a different perspective.

What situation in your life may benefit from a different perspective?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in procurement

Wednesday 30 October 2013


I had a play date with Ruan who is two on Saturday. We went to the park to play on the swings and slide and then sat on the local beach. Morph pictured here came along too. 
More a blog because I wanted to share the great pictures than having anything particularly insightful to share. Although if forced to try to 'inspire change' and relate it to the pictures then I'd suggest they can act as a reminder to have fun and play more. It's certainly one way I know to access a creative mindset. Sitting at your desk may be what you think you 'ought' to be seen to be doing but what is the most effective means of achieving your objective?
Alison Smith
Inspiring change in procurement - inside and out

Wednesday 16 October 2013

I need to see it to believe it - or do you?

I opened my curtains on Monday morning to find that a small oil rig (or parts of it anyway) had appeared in what I describe as my front garden (ie in the view from my house across the Forth to Edinburgh).
This morning having heard alarms ringing at 5am ish, as I assume the ship submerged, I was met with this view. On first glance looking as if the ship was sinking. 
and even more so here once the 'oil rig' had floated away.


It reminded me of a picture I put on Pinterest that showed what looked like the trails of stars as they move around the earth. I said then...

Life like nature is never what it seems. Whilst it might seem as if we're on a static world with the sun revolving around us we know its the other way around. Isn't that what we often do in life and believe its the other person who needs to move position and not us.

Both examples that sometimes what we believe we have the evidence to support might not always be what's happening. As demonstrated in the picture I used in yesterday's blog of me perched on the top of a seemingly dangerous cliff!

Where might you be making the wrong conclusions?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in Procurement

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Be careful what paths you tread


My supply management blog today looks at the language we use being a doorway into our unconscious. Which means it’s also something we can use to find solutions to challenges we’re facing.

For example I’ve written previously about use of sayings such as “no pain, no gain”, “stuck in a rut” and “making mountains out of molehills” that keep us stuck, and how we can use those same sayings to get unstuck.

At the CIPS Annual Conference last week, CIPS president Paula Gildert said “we are on a dangerous path if we continue to only embrace a ‘cost out’ philosophy”. If we explore her use of these words, I wonder what that tells us?

Let’s first explore what being on a ‘dangerous path’ might mean:
  • Paths are often only one person wide, not conducive to building relationships with others.
  • Paths generally lead to one vantage point, with a return often required along the same path.
  • Paths can be well maintained, but brings to mind those that are a little pot-holed and muddy in places.
  • It’s easy to get lost on paths as they’re not frequently signposted.
  • Mention of dangerous paths reminds me of Bear Grylls. Not someone you’d follow gladly, unless you were lost in the wilderness or you’re into extreme activities.
  • Dangerous paths also require constant vigilance and that means there’s very little energy available for other activities.
If a dangerous path isn’t the right analogy we want for procurement’s relationships within an organisation I wonder what would be:
  • A road or highway
  • with multiple potential destinations
  • which is signposted
  • well maintained
  • safe
  • easy to get on and off, and
  • perhaps even with some transportation available.
How that translates for your organisation, in terms of building a value highway rather than cost out path, only you can determine. But I do wonder if that makes it more about the journey for our stakeholders than the destination?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in procurement

* The picture, even if a little tenuously linked to dangerous paths, is one I often pull my dad about regarding allowing me that close to a dangerous cliff edge. I'm assured it was safer than it looks.

Friday 11 October 2013

If the Earth was a supplier

I'm not sure what set my filters to notice, but there seems to have been a lot of discussions on sustainability recently. I'm sure there always is - it's just been a main topic of many of the conferences I've followed vicariously via livestream and on twitter in the last month: IoD, one young world, CIPS, CIPS awards, climate justice and a meeting I attended facilitated by the unreasonable learners inspired by The B team.

As I reflected on the Landscaping Your Life process, where I use the wisdom of nature to identify solutions to life's challenges, and the profession in which I apply it most, procurement, I wondered about our relationship with the Earth and its sustainability. 

Due to our dependence on the goods and services supplied by Earth shouldn't we be wanting to develop a relationship with the earth. Wouldn't it be in our best interest to ensure the long term flourishing of the Earth for our future needs? 

Since we're continuing to deplete the finite resources of the Earth at ever increasing knots it would seem we haven't quite got our relationship right with the Earth. Which had me wondering what insights and changes in behaviour might emerge if the Earth was classified as a supplier in the supply chain. 

The answer is this blog.

I've used David Atkinson's 10 guiding principles to Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) (shown in italics below) as a basis for this exploration. 

As I've undertaken the exploration it's become clear that some of the principles still don't necessarily safe guard the long term sustainability of Earth due to the objectives of the organisation taking precedence over the long term sustainability of their suppliers.

Two reasons for this jump out at me (although I'm sure there are others):
  • The unconscious implication in best practice procurement that we'll always be able to find alternate sources of supply. 
  • That an organisation's own desire to survive will always take precedence over another organisation's survival.
That said I share here observations that arise if we were wanting to build a relationship with the Earth as a preferred key long term permanent supplier of an organisation with a SRM programme:
  1. SRM is the systematic creation and capture of post-contract value from key business relationships. For most organisations the Earth is one of their subcontractors. So long as they're getting value they're not worried about the implications in the supply chain of obtaining that value. Cost and value analyses are certainly unlikely to include a cost for depleting finite resource in a way they do for replenishable resources such as trees. 
  2. It is about aligning the whole enterprise around the task of managing a specific supplier based on a clearly documented relationship strategy. Sustainability policies, what ever they're called, aren't relationship strategies. They generally state what the organisation is able to do to support the Earth, not what it needs to do in order to maintain a long term relationship with them*
  3. It is mostly about collaboration with strategic suppliers, but can still be adversarial. Do we even understand what collaboration with the Earth really looks like. I'd suggest a majority of the time we're treating the earth adversarially. Does the strategy really suggest that's the best course of action with them? 
  4. SRM needs to be completely integrated with strategic sourcing / category management processes. I'm unconvinced that every category strategy would suggest reliance on the Earth was a good thing. Earth, however, is a default supplier. Taken as a given in every sourcing strategy. If we were to apply best practice to this supplier shouldn't we be spending a majority of our time trying to find alternatives? (Although I suspect that's where self interest gets in the way - turkeys after all don't vote for Thanksgiving nor Christmas) 
  5. It requires a detailed analysis of the specific supplier relationship, before the strategy can be determined; one size certainly does not fit all. As the Earth isn't considered to be a supplier then how much of the analysis even gets done? I wonder what the finance guys would say if someone sent the balance sheet and profit loss account for the Earth to them for assessment. 
  6. SRM is not a soft option in dealing with suppliers. It’s demanding and process-focused. Yet we've ignored the need to do it for our most important supplier. We've not undertaken any planning, no risk assessment, no analysis of power, no strategy B (or as The B team would suggest no Plan B). Instead we've ignored the need for an effective relationship with the Earth and hoped they'd continue to flourish!
  7. It requires recognition that ‘relationships’ are not an end in themselves. Successful relationships are an outcome and, for the buyer, that outcome can be measured in value terms. Perhaps something organisations have concentrated too much on - basing their actions on the value they've achieved rather than considering the impact of their actions. Whether value comes from cost out, price down, risk mitigated or revenue increased it's not sustainable once the resource you're relying on becomes scarce. 
  8. SRM is not all about ‘win-win’; although contracts must be structured to ensure each party enthusiastically implements the agreement. Perhaps it does have to be win/win with the Earth. There's still a propensity to take from the Earth rather than understand that an agreement between two parties requires 'consideration', and therefore we can't just take what we want without something being given in return. What payment are we giving for all this taking? Even in the most exploitative buyer/supplier relationships the supplier gets paid! 
  9. It is as much about driving-up day-to-day operational performance as innovation and joint value creation. I think we're overly focusing on day-to-day performance and even allowing our inefficiencies to increase what we're taking from the Earth. We need to be spending more time on innovation and joint value creation in order for us to flourish alongside the Earth. After all we won't last long without them. 
  10. To get started, it always best to successfully implement a small number of SRM pilot projects, rather than go for the ‘big bang’. Pilot projects need to look at different aspects of your relationship with the Earth dependant on your usage of finite resources, usage of replenishable resources, pollution of the environment, impact of disposal of your goods and so on.  
What will you do differently today in your relationship with the Earth and please don't ignore the one thing you know the Earth would be screaming about if only they had a voice.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out
* We often refer to organisations as 'they' or 'them' and not 'it'. When writing about the Earth I started to use 'she' rather than 'it' but realise perhaps that's the problem. We don't treat the earth like a supplier because we treat them like an inanimate object, or personify them, rather than an Eco system made up of many more interconnected components than any organisation. As I wrote the blog I chose therefore to treat the Earth as an organisation and therefore use 'they/them' throughout to recognise these many component parts. 

This also links to an earlier blog I wrote on use of empathy when all else fails to get more right doing. In this context empathy is certainly easier when aimed at 'they/them' than 'it' don't you think? 

Thursday 10 October 2013

Incomplete patterns

One of the tools I use with clients is Landscaping Your Life (LYL).
LYL uses nature as a teacher to provide insight into situations we'd like more clarity on. There's many different ways this can be achieved. One of the most often used processes in coaching sessions is using a landscape to represent the situation. 

For example you may be feeling stressed about a situation. To use the LYL process you're asked to think of a landscape that represents the current 'stressed' situation. (Sometimes if we're outside we'll use the landscape we're in. Otherwise it's achieved through visualisation.) We then explore the landscape for clues about what changes might assist in changing how you're currently feeling. These might include changes in weather, setting, certain aspects, colour, sounds, temperature and so on. These changes are tested until you're feeling less stressed. 

That is you end up with an amended landscape that represents a less stressed state. As this internal representation changes it can't help but impact and change how you're feeling and thinking. This in turn will impact how you act in the situation. 

And yes it can be that simple. Although don't under estimate the time it can take until the landscape is 'just right'. Nor the minds capacity to want to retain the current stressed state (and therefore return to the previous landscape) and therefore trick you into thinking you've cracked it! 
Over time and many instances of using this process with myself and others I've noticed a difference between those who obtain long term changes as a result of using the process and those who have more temporary reprieve.
The difference is in the 'completeness of the landscape they envisage'.
If their solution is a stream it seems important to expand the landscape to include the whole life of the stream from high up in the mountains, through waterfalls, rivers, estuary and finally into the ocean. As demonstrated in the pictures used here. 
Other times the pattern that needs completing is the time of day - with the landscape needing to run through 24 hours. For others its the need to represent a whole month, season or even year.
The key is ensuring that what we do makes the situation better not worse.
For example if someone has spent ages feeling like they're in the dark with no light, then 'completing' the pattern isn't likely to be sunrise, sunset and returning to darkness. Completeness however will need to be found in some other element within the landscape. 
Other patterns of completion may include harvesting the fruits, following the tide from high to low, and so on.
I'm not sure yet why this is - if you have any observations I'd love for you to share them.

I think it highlights and links to our unconscious connection to nature. Something I feel strongly we should be reinforcing not ignoring nor moving away from. (Although if my recent reliance on a weather app when deciding whether to bring sheets in from the line rather than pay attention to the dark clouds is anything to go by I have a long way to go myself!)

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out
+44 (0)7770 538159

This blog continues the theme of exploring the tools and techniques that help us release unhelpful patterns that are stopping us achieving our goals.

Other LYL blogs exploring how nature can be used as our teacher, personally or organisationally, include making mountains out of molehills and other sayings that keep us stuck, getting more perspective, business strategy development and the ICECAPS checklist. More on the process can also be found on the landscaping your life Facebook page, Pinterest board and YouTube playlist.

Landscaping Your Life, a process Alison uses with clients, is a brilliant approach, heartily recommended. Alison has extraordinary energy and an almost spooky sense of where people are and what they need. I have learned/ worked/ played alongside Alison for more than a decade and found her insights always useful" Ruth Wallsgrove Asset Management Trainer and Consultant

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Are the patterns that drive your behaviour helpful?

When coaching I'm often looking for patterns. Patterns that support clients, either individually or in teams, to achieve their goals, and/or patterns that set them back.
  • Patterns may be fairly clear to see: watching tv, or on the pc, until after midnight every night and then struggling to get up in a morning, and not having as much energy as you'd like throughout the day.
  • Patterns may be hidden: the tone and words used of the small voice within that repeatedly talks us out of action. 
  • Patterns may be totally unconscious: only really observable over time when we realise we ALWAYS - give up too soon, back off from conflict, eat too much when stressed, play it safe, avoid the unknown and so on. 
No pattern is inherently good or bad. The clue is in the outcome that the pattern delivers. If it's not what you want then if you can understand the pattern that triggers the response you simply have to change the pattern. (OK perhaps not always simple but understanding the unresourceful pattern is certainly a major step towards success.)

That's what much of the work I do as a coach, facilitator, consultant and problem solver is about. Helping clients discover the patterns to release, and those to embrace, that will help them achieve their goals. 

Future blogs this month will look at the different tools and techniques I use to help identify patterns and release any unhelpful hold on our thoughts, feelings and actions. 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

PS Patterns already explored his week include how we start a conversation, how the weather patterns we live with might impact our preferences. Tomorrow I'm going to consider how incomplete patterns can leave us consistently unable to move forward. 

Tuesday 8 October 2013

How's the weather with you?

A BBC article entitled 'is the British weather unique in the world' had me wondering about the weather and its effect on us. Although sometimes I do think my 'wonderings' should just stay in my head rather than be shared here!

I don't mean on whether we need to put an extra jumper on or get the sunscreen out. I mean how might the weather we experience where we live impact how we're feeling, thinking and acting? I also don't just mean the actual weather - like the lack of sun meaning we don't produce enough vitamin D and therefore are grumpier than we might be. I mean how might the patterns of the weather we experience daily, monthly or yearly unconsciously impact how we act.

Let's look at what the article says about British weather patterns and explore what differences in behaviour they might illicit.

Its a blog where I'd encourage those working cross culturally to share what they've experienced. So do please comment below on what you've noticed about weather patterns and their potential impact on cultural behaviour. 

Q: Does the predictability of the weather impact the level of planning involved when developing

The overarching theme to British weather is its unpredictability. Which means we grow up used to having an umbrella, extra layer, sunscreen and snow shovel in the car - just in case. We're also used to changing plans at the last minute to embrace an unexpected sunny day or to avoid getting drenched.

How does that translate in business?

Have we in Britain become so used to unpredictability that we have become good at planning it into what we do. Or does it simply mean we're great at thinking on our feet and adapting to the changing economic, political or social environment?

What about countries where the weather is predictable does that correlate with predictability of behaviour too? Or perhaps it has the opposite effect? 

4 distinct seasons
 Q: Do the number of seasons impact the process adopted and speed to implement strategies?

Some areas in the world only have 2 seasons compared to 4 here in the Britain. These 2 seasons come and go as if like clockwork with limited external factors effecting the date for the start of one and end of the other. In Britain the movement from one season to the other is impacted by many factors. Even then spring can take 8 weeks to move from south to north! 

So I wonder are strategies easier to implement in countries with only 2 seasons. Are they either planning or acting. Can we see a correlation to implementing strategies here in Britain that follows a four part process? 

Ratio of daylight 
Q: Does the variance in daylight throughout the year impact our preferred patterns of activity?

At summer solstice in London there's 16 hours between sunrise and sunset. Compared with just short of 7 hours at winter solstice.

Do the long nights in winter and long days in summer impact the patterns of our work. Not just directly in summer and winter but every day. Are we in Britain more likely to have a preference for peaks and troughs in activity. Will we throw long hours at something and then need to take our foot of the pedal afterwards.

What about countries with less variation in daylight - is output and productivity more evenly spread throughout each day? Do they find it hard to react to a need for an increase in output?
Lack of dramatic weather
Q: Does lack of dramatic weather lead to lack of dramatic behaviour?

The article suggest the UK lacks dramatic weather such as the monsoon's in India, the hurricanes in many other parts of the world and the thunder storms I've encountered in France.

Do other cultures see the British as less dramatic or do we make up for the lack of dramatic weather through dramatic behaviour. What about the behaviour of those individuals living in countries with dramatic weather? And does it depend on what the weather is? Does the fear of hurricanes make people less grounded or the propensity of thunder and lightening make others angrier?

Not sure if the blog has answered the questions as much as posed them. It was just a thought I had when I saw the BBC article :-)

I certainly believe that we're impacted by the patterns around us, and as weather is a set of patterns just wondered if we may be unconsciously impacted by them.

What do you think? What have you noticed?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in procurement and beyond

The Landscaping your life (LYL) process uses nature as our teacher to help provide additional insight to situations in our lives - going with the flow, getting out of ruts, seeing the woods for the trees, turning a corner and the like. To find out more do see my LYL facebook page and pinterest board

All images from Pixabay - click on photo to link to original picture sources.

Monday 7 October 2013

Nameste or Oel ngati kameie?

An email sharing the Vietnamese word for thank you very much (cam on nhieu) in response to my blog on thanking people reminded me of this blog last shared over 2 years ago.

Nameste or Oel ngati kameie? Both of these are greetings and I wonder how different our relationships at work would be if we used them – although I would suggest that Namaste might be easier to say :-)

When you greet someone with hello what are you thinking about? I’d suggest very little. It’s often just a word at the top of an email or the start of the conversation and is simply a means to the rest of the conversation. I wonder if the other person even registers it.

When I watched the film Avatar I loved the Na’vi’s welcome “Oel ngati kameie” which translates as “I see you.” I see you feels to me like an appreciation of the person with whom we’re communicating. Surely such an appreciation would be a great way to start any conversation - in spirit if not word.

The Sanskrit word Nameste has a similar meaning. One translation I particularly like, although perhaps not strictly grammatically accurate, is “I honour the spirit in you.” On researching for this blog I realise there are other words that are used around the globe for hello which have similar meanings and these include Aloha, Shalom, Salaam etc.

I like that these start the conversation recognising and appreciating a connection between both/all parties. I just wonder what difference it would make if we used them more regularly at work - even just in our heads.

The responses to the blog at the time suggested that just remembering to say "good morning" could make as much difference and my response to that was:

It's perhaps not the word but the intent that matters. Hello can illicit the same response if said with meaning and a desire to connect as much as any of my other suggestions.

Au revoir (until we meet again here or in person)

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out in purchasing and beyond

Sunday 29 September 2013

Clarity of communication

A text from my personal trainer last Thursday evening said:

"If its raining I'll come to yours, if it's not - see you at the park in the morning."

Fairly clear we both thought and went to bed.

On Friday morning:
  • I woke to no rain and therefore drove 5 miles east to the park.
  • He woke to rain and therefore drove 5 miles west to my house.
A wonderful example of so many things - not least because by the time the PT session was due to start there was no rain at either location!

For me, however, a great reminder that its easy to see things from our own perspective, especially when we have logic to support it, and forget there's another perspective that may be as equally supported by logic.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday 16 September 2013

Planetary sustainability

Last week I explored examples of people in business doing the right thing when anonymity was lost and empathy was felt for another person. In another blog I also discussed the impact of the hard wired desire for self preservation that sometimes supports wrong, rather than right, doing.

If right doing isn't always a given, especially when in the context of corporate social responsbility, a subsequent blog started to explore how an organisation's cultural web might be used to increase the likelihood of support for right doing.

Today I'd like to think a little more widely - about planetary sustainability!!

It's not going to be a blog with facts and figures that prove or disprove global warming, nor will it discuss how many planets full of resources we need to sustain the current population. I'll leave that to others.

What I'd like to do is continue the conversation and exploration from recent blogs. That is if right doing comes from empathy and/or the threat to personal survival then what does that mean when we're wanting people to seriously act in ways that support planetary sustainability?

Threat to your personal survival
You'd like to think that a link between the current state of the planet and our personal survival could be easily made. 

Many do see the link and do act believing their personal survival is at stake. Many, however, do not, and get annoyed with those on their 'the end of the world is nigh' soap boxes. The evidence may be there but its not easily digested and the impact is still seen as too far away to inspire change in many of the population. 

I don't wish to suggest its not a great strategy, and wholly support the many organisations and people packaging the information and data in ways that hope to convince people of the threat to their personal survival.

I just think we're missing something otherwise why hasn't it worked and why are things seemingly getting worse?

Indigenous cultures had, and continue to have, empathy with nature and the planet. This empathy led them to relate to nature and the planet in ways very differently from how we do currently. 

If my hypothesis about empathy leading to right action is correct, then the solution to planetary sustainability isn't just more data and persuasion but more empathy for nature and the planet. It can't only be about logical persuasion of other's minds, it has to be about inspiring their hearts too and that will only come as they each individually find empathy with the planet.

Which then leads to the questions of: how do we get empathy for the planet? And how do we help others get empathy with the planet?

I'd love your views. Here are a few of mine to get us started on what I believe could be a very important solution to getting 'right action' with respect to the planet. 
  • Education that is about being with and in nature
  • Organisations connecting to nature 
  • More recreational pursuits that connect to nature
  • Games, books and apps that connect to nature (not sure I mean FarmVille but am open to be persuaded that it does facilitate more empathy for nature and the planet)
  • Using nature as our teacher - I'm a practitioner of landscaping your life which is a profound tool because, I believe, of its link to nature 
As you can see not an exhaustive list and one I'd love your input to.

Over coming weeks and months I look forward to exploring further with you this hypothesis and solution.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change in purchasing - inside and out

Picture courtesy of Pixabay 

Sunday 15 September 2013

Organisational culture, CSR strategies & ethics

Yesterday I hypothesised that to inspire leaders to support sustainable and responsible actions these actions needed to be linked to organisational survival. That is so long as someone felt they had a choice they might opt for a different less sustainable and responsible one.

In the blog I suggested that to use 'survival' as the motivation for support for a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy would require understanding the organisational culture.

One model I think enables a better exploration of organisational culture and the potential areas to be considered is Johnson, Scholes and Whittington's cultural web as shown above.

The cultural web is a means of documenting the 'taken for granted assumptions' of an organisation. It's this culture that drives strategy and therefore it's this culture that you can use to get support for the CSR policies you're wanting to implement.
  • Stories - what stories are continually told about and within the organisation, who are the heroes and the villains, how is success defined, what about failure, what character traits do they support, what character traits do they disapprove of? How can these patterns hidden within the stories told by employees be used as you develop your strategy for CSR? 
  • Symbols - status symbols, language and jargon are all characteristics of this element of the cultural web. Use of appropriate language and threat of loss of status may play a part in a CSR strategy. 
  • Power structures - which individuals, departments and business units are the most powerful. Stakeholder mapping will help you understand how to best manage the complex relationships that exist within your organisation and how best to facilitate support for your strategy.
  • Routines and rituals - if you try to implement a strategy that is counter to 'the way we do things round here' you're increasing the chances of failure. How can you support 'the way we do things'  in your strategy, its implementation and how you sell it to others? 
  • Control Systems - what do the measurement and reward systems in place say about the organisation? How can your strategy support these? 
  • Organisational structures - you can spend a lot of time winning over managers who have no say what so ever in the decision to support, or otherwise, your strategy. I'm not saying talking to other managers isn't important, especially if their support will be needed to implement any strategy. However you do need to focus your effort on those making the decision. 
Like any model I suspect the benefit when using the cultural web comes in identifying the one thing that's been ignored whilst developing the strategy. That is we're likely to have considered many of the above unconsciously without referenced to these six headings. Although we may view them differently when using 'survival' as the criteria for obtaining motivation.

Would undertaking an analysis of the cultural web for your organisation identify alternate means of obtaining support for your strategies? As it will certainly be easier to understand if this works when applied to a real situation do please let me know how you get on. 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change in procurement - inside and out

Saturday 14 September 2013

Personal and organisational survival

In an earlier blog I argued that many ethical decisions are compromised because personal survival is placed as higher importance than ethics. I can get on my soap box about integrity and doing the right thing, but we're hard wired to survive and need a huge amount of will power to override our internal programming that prioritises personal and family survival.

With thoughts of that blog still in my mind I attended the CIPS Supply Management awards. The overall winner was a team successfully raising the awareness and changing behaviours with respect to sustainable purchasing. 

Before the dinner I spoke to one of the other nominees for the award. As we spoke I realised that for that organisation the choice to support sustainability was clear cut and the right decisions were being made. Then the realisation dawned that the right doing arose because the organisation felt its survival was conditional on not doing the opposite. Brand and customer loyalty would be seriously jeopardised if they didn't get sustainability right - ROI, profit and competitive advantage would all be detrimentally impacted too. 

I wonder therefore how the internal programming to survive can, and is being used by procurement teams to inspire more businesses to do the right thing? That is how can we link sustainable action to survival of our own business and how can we link sustainable action to survival of our suppliers' businesses.

Perhaps more importantly what does that look like in terms of specifics:
  • Certainly following through on not dealing with suppliers who don't take the necessary action (all talk and no action is a strategy that's bound to fail if survival is being used as the motivation).
  • I also suspect culture will play a big part in how to tell the story to leaders within an organisation to enable them to accept the urgent need for changes in direction. 
Another blog last week suggested having empathy also supported right doing. I wonder how powerful a strategy that uses empathy and personal survival might be in removing the resistance to more sustainable and responsible actions in business? I suspect that's the topic for a future blog.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

Friday 13 September 2013

Does empathy ensure we do the right thing?

"To understand someone you need to walk a mile in their moccasins" 

Recent blogs I've written here and on supply management have touched on doing the right thing. On making the right decisions irrespective of the personal impact on yourself. After conversations in the last 48hrs I realise that it's really anonymity, and therefore lack of empathy, that supports the wrong decisions being made.

Earlier in the week, after a very long day that started at 0500, the travel lodge I had booked with called to tell me they were moving me to a different hotel due to an "unexpected maintenance problem" with some rooms. A euphemism I now realise for "we've over booked". Certainly if those tweeting at the time and the 2 others booking in at 0030 as I did, all from different hotels but all given the same excuse, is anything to go by. 

After a delay of an hour to get me to the substitute hotel I was still annoyed the next morning. The receptionist couldn't have been more helpful. Taking it upon herself to book a taxi this morning and arranging for payment before she'd got hold of the original hotel to approve her decision. She understood the issue, made the right decision and acted on it. Excellent customer service. Those making the decisions to over book I'd suggest do that because they don't get to see the consequences of their decisions nor get eye contact with the customers. 

As I was driven towards Kings Cross in the taxi we had occasion to need to be let into a queue of cars and then later to let others in. Eye contact, as anyone in a queue not wanting to let anyone in, is the key. Try not letting someone into a queue in front of you, having got eye contact first, and you'll know what I mean.

Which reminded me of the recent undercover boss here in the UK. In all instances, once the 'boss' experienced firsthand what was happening to those who worked for them, they immediately made changes. Contracts were changed, conditions enhanced, communication improved, opportunities discussed. Fairness and respect that had been conspicuous by their lack were once more regained. 

For me, in all the examples above, the right thing was done because empathy was experienced. 

Do you think it's empathy that triggers human nature every time, and if it is I wonder how we can use this in other situations to ensure the right things gets done? 
  • Paying the living wage - I know watching a friend fail to live without help from others, working 40 hours a week, in conditions that don't meet minimum health and safety standards, has opened my eyes to the necessity for us to mandate its payment. 
  • Truth telling - this blog explains more.
  • Stopping murder in Syria - I know there's not a simple solution and it's not a subject I generally stray into. I can't, however, help but feel if we saw the whites of the eyes of those impacted, or even the light go out in the eyes of those murdered, we'd do something more than we are. 
How do you think we can bring more empathy into the world so 'doing the right thing' becomes the norm?

Alison Smith
inspiring change inside and out

Thursday 12 September 2013

Thank you

The guy taking rubbish on the train has just gone through the carriage. Of course, as I handed him the rubbish, I said "thank you" as I got eye contact and acknowledged him for the work he does. Not many others in the carriage did the same.

I often walk up to the guys working for Fife council who clean the local beach, park, streets and roads and do the same. I'd suggest 75% of the time they're surprised at me making the effort. Appreciative of the recognition certainly, and yet surprised too. I once stopped the car in a local B road between villages to thank someone - I think he was shocked. I'm assuming for the thank you rather than feeling threatened by my actions. 

When I mention it to others the response I often get is "they get paid for it". Yet those very people, giving me that response, expect thanks for their work. It's as if that's different somehow. 

If you never got thanked for the work you do how would you feel? It's nothing to do with getting paid, or who's doing the paying, it's to do with courtesy. 

Who will you thank today? 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Thursday 5 September 2013

Ethical behaviour comes with integrity

I've been thinking about business ethics in advance of a session I'm facilitating on 2nd October on 'Business values and ethics' near Perth for the Scottish Institute of Business Leaders (still places left I believe).

I wondered about waiting to share this blog until after that session. Instead I share it now and would love to hear your thoughts so that they may inform, and provide additional insight, for the session next month.

Everyone has a belief about what ethical behaviour looks like in business. It's doing this or its not doing that. I'm sure, even if as a group we started with very different opinions, we could, after some debate, identify a short list of what ethical behaviour is in business. 

The challenge is can we organisationally and personally live up to those ideals?

Our values are what determine our individual actions. That is they determine what we do, what we won't do and the choices we make. As we have a number of values the hierarchy of these will also impact our behaviours.

For example - if you have values of achievement and connection the order of these would impact the decision you make - ie whether you stay at work till 20:00 to finish a piece of work or go home to read the kids a story instead. If you also have security as a value then the decision may be different. A higher priority to having your need for security met allowing you to stay at work even if at the expense of not connecting with the kids. (I'm obviously making huge assumptions about what achievement, connection and security looks like. After all achievement might be having happy kids and nothing to do with success at work - but that's another blog.)

Maintaining ethical behaviour, whether personally or organisationally, therefore, requires a value of integrity to be top of the list. Otherwise other values may mean we end up supporting unethical behaviour and may even do it ourselves. 

Ethical behaviour means saying "no" when asked to do something we know to be wrong. Ethical behaviour might even mean leaving a job or leaving a relationship because we know what we're being asked to do is wrong. The issue is we don't - we justify our support of unethical behaviour as acceptable because, to us, the consequences are too high.
  • I can't say no to my boss because I might lose my job
  • I can't make the right decision because it will impact my bonus
  • I can't do that because I may lose my house
  • I can't whistle blow I might be thrown out of my country
In other words if I stand up for what I know to be right the situation will be worse for me and at a level that I'm not prepared to accept.

Unfortunately unless we're prepared to live with the consequences above then we'll all continue to make some decisions that support unethical behaviours! Yes seriously. 

The problem is I'm sure any political, economic, social, or environmental crisis has the seeds in the same quandary. People making decisions that ensured they weren't personally negatively impacted by the decisions being made. 

I've said no in the past that had the potential to put my house and living on the line - it wasn't because it was practically easier for me than anyone else it was because I have a value of integrity higher up my list of values than security or many other values that might have me say "yes". It not right or wrong - it just is. 

don't know the answer - I'm not sure there is one. 

Although the belief I have is unless we each choose integrity as our highest value nothing is going to change. However, with my values hierarchy, of course that would be my solution :-) - what's yours? 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

I realise I need to return to my blog on Maslow's hierarchy of needs to see how that informs this topic. There's also a blog on why I don't think business values exist that will provide input and I concede that sometimes decisions are being made without our knowledge

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Don't cut corners unless its safe to do so

On the road if you cut corners you might get away with it. Sooner or later, however, there will be another vehicle on the same part of the road as you. In other words an accident is assured at some point.

I'm not saying I don't cut corners. There's a lovely bit of road between Grantown on spay and Forres near Inverness in Scotland that twists and turns. It's a gorgeous piece of flat moorland and there's complete visibility of the road ahead. Which means I can cut corners to smooth my journey, maintain my speed whilst being safe, and yet know with confidence that I won't meet other vehicles. Yet when driving the same road at night the ability to do that disappears. 

When training or coaching on category management I can hear myself 15 years ago when delegates say "it's too much" "I don't need a process" "that doesn't apply to my category" "I know that already". They're sitting there, as I did then, believing that cutting corners is the way to go every time.

What I've learnt in the intervening 15 years is that when I rigorously apply best practice tools and techniques to a category, in other words when I've not cut corners, I've delivered the most innovative value unlocking category strategy. 

I'm a control freak and hate being told what to do. I want the flexibility to go with the flow, be spontaneous and be able to react to what's happening. In the past I'd assumed that rigorous application of best practice tools and techniques would mean I'd have to give all this up. I now realise I don't. I can have my cake and eat it. 

What I realise is that the process, those tools and templates are guides only. A checklist if you will of what I need to be thinking about. A checklist I need to apply intelligently to the category, organisation, country, supply market and suppliers in hand. 

Of course I won't spend months gathering the data if spend, market complexity and risk is low. Of course I won't do something because it's in the process if it doesn't apply. Of course I won't complete that template in PowerPoint if the information is already conveyed elsewhere in Excel. 

What I will do is rigourously consider each part of the process. If I choose to cut a corner I'll have decided, as I do on the road near Forres, that it's safe to do so. I'll have decided that at this time, with these road conditions, in this weather, today, in this vehicle, with me driving, with the other road users, it's ok to cut the corner. Its okay to miss something out. The decision, however, may change the next time I need to make it. 

For me having a checklist ensures I don't cut corners without knowing it. It also means I deliver more value to the organisation - which can only be good? Even if once in a while I can hear the old Alison muttering about it.

Before you next cut any corners please make sure it's safe to do so.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

To find out more how I can unlock value in your organisation please do get in touch  +44(0)7770 538159