Friday 31 May 2013

Challenge: Drink 2 litres of water a day for a week

It's likely that you've heard it all before about why you need to drink more water. My guess is you've either tried to drink 2 litres a day and failed or not tried at all. Assuming that anyone who's tried it and succeeded won't even be reading this blog.

I'm not sure I can add to what you've already heard or read. Other than to reiterate that to do anything, and I mean anything, your body needs water: to think, to analyse, to move, to exercise, to breath, to beat a heart, to digest food, to flush out the toxins and all the rest. If you're having a problem with any of these, or feeling below par or under the weather, wouldn't it be great if the solution was as simple as drinking more water? Often it is, as my personal trainer reminded me only today when he heard my video blog about not doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome

The thing is I can fill this blog with lots of facts, data, benefits, risks and evidence and you're just as likely to do what I do - nod your head say "I do need to drink more water" and then not do. So my challenge to you is let's aim to really drink 2 litres a day, monitor it and keep each other accountable and then let's share the benefits. Because I'm hoping that by sharing the benefits it will keep us (ok me) motivated to drink another 2 litres a day for another week and then another week.

Please join me (#2litresaday) - because knees that work and a head that can analyse for 8 hours is all I'm after - what's your motivation?

Alison Smith
The purchasing coach
Inspiring change inside and out  

No Pain, No Gain

I love metaphors. Understanding the impact they can have on our lives can be very profound. Especially if we're not achieving what we want. Understanding the metaphors we're using to make sense of the world can help us identify what's stopping us from taking the appropriate action to get what we want.

Metaphors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and I've uploaded images on my Pinterest boards to help identify some general metaphors we use, landscapes I use with clients and even gardening as a metaphor for purchasing in organisations. In this blog I'd like to explore the phrases we use and the metaphorical meaning they might have.

"No Pain No Gain"

This is a phrase often used, and if the pictures on pinterest are anything to go by is generally used in a fitness and health setting. No gain by way of inches and pounds lost, or fitness levels improved, without the physical pain obtained from attending the classes, pumping the iron or stopping the daily chocolate cake eating. In that context the saying makes sense. Although there's many eating plans out there that suggest the sustained and ongoing pain in losing something is often what stops the 'new' way of behaving becoming part of our everyday life.

We use 'no pain, no gain', however, in many other settings and when you use it I'd like you to ask yourself the following questions:
  • What pain?
  • What gain?
  • Is the level of pain worth it now?
  • Will the level of pain be still worth it in the future?
Because often we're using the phrase as a stick to keep us repeating the pain without considering the benefit we're getting. Here's a few examples to give you a sense of where I'm going with this:
  • The pain is pushing too far when exercising and injuring yourself for the gain of something now out of reach completely. Was that much pain really required?
  • The pain is putting your life on hold waiting for that perfect partner. How real is the gain?
  • The pain is long hours at work and low wages for the promised gain of a promotion that never comes. Does someone else have control over you achieving your gain?
  • The pain is sacrificing financial security, and even your health, for the gain of you having a business you can sell in the future. Is it worth the pain?
  • The pain is staying late at work, not seeing your family and not having a social life. The gain is financial freedom when you retire in 20 years time. Will you still think it was worth it in 20 years time? Will they?
  • The pain is discomfort and physical pain and the gain is not knowing what's wrong with you. Are the potential repercussions of inaction worth it?  
  • The pain is staying in an abusing relationship for the perceived gain of 'love', 'security' or 'for the kids'. Is that really a gain worth having?
So what about:
  • The weight loss, fitness level, job you love, security, financial freedom, lovely home, prosperous business, happy children, loving relationship or health are achieved without any pain - just a clear goal, appropriate motivation and action.
Next time you say "no pain, no gain" to yourself, or others for that matter, you might just want to consider what you're really saying and the implications it will have.

Although perhaps best not to have your cake and eat it!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out by Landscaping Your Success

Wednesday 29 May 2013

My prescription for positivity

I was asked yesterday if I had written a blog to help us keep positive.  I thought I must have and here's a summary of what I discovered.

By positivity I don't mean being overly chirpy when the chips are down and blatantly ignoring the situation believing naively that it will sort it self out. I also don't mean being positive to the exclusion of other emotions we're feeling - for example being upset and angry generally preclude positivity and yet can be very positive emotions. I also don't mean being positive in a pull yourself together sort of way when grief, mental health or physical ill health make it so difficult to do anything.

The positivity I'm talking about is simply an acceptance that perhaps we're viewing life in a half empty cup sort of way when others around us are telling us it's nearly over flowing. When our filters have got stuck on "let's notice everything that's gone wrong" and beliefs are formed that "nothing ever goes right for me."

In these situations lack of positivity is a choice we have and there are many things we can do to get joy for life back. Which previous purchasing coach blogs would suggest include:
and blogs not yet written
  • exploring the impact the food you're eating is having on your well being (I cannot believe I haven't written one on this!! Nearest was this blog about buring our heads in the sand and ignoring the obvious and this about how to have alert and engaging people in meetings)
  • moving the body - it never fails to amaze me how just going for a walk can shift the mood
  • getting enough sleep
  • drinking enough water
  • realising we are enough
and listening to music that makes your heart sing (one I forget and yet has the capacity to work most for me)
and finally remember anything is possible.

Hopefully something here will resonate - do leave comments on what works for you. That way we can have a reference list to return to when ever we realise we need a little nudge in the right direction.

Although do please visit the doctor or health practitioner if no matter what you do you just can't shift a constant feeling of negativity. There are many mental and physical ill health conditions that manifest themselves in such feelings (remember age or just having one of those days won't impact you for any length of time). Many of these can be easily shifted with the right prescription (whether intake, action or talking).

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Quotation Picture Source: Uploaded by user via Debbie on Pinterest

Don't keep doing the same things

Don't keep doing the same things and expecting a different answer.

I was laughing as I told my personal trainer about this video blog (best turn the sound down a little if you want to listen to it.)

and quick as a flash he asked, rather knowingly I have to say, "so what does that mean for you?" After doing a Mutley impersonation the answer was:
  • Drinking too little water and wondering why my head is mush and energy is lacking
  • Eating the wrong things and wondering why my head is mush and energy is lacking
  • Going to bed late and wondering why my head is mush and energy is lacking
  • Sitting at the PC for too long and wondering why I can't string a sentence together 
Just as I say in the video blog if I know what the outcome will be doing the same thing over and over won't get me a different outcome. If the outcome is an unwanted one then I'd better start making different choices. 

Where in your life do you need to start doing something different in order to facilitate a new outcome?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Sunday 26 May 2013

The solution is right in front of you

I had fun today walking out to the black rock in Burntisland as low tide approached. The fun came from the video blogs that presented themselves from the landscape as I walked. My favourite is this one - perhaps because of the laughter. I've only uploaded 2 others onto my YouTube channel for now. They join others there that take learning from the landscape to provide insight to our day to day challenges, whether in business or personally.

There's more here in a recent blog on why metaphors work and you'll find out more how I use landscapes on business challenges on my facebook and pinterest pages.

I'm busy planning my next trip out into the landscape so I can bring back more learning for business leadership. Happy to arrange for you or your team to join me to work on real situations that require transformation - email or call me +44(0)7770 538159.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out by Landscaping Your Success

Thursday 23 May 2013

Find your inner Picard

Metaphors are a powerful tool that can be used to facilitate change. The main reason for this power is connected with the saying ‘if a picture paints a thousand words’, because a metaphor can paint a thousand pictures. Which means when talking about a problem using metaphor there’s more information being communicated and therefore more options and solutions available than when we’re simply using the words. Metaphors are also a great way of bypassing our conscious logical mind that may want to analyse and sensor what’s been said or resist change.

“ I’m stuck in a rut” becomes a conversation about the rut, how they’re stuck, how to get unstuck and other places they can now travel within the landscape. We don’t get lost in the content of the real situation. We simply explore the patterns that are facilitating the stuckness and therefore can identify what needs to happen to be unstuck. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy using them sooooo much - I love patterns.

I’ve very effectively used gardening as a metaphor for purchasing in business, and landscapes as metaphors for success in your life. Sometimes however someone mentions a metaphor that makes more sense to them and it’s then a case of exploring that metaphor with them. Not in a clean language way as advocated by David Groves, but more intuitively by asking questions that enable them to explore the meaning and solutions hidden within their metaphor.

The most intriguing metaphor I’ve discussed in a coaching setting was when I asked the question “do you want to do x or watch your favourite star trek episode’ of a client. x was a list of things they wanted to do, and I had intended to explore their ‘get up and go’ for each of the options by asking the question. However their answer led us to explore the patterns and moral of the story of their favourite episode. Which led me to set them some ‘homeplay’ (never homework please) to identify the episodes they resonated with currently and those that represented how they wanted life to be like in the future. Subsequent sessions, discussing the outcome of this request, enabled them to release their inner Picard (for those that don’t know he’s Captain of the Enterprise on Star Trek and pictured above) and to then understand what the right option was, and more importantly, had the get up and go for. **

Such a great reminder that the solution to many of our problems are in the metaphors we use. They’re not simply words but stories full of potential and opportunity.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out by Landscaping Your Success

** please note - this only needs to make sense to the person whose metaphor it is. That's the beauty of metaphors. So long as others can ask questions to help you understand the meaning of the metaphor you'll find your own solution. So long as it provides insight and enables you to achieve your goals why would it need to make sense to anyone else. It's your metaphor not anybody else's. Which is why clean language, as mentioned above, can help because our interpretation of the metaphor won't then effect the questions being asked and 'muddy' their metaphor.
Picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

Tuesday 21 May 2013

It's not about the toast

I attended #worksmental last week a conference organised by Amy McDonald of HeadTorch to raise awareness of mental health at work with all profit going to RAMH. I'm happy to say that such an important topic was also being discussed in parliament using #bigmhdebate as we had similar discussions in Glasgow.

The morning session involved interaction and discussion around the Cynthia Show, a piece of interactive theatre, with some members involved who suffer from mental ill health. The toast in the piece of theatre is used as a reminder that often what we say is the problem is only the effect of other underlying causes.

For the purposes of the blog I'm going to concentrate on stress in the work place and the points I took away from the session in relation to that.

The obvious statement that 'staff with mental health are more productive and effective' should go without saying and yet so many managers behaviour seems to forget this.

Let's start with some stats: 
  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any one year
  • 52% of people at work have hidden mental health difficulties from their managers
  • Depression is the world third biggest health problem. By 2030 it is thought it will be number one
  • Presenteeism is costing organisations twice as much as absenteeism
  • 40% of symptoms presented to doctors would benefit from physical activity
  • 39% of those in the UK are physically active, 96% of them are in Africa!
And continue with the solution, in that addressing the following causes of stress is a good idea: 
  • Reaction to change
  • Excessive demands
  • Ineffective relationships
  • Lack of clarity of roles
  • Lack of control
  • Lack of support
Often it's a cumulative effect of more than one of these that moves many of us into stress and mental ill health. Of course we each react to these differently - with for example some of us actively seeking change. However managers should not assume this is the case for everyone and, if an effective team is needed, provide sufficient opportunity for everyone to communicate and discuss their day to day work and especially any decisions that increase the above list. After all, we all want the answer to "are you causing chaos in the workplace?" to be "no!" - don't we?

I loved the challenge on the day that sometimes the default setting is to send someone to the Doctor and yet they can't do much to change the above underlying causes of stress. The key is noticing the signs of stress in ourselves and others and doing something about it.

And finish with some great quotes:
  • "When did 9 to 5 become 8 to 6?"
  • "It never needed to get to this, the signs are there - take notice, take action and understand the impact you're having on others"
  • "Stop: Think : What's going on for the other person?"
  • "How can we listen, without interruption, more"
  • "Opening Pandora's box means we can understand what we're dealing with"
  • "Just limiting your inactivity to 23.5 hours a day can be good for you" :-) 
What can you do differently to increase mental well being and health in your workplace - for yourself, and for those you work with?

As a start I've arranged some walking meetings with some colleagues.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Strategies need evidence

One the hardest things when developing category or sourcing strategies is to stop anyone making the decision before all the facts and data have been gathered and analysed, and all the options identified and assessed. Without the facts and data that provide the total cost and benefit of all the options available how can anyone make a decision?

Emotion is a strong motivator but it doesn't always deal in logic. "We should go with this supplier" is only a valid strategy if sufficient information is available to tell the story of why. "Because the current supplier is useless" is not an acceptable reason. They might be - but why, what does useless look like, what's the cost of that poor performance, what options exist to improve the current supplier, what are the business requirements, what are our current costs, what other suppliers are in the market, what criteria are important when making the decision, what are all the options that are available, what will all the costs and benefits of those options be and so on.  

I know it's tempting to say let's :
  • Terminate this supplier - before we realise the contribution we're making to their poor performance 
  • Single source - before we've analysed the data and realised there's no single supplier able to take on 100% of our requirements
  • Dual source - before we realise only one supplier can meet our needs and we'd be better adopting supplier relationship management with them
  • Tender - before we realise the business requirements require a complete overhaul and what we tender for today would not delivery any value improvements until that happens
  • Outsource - before we really understand what we're wanting to outsource
  • Develop the relationship further - before we realise the supplier is exploiting us
When developing category or sourcing strategies we need to develop the business requirements, understand the supply market, undertake supplier analysis, understand the costs and supply chain. It's only by undertaking this analysis with rigour that we can determine the options, assess these options against the criteria and then make a recommendation.

I found myself writing the other day that "senior management approval will only be achieved if we are able to provide evidence of the efficacy of our recommendations." If emotion and subjective statements are our only response we'd best be ready for a disappointment!

I was very pleased with our presentation of a sourcing strategy to a senior leadership team recently. We presented a 10 page summary document. Every question they asked we were able to provide an answer and the evidence for it - either in the 10 pages or with reference to a larger 90 page document and multiple (and I mean muliple) excel worksheets. We never once uttered the words "we haven't thought of that" or "I don't know" because we'd done the analysis and we had all the answers (I do so love excel spreadsheets :-)).

That's how procurement adds value to an organisation in understanding the value that can be added once, and only once, all the facts and data have been gathered and analysed.

Footnote: Living in Scotland means it's only a matter of time before I'm asked to engage in the question of Independence (and I'm dreading that day.) Currently, with my procurement hat on, I'm astounded that anyone can be suggesting which option is the right one. If a category manager came to me with a statement that they knew the strategy we should adopt (which both sides seem to be doing) with so little thought about all the implications to the business, no business requirements, no cost and benefit analysis, no analysis of the market, no criteria for selection, no risk analysis undertaken and no analysis of the other options - I'd tell them to go away until they'd carried out that analysis. In fact I'd doubt their integrity and expertise because a decision could not be made without that level of detail.

Scotland is being asked to make a decision on 18th September 2014 when both sides are currently running around trying to determine why their option is the right one and constantly uttering the words "I hadn't thought of that" "I don't know" or even worse "we'll only know that after the decision has been made"

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach

Hate or love?

You can't always take the blogger out of the girl I find and having convinced myself of the folly of writing this blog five days ago the subject matter continues to swirl around my mind and I realise its something I care about too deeply to ignore.

On Friday a FaceBook update from the British Heart Foundation appeared on my news feed. It said ' I hate heart failure because........'
Please tell me I'm not alone in being perplexed at the languaging here? I couldn't get past the first few comments because of the negative energy it produced. Every comment starting with the words 'I hate heart failure because ....' and giving their reason.

I'd love to know what the British Heart Foundation thinks contributes to heart failure? If this update is anything to go by they certainly seem to be forgetting the mind's contribution. For me they might as well have been inviting us to a party where the only food on offer was cream cakes, pies, white bread sandwiches, processed foods, chocolates, sweets and plenty of fizzy drinks. I'm sure that decsion would have been seen as inappropriate (and they agree here re junk food advertising) - so why is this appropriate?

I thought I might be over reacting and that this was just a simple mistake of someone posting on their behalf. Then I realised its an advertising campaign!!
  • Surely there's enough scientific evidence about the mind's contribution to our well being?
  • Surely there's enough evidence about what hate means and does to us?
  • Surely its counter productive for an organisation who wants to 'keep more hearts beating' to invite people to hate anything. Let alone invite us to experience the one emotion that I'm sure can contribute to stopping a heart beating.
It's not lost on me that this blog has a negative energy about it that I suggest it not something we should foster. Perhaps the BHF felt the same as me that sharing frustration was valid. Perhaps we both have the same objective to make a difference. For me I hope this blog acts as a reminder of the impact the language we use can have and the mind/body connection. I can't answer for BHF - they certainly got a lot of people 'hating'. Let's hope it also makes us all realise we don't want to hate anything that much and start to think about lifestyle changes we can make to reduce the risk of it happening. After all - that is what we all want - right?

Although I will be starting by not hating anything!

PS: Having expressed my exasperation with the marketing campaign I realised I needed to let it rest otherwise I'd be receiving the very services BHF are researching on behalf of! A few days later, however, I was not allowed to leave it alone. Imagine the scene as I come down the stairs to big white letters staring up at me proclaiming HATE! (as shown in the picture above). The smaller grey letters weren't even visible at this point and the 'LOVE life' was much smaller and, like buttered toast, the envelope had landed love side down on my mat after being posted there by the postman.  It certainly brings a whole new meaning to the word hate mail that's for sure. I'd love to know if the absence record of royal mail went up last week as a result of those poor postmen having to deliver these to house after house. Although the only saving grace is they would have been looking at the address and at least that invited them to LOVE life (even if with less gusto than on the other side.)

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Don't stretch yourself too much

Get out of your comfort zone, do something different every day, trust yourself - all have their place. I'm sure a large number of my blogs have encouraged us all to do these more often. There's also many stories here where my lack of trust has been shown to be inaccurate when my personal trainer has said "you can do it", and I've listened to him and not my inner voice that said "no you can't."

Today in yoga was a little different. My knees were hurting and I was really struggling with the sun sequence.
Picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

My knees felt like they needed oiling. I was wobbling, slow and not really feeling the benefits nor the energy liftingness (sp?) of the sequence.

Sally, our instructor, then gave me some easier options that took the strain off my knees. What a difference that made and not in the way I expected. Instead of feeling like it was easier, less strenuous and therefore less effective it felt the opposite. Suddenly the energy from the ground came up through my legs and I felt stronger and more in control. Such a surprise.

I'm sure that's as applicable in life - instead of choosing the path where we're constantly off balance and unsure why not opt for the more solid path that will enable strength to build for the long term. That certainly feels more sustaining.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring strong and sustainable procurement teams

Performance measures and performance improvement

I've been immersed in performance measurement and improvement for the last week. One of the main themes for me was about ensuring what's important gets measured and not measuring something just because we can. Another theme was if the performance of something that's important starts to deteriorate, and moves away from the acceptable level set for it, action needs to be taken.

This was obviously at the back of my mind as I drove to yoga this morning as I came to this junction.

I had been diverted and ended up driving through it. It's no longer a roundabout but a junction controlled by traffic lights. Previously there was minimal queues now there's always queues and long waits as each of the four directions gets their green light in turn!

I wondered about the performance measures set for road junctions and assume its something around 'flow of traffic', 'lack of congestion' and 'pedestrian safety'. I then wondered how many cars in a queue at a junction constituted poor performance? And at what point, as a purchasing professional, I'd be suggesting to my supplier that their new super dooper idea hadn't worked. Give Fife Council their due they've persevered for 18 months. I assume in the hope that enough cars find an alternate route (pity about the bus station a few hundred meters away).

I offer some suggestions that might help avoid replicating this that my contract and procurement colleagues and I address every day:
  • Don't spend money just because its in the budget
  • Understand the business requirements that need to be met
  • Understand the performance required for each of these requirements
  • Identify go/no go criteria for options to be considered
  • Weight the other business requirements
  • Assess the options against these go/no go criteria and weightings
  • Undertake risk assessment of each of the options
  • Identify recovery plans to be used if business requirements are not met
  • Identify exit strategies to be used if suppliers fail to deliver
And once the new solution is implemented 
  • Assess performance against the business requirements
  • If the critical success factors are not met agree improvement plans with suppliers
  • Ensure suppliers understand the implications of not meeting the minimum standards
  • Be prepared to follow through on your 'threats'
  • Ensure you review the project so future projects learn from what went well and also what went badly
Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Ensuring your performance measurement is practical and effective

Wednesday 1 May 2013

What do you do?

Over the last ten years the answer to the question "what do you do" has changed as I've tried to make sense of what I do. The challenge has been to ensure that I stay connected to doing what I'm good at and also what I enjoy doing too.

Here's a flavour of the journey:

1.  Manufacturing direct purchasing
2.  Manufacturing indirect purchasing
3.  Purchasing management of a small team for indirect categories
4.  Purchasing management for a public sector organisation
5.  Category manager for indirect categories for larger organisation

And here's where it got interesting:

6.  Personal development manager
7.  Communication manager
8.  Team coach
9.  Problem solver
10. Facilitator
Then I started working for myself and forgot 6-10 and concentrated on procurement training and coaching (1-5). After all - the phone always rang about that and that paid the mortgage.
Yet that quiet voice within wasn't so quiet. 5-10 were now key to what I did, key to my well being, and key to getting into my flow and yet I'd hidden them away out of sight and mind. Every now and again they were allowed out of the box. At times I've even thought they were the answer in their own right and set off to:
11. Be a life coach
12. Help others find passion in life
13. Landscape your life
14. Be a paddle finder (for when you're up a creek without one)
They all got a look in. Yet they excluded purchasing and business so were no more complete than the procurement best practice work I did. When I thought they were the answer flow certainly stopped, along with the phone calls.
Last year the idea of the purchasing coach formed and that felt like at last I was bringing everything I was passionate, good at and enjoyed together (1-10). It was only then that flow started - when opportunities appeared that ticked all the boxes and I had more work than I knew what to do with.
With all the constant doing I didn't hear that quiet voice within reminding me I still had more to contribute. That what I did was still not complete. This last week I've reconnected with an old friend landscaping your life, a process I developed 13 years ago. This reminded me of the final (for now at least) pieces of the jigsaw that enable the answer to "what do you do" to be one that fully utilises all of my skills and all of my passion because I'm using my:
15. Creativity
16. Intuition
17. Off the wallness,
18. Laughter and
19. Alisonyness
Isn't that what this journey has been about? Realising that the answer to what I do is "offer all of who I am, all my skills and passions, to help make business, and purchasing in particular, a force for good in the world. I realise its not been about me trying to determine which of the skills has most worth to business, or hiding some I think others may judge as 'weird' or worrying people might find my laugh too loud :-). It's standing in front of someone who has asked what I do and knowing it's every part of who I am that needs to be considered. It's then up to both of us to determine if I'm the right fit for them and their team and which of my skills are most appropriate for the challenge in hand.
What aspects of yourself are you hiding away or denying. How would it be different if you embraced all of who you are and realised that is all anyone needs from you.
Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach