Saturday 29 June 2013

Sustainability - starts with you

Dear George

I saw your photo you proudly shared on twitter and I'm worried.

There are busy days when I collapse at the end of it and pig out on food that is unhealthy. However a majority of the time, and particular during the day, I do my very best to ensure that what I eat and drink sustains me and my brain. Thus ensuring I remain focused and able to make the right decisions when I need to. You might be surprised to read that very few of my decisions impact others in quite the way yours and your colleagues have this week, but for those they do impact I like to hope they get the right advice because of the choices I make on the food I eat.

I have to admit that I'm basing my judgement on one photo but please please tell me the cans of coke and burger and chips were a one off and not a daily occurrence for you and other Cabinet and senior civil servants. If you have that little regard for your own sustainability looking instead for quick fixes and short term gain I do wonder what impact it has on the decisions you make. I also worry if the same pattern is reflected in the way in which you attend to your work and decisions made there too?

I know you've had a busy week and therefore may not have had chance to read yesterday's blog. In brief I shared the ICECAPS checklist that uses nature to landscape areas of your life to ensure we all flourish. In other words, just like the planet, we each need to preserve our own ICECAPS.

The ICECAPS checklist starts with Integrity and ends with Sustainability. For the planet to be sustainable it requires that all its component parts work together to ensure sustainability of the whole. For example each type of bee within a hive has different, and yet the appropriate, food to undertake their role effectively. On my reckoning burger, chips and coke does very little to sustain a Cabinet minister. I even wonder if the increase, even if ever so slightly, in the NHS budget in England, might have been made to offset the previous reduction in cabinet minister sustainability - although suspect not!

If the burger is indicative of the food consumed by you and your colleagues can I please give you some homeplay - ditch the sugary drinks, drink more water, reduce the amount of processed and fatty foods and eat five a day (must be a NHS advise pamphlet somewhere on that!).

Kindest regards

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

You may find the blogs about phrases we use such as: no pain no gain, not burning bridges nor burying your head in the sand helpful. Although they use the landscaping process a little differently from the ICECAPS checklist. If you're a Treky you might like this on finding your inner Picard!

Friday 28 June 2013

Using nature to landscape your leadership

If you use nature as your teacher then the story of the universe becomes the story of our solar system, which becomes the story of our planet, of humanity, of you and I, and of our flourishing. The story starts with Integrity and concludes with Sustainability and, just like our planet, requires you individually, or organisationally, to retain your ICECAPS.

For over 15 years I've used a process that uses nature to landscaping client's lives - whether landscaping their life, health, relationships, work, business or leadership. It's been used in many different settings for example strategy development, team development, problem resolution, goal setting and so on. Over that time a number of different techniques have been used to enable insight to be obtained, action plans developed and progress made.

This blog shares with you a more recent innovation and that's the ICECAPS checklist which has been developed to look at what nature can teach us about our lives. As you'd expect from nature - it's simple - you just have to ensure that you retain your ICECAPS.
  • Integrity - authenticity and being true to yourself
  • Creation - bringing the right resources together to achieve a vision
  • Evolution - understanding and flowing with the patterns of growth in the environment
  • Collaboration - working with others across the whole system in which you operate
  • Action - taking positive action towards the goal 
  • Perspective - understanding where you are in relation to the goal and changing course as needed 
  • Sustainability - ensuring all actions allow for sustainability of the whole system 
When problems and challenges arise in your life the question becomes at which point of the ICECAPS checklist has disconnection taken place. Appropriate action can then be identified in order to reconnect.

More on the process can be found on my Pinterest board and Facebook page. Otherwise more will follow other forthcoming blogs.

Alternatively if you'd like me to run a landscaping your business session with your team, a one day landscaping your life session with a manager, or have other areas you'd like to be landscaped then do please call me +44 (0)7770 538159 or email me

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Source: via Alison on Pinterest

Friday 21 June 2013

Services for the year ahead

Today's the longest day and shortest night here in the UK and longest night in Australia. As I type  I'm reminded of the sunset I saw at winter solstice six years ago (above).Which because of the position of the sun isn't quite as an impressive a picture as one taken three months earlier nine years ago.
I love solstice (winter or summer) as it's a great time to make plans for the months ahead. Having had the busiest six months I've had since working for myself I realise today would be a great time to review where the purchasing coach is going for the latter part of 2013.

The answer is more coaching, facilitation and speaking using two very special techniques:
To that end I wanted to remind you of 3 different ways you and your organisation could utilise my unique and very effective skills:
If you've got challenges ahead and would appreciate a different perspective then please do get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you to discuss how I may help you, and your team, rise above the challenges and ensure 2013 ends with objectives exceeded.
Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and business more widely +44 (0)7770 538159

Thursday 20 June 2013

Team development events

Long gone are the days when team development days were simply about everyone having a good time and getting to know each other better. Often there are other business objectives that also need to be met when everyone is together in the same place at the same time.

I've facilitated a number of sessions with a variety of objectives and share here examples of these to give you a sense of the variety of format and style if I'm involved in facilitating a session for you.
  • Resolving difficult relationships with internal stakeholders -  mix of training, group work, role play, discussion and use of frameworks for change coaching process.
  • Strategy development with board of management - use of landscaping your life process to identify mission, vision and strategy moving forward.
  • How to successfully establish a team with individuals from 2 organisations and 4 locations as part of organisational merger - use of NLP training, establishing working parties and giving responsibility to the teams for different aspects of the development of a cohesive team.    
  • Inspiring action towards achieving annual objectives - use of individual input and jigsaw puzzle to embed specific goals and establish commitment of whole team to their achievement.
  • Midyear review of progress against targets - use of metaphor for all presentations from teams and individuals to provide basis for creative communication and engagement.
A session facilitated by me is certainly more likely to include a walk on the beach as it is sitting in a conference room in a hotel. Although without understanding your objectives, it's difficult to definitively state what would work best for you and your team at this time to meet those objectives.
If you'd like to do something different in order to get a different outcome and take team performance to the next level please do get in touch.

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

Tuesday 18 June 2013

How I coach

There's so many different reasons for having coaching and so many different people able to provide it that it can be difficult to determine who's the best person for you. It's one of the reasons I pulled a Pinterest board together trying to show the breadth of coaching available including the whys, the whats, the whos and the hows.

The condensed version is - if you have an area of your life where you're not progressing as you'd like, or need to do, then coaching may help. That is - it will help you move from where you are towards where you want to be.

Who's best able to help you do that depends on many things touched on in the Pinterest board and will include:
  • the area you need coaching in - life, work, relationships, finance, business and so on.
  • what specifically is stopping you achieving what you want
  • your level of motivation
  • the timescales involved
  • the resources available
  • whether you have confidence in the coach and think you'd work well with them
I'd suggest my specialism isn't holding your hand for weeks or months as you progress along your journey. It's also not about me trying to persuade you that you need to change.  There are many wonderful other coaches who can do these things.

What I love, and am good at, is helping you when you've got a few of the following going on:
  • stuck in a rut
  • up a creek without a paddle
  • aimless
  • unactualised (if there is such a word?)
  • dissatisfied
  • unmotivated
  • finding relationships with others difficult or strained
  • not reaching your potential
  • burnt out
  • paying too high a price for what you are doing
  • unsure what to do next
  • and yet motivated to want to do something about it
Often the means of getting things moving requires:
  1. understanding of how you're feeling
  2. insight into what's happening
  3. identifying what's holding you back
  4. releasing the setbacks or barriers to future success
  5. clarity of where you're headed
  6. a short sharp push or pull, or a metaphorical kick... sorry I mean - more motivation
  7. agreement of an action plan to facilitate progress
  8. action to be taken in line with the plan
  9. monitoring of progress to check you're on track
Time sometimes means this process takes place over a number of sessions over a number of weeks. However if possible I'd prefer to work with a client for a day (or occasionally two) and complete steps 1-7.

If you'd be interested in finding out more please do get in touch.

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

Tools I use to support my coaching in a business setting might include NLP, Frameworks for change coaching process, creative whack pack, oblique strategies, landscaping your life, and in a personal setting the Transformation Game and collage cards. They're used because they're really effective at getting at what's holding people back.
You may also want to read my blog "But I don't do fluffy soft skills" - especially if you're doubting that coaching would help.

Monday 17 June 2013

Landscaping your life

Using nature to landscape your life - personally or organisationally. It can be used in many different settings e.g. strategy development, team building, coaching, confidence, goal setting and so on.

There are different ways in which nature can be used and I share these each month in my blogs.

One useful method is by ensuring that, just like nature, you preserve your ICECAPS - because Integrity, Creation, Evolution, Collaboration, Action, Perspective and Sustainability are essential characteristics of you flourishing.

You may get more insight into the process by exploring the process further here: YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest.

There's also a Pinterest board demonstrating how I use gardening, as the metaphor, to help non purchasing managers understand what all the fuss is about when applying best practice purchasing to their business and budget. After all suppliers are just like plants and need feeding, weeding, pruning and sometimes pulling up or at least replanting.

Sessions can be done over the phone and a shift can take place within 30 minutes - although full day sessions (solo or in groups) are a different experience again.

"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.

Landscaping Your Life process Copyright Alison Smith 1999 - 2013

Friday 14 June 2013

Frameworks for change coaching process

The Frameworks for Change coaching Process uses cards as a means of enabling individuals or groups to explore situations, that require their insight, from different perspectives. It's a process specifically designed to be used in business settings.

As I established again at a recent workshop the efficacy of the process can only really be observed in practice. In the hope, however, that notes can go some way to conveying the breadth of insight that the process can facilitate here's notes from a session on Keeping on track in a downturn when I facilitated a group of 20 professional speakers on the subject.

Sessions can run for an hour up to a full day or two and can be used to support other means of facilitating and achieving an implementation plan for change.

The process, the insight, setback and mentor cards used here are from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks -

Wednesday 12 June 2013

The Transformation Game

I'm a facilitator of the Transformation Game and run sessions for up to 4 people. It's a personal (and spiritual if you want it to be) development tool and I'd suggest isn't for the faint hearted :-). The FCP is its business cousin, and as the name suggests it's undertaken in the format of a game: set intention, role dice, move to a square, process the square and move on - which is much easier than it sounds. The outcome is insight into what you need to continue to do, what you might wish to stop doing and what would help if you started to do it to achieve your outcome or intention.

To understand the profound impact it can have this process is best experienced than read about. I have set up a board on Pinterest to share some insights from some games I've done myself recently, but they're a poor imitation of the shift that can happen as a result of fully engaging with the process. There's also some notes from a solo game I did myself on the intention how to find life balance that may provide a little more insight into what's possible.

You'll need to be willing to invest 2.5 hours per person or 8 hours for a 4 person game. I would however suggest it will be one of the best investments you've ever made for your own personal development. (yes I know I'm biased but I wouldn't use the process with people if I wasn't convinced of its efficacy and ability to help people shift and embrace life more fully.)

The process, the insight, setback and angel cards used here are from the Transformation Game © Innerlinks - ANGEL ® CARDS (a registered trademark of InnerLinks, Asheville NC, USA) © 1981 Drake and Tyler; produced by Narada Media, 4650 N. Port Washington Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53212 USA. Use by permission.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Business Benefits

Following on from yesterday's blog providing an insight to the type of work I do I thought I'd explore the business benefits delivered as a result of the work I do.

The main benefits are of improved performance which will ultimately either deliver reduced costs, mitigated risks and/or increasing revenue. Which all in turn positively impact on cash flow, profitability and return on investment.

Whilst these may be the ultimate goals for the organisation you may also have other pain you wish to reduce including:
  • inconsistent application of best practice
  • unsupportive stakeholders
  • unmotivated team
  • falling productivity
  • skills gaps
  • delayed projects
  • appalling service
  • increasing costs
  • inefficient working practices
  • non functioning systems
  • poor quality
  • wasted time
  • manipulative suppliers
  • resistance to change
  • ineffective strategies
  • increasing waste
  • unhappy customers
I would love the opportunity to explore how I may help you reduce the pain and unlock value for your organisation - either call on +44 (0)7770 538159 or email I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday 10 June 2013

Case studies

I might blog often but I realise that you may not know what my day to day work involves and therefore not understand how I may be able to help your organisation.

The following case studies demonstrating the facilitation, coaching and development services delivered to clients.

Case study 1: Financial services
  • Issue: Procurement team was experiencing resistance from internal stakeholders.
  • Outcome: Stakeholders are engaged and supporting procurement strategy. In addition category strategies have been presented by the stakeholders to senior leadership teams and approval was obtained as a result.
  • Intervention: One day workshop focused on communication and influencing. A mix of theory and applying it to the stakeholders in question. Included use of Frameworks for change Coaching Process (FCP).

Case study 2: Financial services
  • Issue: Merger of two organisations resulted in disparate teams needing to be brought together.
  • Outcome: Motivated team with clear strategy for next 18 months.
  • Intervention: Series of workshops, facilitated sessions and 1:1 coaching to address concerns, manage expectations, and develop procurement strategy.

Case Study 3: Transport
  • Issue: Significant spend with over 20 suppliers across the UK on a category of indirect services with inconsistent service delivered.
  • Outcome: Application of strategic sourcing delivering 35% annual savings. Achieved through application of rigorous research and analysis resulting in significant specification review and increased management of the process.
  • Intervention: Coaching of project manager responsible for the category and workshop and meeting facilitation.

Case Study 4: Services
  • Issue: SME's starting up and failing due to lack of support.
  • Outcome: SME's aware of the process to follow to successfully set up their businesses.
  • Intervention: Series of three workshops supporting business start up including specialist speakers and facilitated discussions to draw out and embed learning.

Case Study 5: Services
  • Issue: Board of management in need of a new perspective.
  • Outcome: Innovative strategy developed for the organisation.
  • Intervention: Facilitated session to get the board using their unconscious to provide new perspectives rather than sticking to what they'd always done. Included use of landscaping your life process.

To find out more on how I might help you and your team do please call me on +44 (0)7770 538159 or email me I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Is your head buried in the sand?

I'm following an emerging theme of my blogs and am continuing to look at common phrases we use. I'm exploring their meaning, the impact saying and even thinking them has on our actions, and how we can make changes to get the success we want in life.

Last week I covered the saying 'no pain no gain', earlier this week 'burning bridges'. Today its 'burying our head in the sand.'
On face value the phrase is about seeing and doing nothing and ignoring what ever is going on. In the hope, I assume, that when our head is out of the sand the situation will somehow have changed. However as my video blog last week reminded us if we keep doing the same thing we'll keep getting the same response. (NB: Due to a laughter filled start you may want to turn the sound down a little first.)

So I wondered what the landscaping your success process would have to say on the matter. It uses nature as metaphors for success and when 'burying our head in the sand' I'd suggest we're using nature as a metaphor for the opposite!

Whilst its a phrase often used by others to describe someone else I'm going to assume its also a phrase we use about ourselves. Which allows us to explore the landscape we're describing. After all using that term means the landscape (head in sand) represents how we're thinking about the situation. Which in turn impacts how we react to it and the opportunities for action we can either see or not see.

"Head in sand" to me suggests a desert. Which means when I pull my head out of the sand all I'm going to do is see more and more sand. Nothing but sand that stretches on to the horizon and  uncomfortable heat! I can see why it's a situation we can't see the opportunities for action that exist within it.
Now its time to play around with the internal picture we have and see what happens:
  • Head could be in a sand pit surrounded by children laughing and playing creative games - so how about joining in with them for a while and noticing what solutions appear.
  • Head could be in sand adjacent to an oasis and all you need to do is walk to it and take a cool long drink of water and sit in the shade for a while.
  • Or like me in the picture you could be on the local beach and just need to walk away - NOW!
I know this might all sound weird but its no weirder than what we're doing when we describe ourselves as "burying our head in the sand". It's not a reality but is impacting how we're thinking and therefore behaving. The exploration here is simply providing the brain with a few more options to consider. One of which might open the connection within your brain to the solution to the current situation. After all we do know what to do we're just allowing fear to feed the resistance to not knowing.

Other options include: 
  • Taking the sunglasses, hat and all the protection from the sun off and realising they've been distorting the situation and you're already in a flourishing rainforest (or landscape that makes sense to you).
  • Getting out the iPhone and calling international rescue and being flown to another landscape.
  • Taking your head out of the sand and realising you're surrounded by other explorers and you have all the necessary equipment and experts to get out of there.
  • Waking from a dream realising you've already got all the resources you need in the current situation and that was simply a nightmare and it's time to start living a different dream in reality.
Next time you think you might be burying your head in the sand remember - its all plain sailing from here.

Alison Smith
Landscaping your success and inspiring change inside and out

Friday 7 June 2013

Are you getting enough perspective?

Here's a link to it on YouTube if that doesn't work

Whilst Einstein's theory of relativity may have something to say on this blog, after listening to In Our Time last night on radio 4 on the subject, I'm none the wiser. Other than to say perspective is relative to what you know, where you're standing and when you're doing it.

There's many different ways of getting perspective on a situation. There's also different ways of reminding ourselves of what happens when we don't have sufficient perspective.

The above clip from Father Ted uses humour to make the point. Landscaping Your Success uses metaphor. Either way, they're both a great reminder that we can only make sense of what we're seeing when it's in relation to everything that is around it, and when it's in relation to things that are known.

For example, the answer to how far away is the rock in the picture from my house in Burntisland and, therefore, how long will it take me to walk there and how long will I have to do that safely, are very difficult to determine from this picture from the window at home. There's another picture of the rock from the beach in my blog from earlier in the week.

You might be able to establish some of the answers when there are people, or horses as in this photo, standing next to it when the tide is out - as it's only then I realise it's bigger than it looks.
Perspective also comes from being able to see the rock in context, as shown from the top of the hill at the back of Burntisland in this picture (as mentioned in yesterday's blog when we walked up it to get perspective on a situation using the Landscaping Your Success process):

Or from different angles and at different times of the tide. 
General oblique aerial view of Burntisland Links, site of former golf course, taken from the WNW. RCAHMS Aerial Photography Digital Date 8/4/2011 Copyright RCAHMS
Or, following yesterday's blog, perhaps using maps is the only way to get a better understanding - at least that provides an accurate scale.

It's only after all this information is known and compared and analysed that the answer to "how far away is the rock?" is: further away, bigger, taller and wider than I first thought. Only then that I can accurately determine how to deal with the situation. Which in this case involved walking there an hour before low tide as demonstrated by this video blog I recorded once I got there on having the right tools for the job.

How can you get more perspective on a challenge in your life?

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

PS: I think perhaps those who designed this poster should perhaps read the blog too and understand what perspective would look like for 'best days out'. I know the pictures show Burntisland to be a great place but I worry for the rest of Scotland if the best day out would be had from coming here! Then that's just from my perspective - kidlets might enjoy the fair and the beach.

Thursday 6 June 2013

I don't want to burn my bridges

"I don't want to burn my bridges" a client said in a coaching session. They were resisting taking their business to the next level and the coaching session's aim was to identify the reason for the resistance and if possible to let it go. This comment was made as we explored the reason for the resistance.

The language we use provides so much more information about what's going on inside. Exploring the meaning of the language, therefore, will then help us make shifts within. Which in turn allows us to take different actions on the outside. After all, if it was easy we'd have taken the necessary action by now and never have any problems. Something is stopping us from doing what we say we want to do. Since no other person is stopping us from making a different choice the only culprit is ourself and our mind. And the language we use is one way we have of understanding what is really going on in our mind.

Here's how the Landscaping Your Success process worked in this situation and, perhaps the best way of explaining it, helped the mind see the error in it's logic. 

Talk of burning bridges led to a discussion about building bridges and crossing bridges. Which led to a realisation that the situation felt like that depicted below:

Except there was no leaping required just a bridge that they were afraid would burn. As they envisaged crossing from the side they were on to the side they wanted to be, the bridge kept getting longer. No wonder if felt like a relentless and fruitless exercise. I can't envisage what it must have been like to be on the bridge expecting it to burn any minute! Feeling like the situation was like this certainly explained much of their behaviour they'd explained was taking place. 

After checking that the other side of the gap was where they wanted to be, we explored the different ways of getting over the gap. At the time we were standing at the top of a hill behind Burntisland looking across the Forth river to Edinburgh so we used that gap as the metaphor for the current situation. We could see the Forth rail and road bridges as potential options. In addition to building another bridge (and they're even doing that at the moment) other options to get to the other side included: sailing, swimming, canoeing, jet skiing, hovercrafting, submarine (which isn't as unlikely as it seems here), lilo, paragliding, plane and zip wire.     

As we explored each of these it became apparent that the zip wire was the preferred route as "it's quick and I don't have an option to change my mind." So we spent some time there on the top of the hill envisaging safely taking a zip wire across to Edinburgh and noticing how if felt once they got there.

As we walked back down the hill later on my client seemed much less worried about burning bridges and was starting to identify strategies of how to take their business to the next level. From the language used I'd suggest the resistance had been reduced or even released.

For those used to talking through problems this process may seem very alien. One reason it works is because we don't get caught up with the content of the problem. We don't allow "she said this, then he said that and then you'll never guess what happened next" to get in the way of observing what's really going on. To see the patterns and metaphors that explain the underling situation and also provide potential solutions and options available.

If you're metaphorically burning, building or crossing bridges today you may just want to think about what that really means. 

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

Picture Source: Uploaded by user via Alison on Pinterest

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Is an integrated commercial landscape even possible?

The Spend Matters headline read "GPS and Cabinet Office procurement – more integration to come, says Crothers" and went on to quote Bill Crothers, Government CPO at the Cabinet Office, as saying "... different components of the commercial landscape that are not necessarily integrated."

As I explained in my 'no pain, no gain' blog I'm not for taking the words we use at face value. After all the language we use tells us so much more - if only we spent more time exploring the underlying metaphors hidden within the words.

In other words let's not get caught up in what an 'integrated commercial landscape' looks like. Let's start with understanding what an 'integrated landscape' looks like, and then apply that learning to a 'commercial landscape'. That way we don't get caught up in the content of the situation that's full of the politics of public sector procurement, government policy, competing stakeholders etc.

The key when using any metaphor is to stick with the metaphor for as long as possible. In this case sticking with exploring the integrated natural landscape and not a commercial one. A bit like when we're conducting the research and analysis phase for a category. That is it's no use making assumptions and jumping to conclusions until all the data is in.

So stick with me, and notice what you notice as you read further, as I share the thoughts and insights that appear as I explore an 'integrated landscape' from my lounge, and a road atlas of Britain!

As it's impossible to view the whole landscape at once I automatically thought of a map. Remembering of course that the map is not reality only a representation of it. The map I had to hand was a road atlas of Britain. It is however out of date and a little worn!
So I'm already wondering if I can get a sense of integration when I don't even have an accurate and up to date picture of the whole? For example I know the new forth road bridge would be shown on a new map with completion date some date in the future (2016).

The first page I turn to has a map that shows the bigger picture but not how all the component parts connect with each other. Each major city simply a blob with no roads connecting them!
The next size map has the Britain split in 2. It clearly shows the blue lines of motorways connecting major hubs and the linking A roads, but big gaps of blankness of unconnected space in between. So still a disconnect I suspect.
If I drill down I keep getting more detail but smaller areas covered. A greater sense of integration within that small area but greater loss of integration with the whole.
I'm currently not getting a sense of what an integrated landscape looks like and start to wonder if it's possible other than for specific areas within the whole as shown above.

This is where doing this alone has its weakness as I'm not sure where to go next, and in groups it's easier to feed on each other's ideas...

I will give it a go none the less...initial thoughts I soon discounted included:
  • Using Google earth and satellites to help see the bigger picture and zoom in and out as needed. I kept getting a sense that's no different than the problem I was having with the maps. You either get high level of the whole, or detail of a small bit. You can't have a detailed whole picture.
  • I also thought about cutting up the map and pulling bits together. But that ignores so much and allows for a distorted view of reality because my values and judgements then decide what is, and what isn't included. 
Which brings me to the only solution from this exploration that I could see:
  • I keep being drawn to the water that surrounds Britain as the defining integrator. Every part of Britain understanding how they relate to the water even if not to each other. Unlike the landscape, that is full of variety and complexity and needs the detail to make sense of it all, the sea that surrounds the landscape is fairly uniform. A little colder or warmer in places impacted by different currents but something that can be understood as a whole.   
So where does that quick trip into the landscaping process get us - for me the insights include:
  • You need a map to make sense of the landscape - otherwise all you can do is view the landscape you're standing in at that moment in time.
  • That's only relevant if the map is up to date. That is you can't integrate something that's not quantified, and you certainly can't integrate it in order to quantify it!
  • Beware of options that split the map in two as its easy to concentrate on the half you know better, and forget about the bigger picture.
  • A detailed map is only possible for small areas, and locals will still know the area better than any map ever will.
  • You can't have detailed integration of the whole - you either have high level integration of the whole, or detailed integration of a smaller area.
  • Integration at a high level tells us very little.
  • The only way to make sense of the bigger picture, and how it all fits together, is to understand the container in which it sits.
The next step would be to then understand what the sea represents on the 'commercial landscape' Bill was talking about.

Would love to read what you took from this slightly different way of looking at the situation. Not quite what I was expecting but then it would need to be Bill who makes the assessment of its value, as it was his metaphorical language I explored.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

Tuesday 4 June 2013

But I enjoy my work so it doesn't feel like work

The sun today managed to coax me out to top up my vitamin D for lunch on the beach and take time for a healthy lunch. Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins it's hard to get from food and therefore, unless you're taking a supplement, can have an impact very quickly on our mental well being. Something I find easy to understand the knock on effects and wider repercussions of - whilst not so in others areas of my life as you will discover.
Photo: To good an opportunity to work thru lunch today no eating at the PC but eating on the beach :-)
"How's your life balance" my coach asked last week. To which I replied "oh I'm really enjoying it so it doesn't feel like work". Which wasn't quite what she meant. Today I tweeted pictures from my lunch on the beach and somehow felt I should be doing something more 'worthy'.

If we forget about the apparently worthy doing which meant I didn't turn my PC off till 2330 last night, then there's some basics that I'm forgetting that I've blogged about in the past, and repeatedly use in coaching sessions with others. We cannot possibly get everything we need from one area of our life - whether we enjoy it or not. Fact. Which means sooner or later lack in the other areas eventually catches up with us. Whether through ill health, deteriorating performance, diminishing joie de vivre, lack of friends, creative block, and so on.

Author Susan Jeffers, who sadly died last year, used the following model to help explain this more.

Pinned Image

What the words are isn't important, and whether there are 7, 8 or 9 areas doesn't either. What is important is an understanding that we get different needs or values met from different areas of our life. No one area can give us everything. Work can't give us love or health, in the same way a relationship can't give us meaning. So if one area takes up 100% of our time we don't get the essentials we need that the other areas provide. 

Short term blitzing on an area is inevitable but long term it's not helpful. Not least that our continued wellbeing comes from having all our needs met. So working to the exclusion of our health, relationships or friendships will only be effective for so long.

As I wrote about yesterday the work I'm doing is very mentally intensive at the moment. Breaks have, until today, generally been to swap one work activity for another. Baths, whilst long, have included engaging with social media, books read are all work based, and people I'm speaking to all colleagues and clients. And meals - well let's not talk about the working till too late and then eating cereal for tea! I know that's not helpful - I can feel my mind, body, and soul too, reacting to the lack of variety and attention. Enthusiasm for life and work and all the other areas listed can only be sustained long term if I pay attention to my needs in all areas. 

Which means the beach for lunch might not have met my work needs directly, but it helped give my brain a rest, gave my body time to digest the healthy food properly, allowed me to top up with mood enhancing vitamin D which will in turn all positively impact the work I do this afternoon, and the rest of the week. So more worthy I think than yet another hour sat at the PC!

What do you need to do more of to bring your mind, body and soul back into balance so that all your needs are being met and long term sustainability is a real possibility?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday 3 June 2013

Can you think creatively, type, format and sit at your desk all at the same time?

A challenge for you - yes another one - try going somewhere comfy and writing long hand and see what happens. You might just be surprised.

At the end of March after 2 months of near enough full time sitting at my desk developing leadership and management scripts for e-learning I was in pain. The sort of pain that required 24 hour painkillers to sleep and type (please note my arthritic knees never get a single pain killer).

It would seem all that typing and bad posture had taken their toll. Thankfully I then had a week's holiday and did manage to have some treatment for what it would appear was RSI in the shoulder and arm. Returning to work I could spend no more than 20 minutes at the PC without being in pain. I had deadlines to meet and needed to come up with a solution. Her name was Lorna and she was to do my typing. All I had to do was write long hand, from a comfy seat with this view, and hand it all over to her.

The surprise for me was the writing suddenly became more creative, more connected, less disjointed and certainly more easily read and much more pleasurable to write. Why? Because when I was trying to be creative, type, format and edit the pages the flow was constantly broken as I tried to do all 4 at the same time. A graphic could take me an hour as I formatted and reformatted it as my thoughts developed. Now I draw it on paper, make changes, leave it to percolate, make more changes and that will still only take me 15 mins in total. Lorna then has the pleasure of formatting it, for me to edit it later. 

What I thought would be a short term solution is turning into a long term part of day to day working. My arm is much better now but Lorna remains for 1 day a week. Yes costs have increased but that's a small price to pay for more enjoyable, more creative and better work. 

Even if I'm unable to use Lorna I'm still going to use writing long hand in a comfy and more creative space more often. It's certainly made me think about the way in which technology has forced me to take on working practices that are, it seems for me, very counterproductive.

Alison Smith
The purchasing coach
Inspiring change inside and out

PS I know voice recognition software might be the way to go - but looking at my long hand pages and understanding how they develop very (and I mean very) non linearly I'm unsure how easy that would be. Never say never - but currently this process that allows my kinaesthetic and visual presences to be accommodated is here to stay.

PPS One word of caution - thinking, typing and formatting for 8 hours does provide variety and it would seem provides the brain with rest periods. Writing long hand with none of the other distractions doesn't. I have therefore found the need for water and high protein snacks has increased as my brain has been put to work for longer periods. 4 hours, with mini breaks, is about the maximum before at least an hour's break is needed from such creative thinking.