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