Monday 30 June 2014

We love the challenge but is it good for us?

"I will fight for peace - but if we ever get it I'm out of here - I like the challenge" 
These words resonated as I reflected on this blog that arose from personal insight, and a common theme that has emerged with clients in recent coaching sessions. The words here are my personal reflection but they also echo those heard in these coaching sessions. 
We know what keeps us healthy - so why is the lure of constant doing so high that we ignore our own long term sustainability - might the thrill of the challenge be the answer? 

A few years ago I had cause to re-evaluate the speed of my life. My body had had enough constant doing, was going through its own transition from one phase of a woman's life to another and ground to a halt.

Since then I've been acutely aware of the energy reserves I have daily that enable me to do what I need to do. I've tweeted and blogged often about the things that make a difference - many shown in the bitrebels infographic above, and also here in my prescription for positivity

What I've noticed is I may start doing all these 'positivity' enhancing activities but as the period without a holiday increases one by one these behaviours from my daily routine disappear. It's as if the constant need for doing takes over and gathers pace - more, and more, and more 'doing' to do. As this 'doing' takes over:
  • I start to skip lunch 
  • I forget to undertake exercise or cancel it from my diary
  • Breaks away from the computer are abandoned, and are replaced by connection to social media and emails
  • Food eaten becomes more and more processed, and more likely to be accompanied by my laptop/ipad
  • Sugar is used to provide energy when I'm flagging (if caffeine was my thing I'm sure that would take front of stage too) 
  • Laughter and silliness are infrequent companions
  • Quiet time is replaced with work and doing (for me my leisurely contemplative time in the bath in a morning is replaced by a quick perfunctory shower)
  • Time with friends gets cancelled
The clues, when I eventually notice them, come from realising: 
  • I'm feeling guilty if I've not worked 10 hours in the day or go to a 8th birthday party at 1700 on a Friday eve
  • I've lost all perspective of what's important and it's the end of the world if I miss a deadline
  • and increased irritability 
I suspect you may have other examples - increasing smoking or drinking alcohol are common reactions. Or perhaps taking your mobile to bed, and checking emails before turning the light off and again first thing on waking, or even in the middle of the night.

For me the 4 day break at Easter earlier in the year wasn't enough to reset this pattern. I emerged a little slower and refreshed yet it didn't take long before the 'doing' replaced the 'being' once again.

In 2004 I spent 8 weeks on holiday in Australia. It was only after week 3 that I truly felt my 'doing' had been reset and relaxation and a sense of perspective appeared. I was surprised then as I reflected on what I had seen as priorities that really weren't! 

How can we regain perspective when we're not allowing ourselves more than a few days away from work and those 'important' emails? 

When I set up my own consultancy and coaching business it took me 2 years after leaving full time employment to be able to reflect on my 'doing' and realise I'd let it all get out of kilter and balance, and had lost sight of what was important. 

Recently after 8 months of full time working with the same client I can feel some of those old patterns reappearing. How easy I realise to fall back on old patterns even if I know they won't support my long term sustainability. 

I'm not alone, perhaps I just think about it more than others, and I still don't know the solution. Like many addictive behaviours I find reasons for supporting 'doing's' continued need for existence. At some level I'm really enjoying the work - getting a buzz perhaps from the frenetic nature of the work - from the challenge. I'm mentally and emotionally healthier than I have been for ages. The question remains - for how long can the body put up with this? At what point will my body say "enough".

This challenge has me reflecting on the ICECAPS checklist. The final letter is S and stands for sustainability. Retaining our personal ICECAPS requires that every day we consider our personal sustainability when making lifestyle choices - the same as it does for the planet.

Me - I'm planning a holiday - Santorini sounds like a great idea. What about you?

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - in procurement and in business. 

Saturday 28 June 2014

Can you be faithless and therefore trustworthy?

I came across this blog from 2011 and as it's still something I use in coaching sessions I thought I'd share it again.

An article in Supply Management told us to 'Sacrifice yourself rather than your principles' and had me thinking about my favourite topic of authenticity and the implications of being authentic in the workplace.

There's a wonderful quote in The Invitation that asks...

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true;
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul;
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy. 

It's a quote I often share with clients and yet it's the one that some find they are unable, or should I say unwilling, to embrace.

During our day to day activities we work with other people, we rest with other people and we play with other people. It's during all this activity that we make promises - whether explicitly stated or implied e.g.

* I will do this or that for you
* I will support you
* I will be there for you
* I do believe in you etc

Sometimes these promises are very easy to keep. Sometimes we know we shouldn't be making the promise from the start, other times it just becomes harder for us to keep and other times the promise is no longer valid for the person we have become.

The issue is what do we do when the promise is one we know we can longer keep, when we know that it's no longer supporting us? In these instances many stick to the promises they have made even though it's slowly eroding at who they are and may even be making them ill.

In the Invitation the author shares "I suddenly realised that the people in my life who are the most trustworthy, are not those who always keep their agreements with me. Those who can be faithless - who can bear the responsibility of breaking an agreement with someone when the alternative is to betray themselves - are trustworthy."

Can you bare the accusation of betrayal to be true to yourself today?

Saturday 21 June 2014

When things go wrong

It didn't take long for the jokes to start about England's performance at the World Cup after Thursday's game. It also didn't take long for the fingers to be pointed, accusations to be made and denials and protestations to be voiced. Whilst I appreciate the media and their self interest will be stoking the flames of such reactions I did wonder how much this behaviour reflected what we see in business or politics. 
For example:
  • Something goes wrong at work and what's the first thing that often happens? Yep - needing to find someone to blame, the instinctive defensiveness from all concerned, lack of learning and open communication. Resulting in a future full of trepidation and holding back for fear of this reaction again.
  • Or something goes wrong at the passport office - yep let's see who's to blame, ridicule them, threaten them with sacking, shout, scream and as every day passes focus on the continued failure, and ignore the small and incremental successes being made.
By way of a change I'd therefore like to offer the England football team the following: 
  • Thank you for accepting the role on the team.
  • Thank you for accepting being in the media's glare and scrutiny.
  • Thank you for all the hours of practice.
  • Thank you for trying your best.
  • Thank you for being there when we needed you.
  • Sorry it didn't turn out as we, and I know you, wanted it to.
  • There isn't one specific reason we failed - it will be a combination of factors to which we ALL contributed.
  • We'll be there supporting you for the final game.
  • Yes the game does count because its the next step forward.
  • Now we've learnt how not to do it let's take the learning and move forward to even greater success in the future - together.
  • Thank you. 
I wonder how business and politics would benefit from more appreciation that people do the best they can at any point in time, less finger pointing and blame, and more focus on learning and doing it better together in the future. 
Just a thought.
Alison Smith
Purchasing Coach inspiring change in procurement through communication, collaboration and appreciation every day. 

Friday 13 June 2014

#indyref and procurement part 3 - consolidation

One of procurement's value levers is consolidation. The premise being if you buy more from a supplier the price will come down because of the increased cost efficiencies that arise as a result.

The continuum over which consolidation may take place covers:
  • Individuals
  • Teams
  • Departments
  • Regional business units
  • Subsidiaries
  • National organisations
  • International organisations
  • One global organisation 
Stakeholders often tell procurement that as an individual they can purchase cheaper than central procurement negotiating on behalf of the national organisation. That may be but for standard and commonly required items once the total cost of sourcing, negotiation, order, shipping, delivery, receipt, payment, storage, use, maintenance and disposal is taken into account it's generally not the case. 

There does however seem to be a limit over which the benefits of consolidation no longer hold true and where that limit lies depends on:
  • The goods and services involved
  • The income/profit/loss involved for both parties (as £ or %)
  • The similarity between business requirements
  • Power of the buyer
  • Power of the supplier
  • Cost of research and development 
  • Cost of tooling or set up
  • Competitiveness of the market
  • New entrants coming into the market
  • Substitutes available 
  • Political, economic, sociological, technological, environmental and legislative factors 
For some goods and services therefore negotiation at an individual level might make sense, and for others negotiation at global level may be preferable. 
The Scottish independence referendum has similarities with this continuum. Up till now Scotland, a subsidiary of 6.5 million people, has benefited or otherwise from being a member of a bigger organisation of 65 million. 
The indyref debate centres on whether Scotland can benefit from being independant or not. 
  • For some unique requirements specific to living in Scotland then the best place to negotiate and decide on sourcing will undoubtedly be in Scotland. Whether all of these areas are currently within the Scottish parliament's control I can't say. 
  • For others, where Scottish negotiation power is likely to be low, I can't help but feel being part of a bigger organisation would be of benefit. This undoubtedly involves any relationships with the global market place. Surely a United Kingdon provides better bargaining power than Scotland alone whether based on GDP, population or some other factor?  
  • Another concern I have is around the size of the set up and running costs. Some of these costs don't increase proportionate to the size of population. So 65m people contribute less per head to these costs than 6.5m would to obtain the same services. I'm not sure yet we fully understand the set up and running costs enough to be able to fully understand the impact of this. 
As an English born, Scotland living procurement professional this is one of a series of blogs looking at the analogies between the Scottish independence referendum (Indyref) and procurement. The first blog tackled the need for facts and data to identify the increase and reduction in revenue, cost and risk for every aspect of running Scotland as an independent nation. The second blog considered the belief that  the grass isn't always greener on the other side. 

Wednesday 11 June 2014

#indyref and procurement part 2 - the grass is greener
Procurement are often told by others in the organisation they want to use a new shiny supplier who has promised them the earth because then all their problems will be solved. They try to persuade procurement they can't use the current supplier because of poor performance and lack of confidence about their ability to deliver in the future.

Poor performance comes in many different guises:
  • Contracting with a supplier too small to service the needs of the organisation
  • Contracting with a supplier too big to find the organisation of any relevance
  • Lack of clarity and agreement about the business requirements and service levels required
  • Limited performance measurement
  • Limited contract or relationship management
  • Poor management and processes within the supplier's organisation 
  • Poor management and processes within the buying organisation 
  • Ineffective communication 
  • Lack of collaboration
  • Bullying and manipulation
  • Lack of trust and respect between both parties 
  • A one off error or judgement 
  • And so on
In other words poor performance isn't always a direct result of the wrong supplier just the wrong behaviours and information. 

I often use gardening as a metaphor for purchasing as it's often easier to relate to the fact that we've forgotten to feed, prune or weed our suppliers. To recognise that they'd be the perfect supplier if only we'd read the instructions about where and how to plant them, and if we fully understood the perfect environment that would enable them to flourish and so on. 

In the #indyref I'm hearing a lot about not trusting British politicians arguing that
Scottish politicians are better - or perhaps I've missed the point and am being told that SNP politicians are better! 

Politicians are politicians - I don't have any higher expectations of one than another. Although just like many suppliers politicians do seem to have the tendency of over selling what they can do, and then under delivering once they're in. One reason its useful to keep contract length under review to keep them on their toes. Unlike a new supplier, however, where there's a contract end date the #indyref decision is final - so let's not get carried away with the rhetoric and stick to the facts and data about current poor performance and future performance. 

Certainly any supplier suggesting they're significantly better than any other would need to be evidenced to be believed. I don't have any evidence that Scottish politicians are any less or more trustworthy than British ones. David Cameron, Alex Salmond, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg or Nigel Farage are all equal in that respect. 

Which means rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, if that isn't adding in yet another metaphor into the mix, I need to concentrate on the policies of the parties these individuals represent and understand the impact they will have on my life and the country in which I currently live. The fact that someone is from a particular country or party is not in and of it self evidence that they're better than anyone else. 

As an English born, Scotland living procurement professional this is one of a series of blogs looking at the analogies between the Scottish independence referendum (Indyref) and procurement. The first blog tackled the need for facts and data to identify the increase and reduction in revenue, cost and risk for every aspect of running Scotland as an independent nation. 

Sunday 8 June 2014

Analogies between purchasing and #Indyref

I blog for all sorts of reasons. Generally topics cover procurement, business, communications or wellbeing - writing about everyday insights that I feel minded to share. Every now and again I stray from this 'safe' list and share subjects that just won't let me go - however unsafe the topic may feel. Today's not so safe topic is the independence referendum (indyref) here in Scotland. 

Last year I wrote a blog entitled 'strategies need evidence' and suggested the same was true for the Yes/No sides of the debate. I realise now the analogy was flawed. At the time I compared the request for a Yes vote to a request for a change of strategy in a business. The problem is that in business those wishing to change strategy have to include the pros and cons of their preferred option in their analysis, and the opposition don't often need to put forward a paper at all. That's not the case here.

I realise the closer analogy to the Indy ref is tendering. The business (Scotland) wishes to explore two different suppliers
  • stay as we are with the current supplier (No) or 
  • go with a new supplier and independence (Yes). 
The difference with this new analogy is I don't have any expectation of the supplier to do anything other than tell me they are the best option. That is I don't expect an unbiased response. As there is no independent body analysing the data for us it's therefore up to everyone voting to compare the options, and to do this we need data (in tables or a series of worksheets - certainly not hidden amongst lots of words nor to be provided once the decision has been made.)

'No' invites us to stay as we are - so we just need to understand the baseline from which to compare the option of yes. (In reality in business we'd also be asking the No supplier what changes they may wish to offer going forward if they were successful. For Scotland that information has been delayed to the general election in 2015. So we can only compare Yes with the current situation.) 

In order to compare the new proposal with the current baseline we need to issue a request for proposal (RFP).

I'd suggested the white paper is the nearest we're going to get to a response to an RFP. That said if a supplier sent me a 670 page document with so few tables or appendices of data in it, and no detailed costs, they wouldn't get through to the short list. After all how can we make a decision without the data?

In this instance, however, Yes is through to the short list - so what supplementary data do I think we need to make a decision? 

I'd suggest we need to identify the profit and loss account and balance sheet of the supplier once the changes have been made. To assist with this we need to clearly understand the increase or reduction in revenue, cost or risk for each the following headings:
  • Finance (currency, banking, taxation, pensions etc)
  • Infrastructure (governance, highways, transport, international development and relations etc)
  • Health
  • Education 
  • Environment
  • Policing, justice, national security and defence
  • And all the other things that go into building, maintaining and developing a flourishing country
We also need to understand the % of costs unable to be determined until after the decision has been made. Generally we'd want this to be less than 20% to avoid any surprises. 

I'd love to tell you I know we have the answers to all these questions - I can't. Until I can then my vote can't be anything other than No. No use trying to persuade me with emotion - I get that every day from internal stakeholders wanting to go with their preferred supplier. My answer to yes persuaders is the same as I give to my stakeholders - where's the data to support it.

Becoming an independent country is more important decision than all the change of suppliers I've ever been involved in as a procurement professional. My worry is the data available is woefully less than any of those changes of supplier even if the RFP has more pages and words in it.

Over forth coming blogs I'll be sharing other analogies between the #indyref and purchasing.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Changing priorities

When I was in my early teens - in the days before frozen chips and frequent take aways - the food that could nag at me to leave the house at very short notice, just because I needed it NOW, was chips!

When I was in my later teens at university the addictive nagging to leave the flat would come from alcohol!

When I was in my twenties, and thirties for that matter, the call came from chocolate - no matter how late nor far away the shop might be (the benefits of car ownership).

When in my forties I don't recall anything that called me - the inertia possibly greater than the addiction to any food.

I laughed yesterday when, now in my fifties, I left my cosy home and went out into the rain just to buy a pomegranate. 

How our priorities change.