Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Insight from the FRB Closure

Unless you live in Scotland you may be forgiven for not knowing that the Forth Road Bridge (FRB) has been closed. It was closed on 3rd December for at least a month for urgent repairs. This closure means diversions of over 30 miles, over single carriage way roads, resulting in lengthy delays for the 70k vehicles that use it daily - see more here.

Bus and train capacity has been increased, and police are out in force to ensure the multiple diversion routes are adhered to (Buses, HGV & LGV vehicles have been given the most direct route from 0500 to 2000 Monday to Friday).

Social Media is abuzz with information of diversion times, extra buses and sardine like trains - praise and complaint.

As someone who relies on the bridge, not least to get to Edinburgh airport (a normal 30 minute journey is now 90 minutes at best), I was pondering on the insights to be gleaned for procurement, and realise it's all about planning.

The sort of planning that procurement most often forgets to make time for too - especially for those more tactical, and less strategic departments where objectives and KPI's for procurement concentrate on price reduction, and ignore service provision, supplier management and value enhancement.

Planning such as:
  • Communication Planning
  • Contingency Planning
  • Exit Planning 
  • Transition Planning
For more on each of these see below:

Stakeholder Engagement and Communication Planning

Traffic Scotland have been very quick to engage with the public. Not only providing details of the diversions and other options (rail and bus) but also progress on the repair to the bridge. Normal road users are still frustrated but the information available has been excellent. Social media has certainly helped them to do that - with a huge Twitter presence supported by Facebook and more obvious channels such as the web site.

Insights to be gleaned:
  • Agree responsibility for communication - Traffic Scotland have taken the lead as "owners" of the trunk roads in Scotland which requires them to liaise closely with the bridge operator Amey who are undertaking the repair.
  • Ensure you have an up to date list of stakeholders - in this situation it's included: the police, drivers who normally drive over the bridge, local residents and businesses, road hauliers, visitors (especially those flying into Edinburgh airport), media (local and national), politicians and alternate providers of transport (Scot Rail and Stagecoach).
  • Complete a communication plan for each stakeholder - they won't all need the same information nor want it in the same way.
  • To avoid speculation, rumour and Chinese whispers keep stakeholders updated with the facts as they emerge.
Contingency planning

We had a very interesting breakout on contingency planning and exit planning on a recent supplier management workshop. I only wish I could have used the FRB as an example.

I'm sure many organisations got caught out due to the unforeseen nature of the closure, and therefore lack of contingency plans to refer to. For example I know Amazon, at the local distribution hub in Dunfermline, ended up paying temporary staff to tidy up the warehouse due to lack of product on the shelves when it first happened.

Insights to be gleaned:
  • Ensure you have contingency plans for key suppliers, and key categories  
  • Update the contingency plans regularly
  • Ensure roles and responsibilities are clear
  • Don't just concentrate on the 'likely to happen' risks, remember to consider the high impact, even if low likelihood, risks too 
  • Understand and review contingency plans your suppliers have in place
  • Know what you will do if supplier's contingency plans fail  
It's certainly easier to plan when not faced with immediate danger or threat. Your mind can't always access the most logical parts of itself when stressed - so much better therefore to plan when you're more relaxed, with full access to all of your brain and all the options and solutions.

Exit planning

I can imagine the call the person responsible for building the new Forth crossing had when the FRB closed. Apparently the new bridge build is under budget and on time for opening in Dec 2016, and I'm sure a call was made to ask "can you do it sooner?".

In this instance exit planning isn't too appropriate - however for many organisations moving to a new supplier might very well be an option when a supplier is unable to meet its contractual obligations.

Insights to be gleaned:
  • Ensure you have exit plans for all key suppliers, and key categories
  • Develop the exit plans with your suppliers
  • Update the exit plans regularly
  • Ensure roles and responsibilities are clear
  • Agree the circumstances these plans would be executed
It's certainly better to have taken time to plan ahead. Rather than try to develop exit strategies when the exit is needed immediately, or already started.

Transition planning

If recent documents are to believed then the fault with the bridge was known to the previous maintainer of the bridge in February. The question to be answered therefore is - was that information accurately passed on to the new maintainer in June.

As the bridge fault was very close to causing fatalities it's a horrifying reminder that transition planning isn't just one line on an action plan but requires much thought and planning:
  • What information needs to be transferred
  • How will the transfer be undertaken
  • How will the information's efficacy be checked 
  • What handover is required - will both parties spend time together in meetings, and shadowing activities (most often avoided due to the costs involved)
  • Who is responsible for what
I'd love to hear your thoughts on other insights procurement can take from the recent FRB closure, and any thoughts on my observations.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A question for Tim Peake

See my post over on my Landscaping Your life blog inspired by BBC Radio 4 PM programme's request for questions for Tim Peake's, UK astronaut, first press conference from the International Space Station.

Q: "Standing in the shoes of the earth what advise would you have for its inhabitants?"

Monday, 14 December 2015

Enablers for effective team working

I facilitated a session with a team last week that explored the many aspects of effective team working. Much of the content covered has been covered in blogs over recent years, and so I share here an index of those blogs.

As ever I'm reflecting on topics covered I'd like to write future blogs on:
  • Problem reversal - a great technique for problem solving.
  • Bolton and Bolton's people styles
Do also see recent indexes of blogs sharing the enablers for Category Management and Supplier Management. Again arising from recent workshops I've facilitated directly with clients, or via other procurement consultancies.

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out (more here on why that's important)

Thursday, 10 December 2015

It's a conspiracy

Men - this might not be for you!
Procurement professionals - this might not be for you!
Normal readers of my blog - this might not be for you!

It's about the menopause, and is shared here because the site I shared it on, aimed at women, has had a clear out of their blogs, and occasionally I do have cause to send it to someone. I've therefore put it here for anyone it might help to see the situation they're in differently.

It's a conspiracy

The common theme with conspiracies is that certain people know something (usually something very bad), and don't want everyone else to know about it. Sort of ‘on a need to know basis only’ or ‘if I told you I'd have to kill you’.

Joking apart I wonder if anyone has died as a result of this conspiracy.

Crikey what a start to a blog.

Let's go back a few years - in my mid 40s I was confident, articulate, fun loving and outgoing. It was all these things that made me me, and I believed made me good at what I did.

As I approached my 50s things changed – extroversion was replaced with introversion, confidence flew out the window, and panic attacks and agoraphobia were frequent friends. Words escaped me and seemingly everything that made me me was slowly slipping though my fingers.

The doctor's advice was “its stress - just stop doing what's stressing you”.

Easier said than done when work hadn't changed – it was just my ability to cope with my work that had changed. Coupled with that I was very tired and struggling with low blood sugar if I didn't eat regularly.

It came to a head when a client said to my colleague “I thought you said she was an expert” after one disastrous meeting.

It felt like my life was imploding.

One morning at 0600 and mid panic attack I rang NHS direct. After 30 mins on the phone, after they checked I wasn't either having a heart attack nor stroke, the doctor said the immortal words

“Sorry to have to tell you this Alison but I do think you're suffering from perimenopausal symptoms” and then went on to tell me I had a lovely laugh, and whilst I might have thought my communication skills were slipping away he’d not spoken to someone so articulate for a while.

When I mentioned many of my symptoms to some female friends I was met with a response of “oh yes it's really bad – my friend thought she was losing her mind” or “it gets worse before it gets better”.

So why hadn't I ever heard of this? Why had no one mentioned it earlier? Why the conspiracy to keep it quiet.

Don't get me wrong I hope you sail through your peri menopause – many women do. This blog however is aimed at those who suddenly start to get their words wrong, find life more of a struggle and just don't feel like themselves. Because I'm here to tell you it can get better not worse - you just need to recognise what's happening and then seek support to get your body, and then mind will follow, back on track.

I know friends who have taken the traditional approach and had HRT. I went the alternative route and saw a herbalist. Within a month I was feeling better. She explained that when our hormones change other bodily systems try to compensate – with the adrenal and blood sugar systems taking over the brunt of the work. The issue is they can't do it indefinitely – yes I could eat more regularly and cut my cloth to suit my energy levels but that was only ever going to be a short term solution. When our hormones are compromised so too our ability to cope with life. If for example stress used to kick in at 9/10, on a scale of life's stresses, then it would now kick in at 3/10. No wonder I was struggling.

I’m sorry the blog is not as upbeat as my usual blog posts but it’s something I’ve wanted to share for a long time - and do when I hear “oh that’s the way its going to be from now on” or “It’s going to be downhill all the way” because that’s just a belief and doesn’t have to be the reality.

I’m sure the solution is as unique as we each are – the key is realising this isn't you. This isn't something you have to put up with, nor is it the way things have to be. You can emerge once again from the end of the tunnel and feel like you again.

Doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, naturopaths, herbalists, acupuncturists, aromatherapists may just have the solution you need. Which of these will you try first?