Monday 28 March 2016

Will you change the buyer/supplier archetype?

Dear Sales

I saw this quote from a connection on LinkedIn:

'..a sad state of the FM industry today. One of my team provides their best quote first time, in the spirit of transparency, to receive the following response. "What can you take off, as I know everyone in the FM sector always overstates their first offer" '

My reply to this, and the comments made, and other conversations I've had over recent weeks starts with something I saw on the beach this am.

It was a battle of wills between an owner, and his dog.

The owner had been throwing the balls across the beach for some time, with the dog happily tearing across the beach to pick it up, and return it to the owner. This pattern was repeated over and over.
At some point the owner wanted to go home, and therefore stopped throwing the ball. The dog stood there in the middle of a pool of water just waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

Perhaps the owner has won other battles this way in the past - unfortunately other dog walkers shouted up the beach to the owner "is your dog ok, he's been standing there for ages?", and the owner felt compelled to walk towards the dog, pick up the ball, and the dog then happily joined the owner as they walked home.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about stopping game playing in business. Isn't this what's happening between buyers and suppliers - we've both fallen into the stereotype of what's expected of us, and keep playing the game?

If one party wants something to change - just like the dog owner today we need to stop playing the game. It then becomes more about who wins the battle of wills - the buyer or supplier.

I can't tell you why you're seeing more Mr Wolf than enlightened Procurement (it's not the first time I've heard this accusation, as you'll find by following the link to a post on that subject). I've certainly seen my fair share of stereotypical sales people - who say they can provide the service when they can't, who only provide the minority of references with glowing 10/10, and ignore the majority 2/10. Need I continue? Stereotypical sales who play the game well - a game I'm afraid I disengage in - as you'll see from my post Enlightened Procurement.

So what's the answer?

For me it lies in the subject matter of many of my posts here on The Purchasing Coach blog, and applies equally to buyers and suppliers. That is, we all need to:
  • Be the change we want to see in the world - sorry it had to be said - and perhaps my biggest challenge when I get told I'm delusional about how the relationship could be by both parties
  • Be clear on our language - what does trust and respect look like to us? is this supported by our, and our organisation's behaviours? and would the other party agree? 
  • Stop using 'they/them' to stereotype others -  not only does it reinforce a negative belief we have, it also stops us from taking responsibility for solving the problem
  • Take responsibility for how our own behaviour brings out this response in others, and perhaps even check for any toxic leadership attributes
  • Stop game playing
  • Stand up to unacceptable business behaviour
  • Stand in the shoes of the other party - it's a tool that went down very well in a recent workshop to a sales team, and always provides insight to buyers
  • Share examples of good buyer/supplier practice, not just the bad!  
  • Check our language and beliefs about the other party before we engage with them - and ensure our beliefs (and therefore actions) support the outcome we want
  • Build bridges - which reminds me of a more metaphorical post using the closure of the forth road bridge before Christmas as a metaphor for broken communication
If you read the above posts you'll know I won't take too kindly to being told "but you're different Alison".

I may be, and I'm also not alone. Many buyers out there care about suppliers and their own organisation equally, and just want to get value for what they buy. Other buyers with beliefs that align with my own. Beliefs supported by the following posts:
Next time you jump to acting out the sales stereotype (or purchasing stereotype for those buyers reading) - remember you might be dealing with an enlightened buyer (or supplier) - please don't push them back to playing the old stereotype.

Be the change you want to see in the world - it's certainly time for a new archetype don't you think?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

Friday 25 March 2016

The language of change and transformation

I was visiting Rosslyn chapel the other week, and came across the word 'Transfiguration' in relation to a scene depicted in one of the stain glass windows. A scene that resonates with the energy of Easter for many around the world.  

I wondered at the time, in what way Transfiguration was different from Transformation, and was Transfiguration a word we should perhaps be using more widely in business?

Once I returned home I realised there's many different words we can use to describe change that is, or we want to take place.

Balogun and Hope-Hailey identify 4 different types of change, dependant on the scope and nature of the change taking place:

Interesting then, that in business we often either simply say "change is needed" or perhaps talk of "transformation."

Are we missing a trick I wonder, and simplifying this complex area too much?

As Caroline Myss, author and speaker, says, each word has power.

If you consider power in an organisation for a moment. Power has the capacity to inspire, and the capacity to damage.

That is what Caroline means when she says, words have power. Choose the wrong word, and it may take you down a path you never wanted to go, and one that is contrary to the business strategy such as:
  • Pain not pleasure 
  • Stick instead of carrot
  • Blame instead of empowerment
  • War when collaboration is needed
  • Collaboration when confrontation is needed
I wholly accept the basis of the above model, and yet wonder what power do these words of change carry with them. Could changing the word we use for change tap into a more aligned energy for the outcome we're wanting? 

Let's look at their definitions:
  • Changean act or process through which something becomes different.
  • Evolutionthe gradual development of something.
  • Developmentthe process in which something changes, and becomes more advanced
  • Adaptation: the process of change by which an organism becomes better suited to its environment
  • Reconstructionthe act or process of building something that was damaged or destroyed again
  • Revolutiona sudden, radical, or complete change (often accompanied by violence!)
  • Transformationa marked change in form or appearance
  • Transfigurationa complete change of form or appearance, into a more beautiful or spiritual state
What change are you currently wanting to take place, and are the words you're using supporting this outcome? 

On reflection, whilst I'd love business to Transfigure, I do wonder if we should use the word 'different' more. Have we got so anaesthetised to people saying we need to 'change and transform', and forgotten it means
  • Evolutionthe gradual development of doing things differently 
  • Adaptation: doing things differently to become better suited to our environment
  • Revolution: suddenly and radically doing things differently 
  • Transformation: becoming different
  • Transfiguration: becoming beautifully or spiritually different
I'd welcome your thoughts in comments below.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change  becoming different - inside and out 

Last week I touched on the power contained in the phrase "x% of manager believe their organisation is too focused on tactical concerns." The power seemingly given away, by blaming some other "them/they" for what's happening in the organisation - rather than realising they are the organisation they talk about.  

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Not just price reduction

Such a great example within a few minutes walk of my house about what Procurement is about - and it's not always about price reduction.

Imagine the scene - you've tendered and got the most competitive price for your road signage, addressed all the business requirements around service, total cost and sustainability and still you've been asked to reduce your budget.

What do you do? 

Reduce the size of the signs?

and this 

becomes this 

Just a great example that reducing budget isn't always achieved by reducing the price of what you're buying, but reducing the cost of what you're buying.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Are you getting the business requirements right?

Is it just me, or does this seem to happen often with teapots? 

Isn't the sole function of a teapot to brew a cup of tea, and then deliver that tea to the cup, without losing any of the water? 

There's lots to be learnt for procurement from this example, and also applied to any purchase an organisation is making - however big or small, and whether buying goods or services. 

After all this new submarine for the Spanish navy was reported to be so heavy it would "sink like a stone".

And Virgin trains's female staff were reported as having to buy non frilly bras, due to the flimsy and see-through nature of the material of their uniform blouse. 

None of these examples are really about getting the right specification either - as I suspect they all complied with the specification. 

The problem seems to be that the purpose for which the items were being put was forgotten, ignored or not tested. That is, the buying process I suspect became more about the cost of obtaining the specified item, rather than whether it would work in practice day to day! 

It's a problem organisations find themselves in often, and it's something that the enlightened buyer will take steps to avoid. 

Steps such as:
  • Having a cross functional team engaged throughout the sourcing process
  • Ensuring the business requirements encompass all aspects of the goods or services not just the specification - eg fitness for purpose, assurance of supply, support required, financial requirements of the supplier, whole life costs, ethics, sustainability, innovation for the future.
  • Identifying key performance indicators for these business requirements - to compare sources of supply, and to measure the successful supplier by
  • Agreeing criteria for selection that encompass all the business requirements - ie not making the decision just about cost
  • Speaking to other buyers of the same goods and services - for references, benchmarking, and to learn from their mistakes and successes 
  • Speaking to customers/end users, and asking what's important to them
  • Checking the credentials of potential suppliers
  • Auditing the manufacturing process and/or testing the goods before going into manufacture
  • Ensuing adequate training is available for end users (perhaps the angle of pouring of the teapot stops the leakage?) 
  • And so on
That is enlightened procurement doesn't just buy the goods or services at the lowest price to meet the stated specification. Enlightened procurement is about obtaining maximum value, and fitness for purpose, over the length of the life of the goods or services.

When did you last buy a dribbly teapot, actually or metaphorically, and what actions will you take to avoid that in the future?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach

Monday 14 March 2016

Moving forward and making progress with the FCCP

It's been a while since I shared the Frameworks for Change Coaching Process (FCCP) * on my blog, and thought I'd rectify that today.

The FCCP is a tool I often use in my coaching sessions, and when facilitating sessions with teams.

It's hard to put into writing the profound impact using the FCCP can have. Simply put - its a tool that facilitates conversations about resolving situations. It just does it in a way that maximises the insight, and minimises the resistance to hearing what is being said.

It capitalises on the fact that our minds are meaning making machines. For example if I asked "how does x relate to the situation" you will find a way of relating x to the situation. Since you need to access the creative part of your brain to do this, it opens up the opportunity to resolve the current situation at the same time.

Rather than just read the following example and think, "Oh that was nice but won't work for me or my team", why not have a go yourself - either by reading the following and applying it to a real life situation, or arranging a free half hour session to experience it for yourself (available to the first 5 requests received to

If you're still reading I'm assuming you'd like to apply the FCCP to a current situation that you'd like to move forward on. To do that consider your response to the following questions:

  • How are you valuing and expressing the quality of empathy in the present situation? What positive impact would that have? 

  • How are you being set back my manipulation in the present situation? What steps do you need to take to release it?  

  • What does moving into the next level look and feel like, and how can you ensure that you've let go of any lingering feelings that are holding you back?
  • What would a mentor or role model of peace do in this situation?
There's no rush - spend some time considering how the cards apply.

NB: One thing to notice, is any strong reaction or feeling of resistance - for example "NO" or "that won't work", and so on. It's a clue that a button has been pushed somewhere - and a button that needs exploring, not ignoring.

How do I know?

Try noticing the level of emotion if I ask you "How would eating icecream be useful in the current situation" - that's how you should feel if a question isn't relevant. If you're getting a different reaction it's telling you something - so do please explore it to find out what.

Here's my thoughts on the cards which, due to the unique nature of everyone's situation, may or may not add something to your own exploration of the questions:
  • Expressing Empathy - empathy can be with yourself, and not just with another person. Often when we're getting frustrated about progress we can get very impatient with ourselves, which in turn increases stress levels. What would showing empathy towards yourself at this time look like? 
  • Setback by manipulation - It's so easy to jump to thinking about the manipulation that others may be undertaking. I wonder, however, how we might be trying to manipulate the situation too? That is, pushing a particular outcome rather than allowing one to materialise. If so, it's a bit like we're trying to push the river rather than go with the flow. I'm not suggesting it's about being taken here and there at every turn of the river, but instead observing the general direction it's going, and taking action to determine where in the flow you place yourself at the same time as going with the flow of  river.
  • Move up to the next level -  release any lingering feelings that are holding you back. A great reminder that sometimes it's our beliefs and feelings about a situation that are holding us back, not the actual situation. If you knew that what you want to do is possible, and you do have the skills and resources needed, and would be supported by those around you, what would you do? 
  • Mentor of peace. Sometimes when I share these cards on the blog I wish I could put them back in, its as if it feels too hard to explain what might be meant! This is one of those situations. On face value peace feels like the opposite feeling one might need when wanting to move forward. However as I consider a role model I have for peace I realise it's about inner peace and having certainty about the direction we're taking. That is, once the decision has been made, make peace with yourself, those around you (supporters or otherwise), and the decision, and fully get behind the action plan that's needed to make it a reality.
As you now reflect on the original situation what insights have come to mind, what action will you take, and when. Does anyone else need to know about this commitment to take action?

I'd love to know how you got on - so do please share your experience in comments below. 

Other insightful and just as unique coaching tools I use include collage cards, and using nature as a metaphor for our lives - both tools only used with permission of the client, and as appropriate in 1:1 coaching or group facilitation.

If you're interested in finding out more about how you could benefit from a coaching session, or series of them, or how these unique tools might inspire your team do get in touch  +44(0)7770 538159.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach  
Inspiring change inside and out

It's nearly 4 years since I facilitated a session using this process with the Professional Speaking Association here in Scotland. It was on keeping on track in a downturn. The insights may still resonate - especially if you're wanting to embrace a new way of working. I loved that authenticity was the final card discussed.

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

Saturday 12 March 2016

Who, if not you, is 'the organisation'?

Author, speaker, and inspiration to me, Caroline Myss says "words have power".

Caroline doesn't mean sentences, she means each and every word. 

Each word has real power and meaning, and if we take time to explore those words we will be very surprised with what we discover.

The above tweet is a great example of what we do all the time, and the words used are a clue to why we're not solving the problem. 

First let me say I not going to query the % stated, nor ask for the evidence, because that's not the point I'm wanting to make. Instead I want to focus on the words - because the words used are heard every day, perhaps even every minute of every day, across and around the globe in organisations.

"Their organisation" "they" "them"

That is, not the person speaking but some other group of individuals, unnamed and unspecified, are doing or requesting the unacceptable behaviour. 

In this instance 'their organisation' wants a tactical supply chain. But who is 'their organisation' if not the person saying the words. After all we're constantly told the cSuite wants a strategic and collaborative supply chain, so too the CPOs - so who is this 'organisation' that wants something different? 

The following question therefore arises:

What needs to happen to make the supply chain more strategic and collaborative, and what steps will you personally take to make it a reality? 

I've written many blogs on us needing to take personal responsibility for the life we say we want (work or personal) - whether that's:
In these examples the words being used in business suggest the solution lies somewhere else. The challenege is, it always lies within us, and never elsewhere. We have to change, in order for the world to change - Gandhi was right ...

What responsibility do you need to accept and embrace today, and what action will you take, and when? 

The post last month about Procurement as Mr Wolf came about from listening to a group of suppliers talking about procurement. My challenge to them was what came first - their belief or the behaviour? 

If you'd like to discover the power behind the words your using personally, as a team, or as an organisation do get in touch +44 (0)7770 538159.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach, and Landscaping Your Life too

Other posts exploring the words used, in a variety of different ways, have included:

Friday 11 March 2016

Are you unhappy at work?

Apparently a third of workers in the UK are unhappy at work according to Monster UK, and reported on HRGrapevine - with only 12% of workers loving their job. The sample size wasn't huge 2844 - but is supported by other surveys.
How would you answer the question about your level of satisfaction/happiness with the work you do?

There are multiple reasons for unhappiness at work, and I'm going to concentrate on the reasons we can take personal responsibility for.

That is, today, in this moment in time, there's lots of things we can't do - alone anyway- and these include:
  • We can't change a toxic leader - however much we might like to - we can only change our reaction to them.    
  • We can't stop someone playing their games at work - however much we might like to - we can only change our reaction to them.
  • We can't stop a bully bullying - however much we might like to - we can only change our reaction to them.
  • We can't change organisational culture over night - however much we might like to - we can only change our reaction to it.
  • We can't change the nature of the work we're doing - however much we might like to - we can only change our reaction to doing it.
There are however in that moment many things we can do, and that includes changing our reaction to what's happening, and taking the necessary actions to reduce whatever it is that is making us unhappy in the work we do. 

Let's start with the obvious question, the response to which may seem a little harsh.

How long have you been unhappy? 

And if the answer is longer than 12 months.

Why are you still there? 

Don't get me wrong I've been there, and certainly got the T-shirt, and stayed somewhere longer than I should ie longer than was good for me, and the organisation. Which means I can list many of the excuses for not leaving:
  • I've put my heart and soul into this organisation for x years
  • I'm not leaving because of x
  • They need to fire z and then it will be ok again
  • It will get better
  • It will get better when x or y happens
  • Another job won't pay me as well, or have as good terms  
  • It's the only place to work around here, in easy commute etc
  • I'll lose my pension, holidays, flexible working etc 
  • I like my colleagues, and don't want to leave them
  • Someone has to stand up to the bas£$£ds
  • I won't go without a fight
As your coach I'd be asking "Is that true" for every one of these excuses, and I'd also be asking if the cost of the benefits outlined above are greater than the cost to your own happiness, and ultimately your well-being and long term survival? 

I can hear the responses now:
  • But that's what working for an organisation is all about Alison
  • I won't find anywhere different
  • It's the price you have to pay
We may have to agree to disagree on these points. We can however agree on the need for you to assess: 
  • How you would like your working life to be like, 
  • What it's like now
  • What needs to change to get from one to the other 
  • What actions you can take to make the changes  
  • What you can't change 
Which then determines whether you take the necessary actions to stay or leave.

Pointing your finger at others, and saying they're responsible for your happiness or unhappiness is the reason you're unhappy. There's lots you can do, and as these actions are as unique as you are, I'll just list some suggestions, and include links to other posts I've written that would help you explore that action more fully.

Some inspiration from nature via my Landscaping your Life blog includes:

Although there's many other tools I share on the Landscaping Your Life site what would help support any of the actions in the first list.

Other more general posts from this blog that might help include

If you'd like to take responsibility for the work you're doing, and your level of satisfaction about it, and need some support, you may want to consider getting a coach to help you.

There's lots of coaches who offer support in a variety of ways. The key is finding one who best fits the outcome you want, where you are now, and your personality. I'd be happy to be considered - do get in touch to find out more +44 (0)7770 538159
Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach and Landscaping Your Life too

Thursday 10 March 2016

How to get back on track

These pictures might not look much but they represent the difference between being stuck and getting back on track for one client.

I often share on my blog some of the coaching tools I use - whether that's metaphors, language, collage, Frameworks for change, standing in their shoes and so on.

I don't use them just because they're different - I use them because they're effective.

One common reason for their effectiveness is the way in which they bypass the barriers or resistance we have to making the changes we need to make. After all, very simplistically, if we weren't resisting (in one some form or other) we'd already have what we say we want (obviously sometimes coaching is about defining what we want in the first place).

Yesterday I used a very frequent friend of mine - and I'm not sure I even have a name for it - lots of theory behind why it works - but over time it's morphed into the following process.

  1. Identify how satisfied you are with your life on a scale of 0-10.
  2. Identify key areas of your life and write them on post-its (using size of writing, colour of writing, size, shape, colour and position on the flip chart  to differentiate between them). Areas may include: work, health, fitness, finance, home, hobbies, friends, family, relationship, contribution, spirituality and so on.  
  3. You may also, or instead, wish to include post-its for feelings - eg joy, laughter, freedom, openness, safety etc (see this post for a different way of using this process to explore your values, and the impact they may be having on your life at the moment).  
  4. Review the pattern you see in the post-its. How might the current pattern explain why things are, and aren't, happening the way they are? That is - is something blocking you seeing another post it, is one bigger or smaller than others, do colours make any difference - and so on?
  5. What changes might you want to make to the original representation? Don't just do this logically - let you heart get involved, and see if there's changes it would suggest you make. Taking care that you don't discount something that's very meaningful to you (which is easier to type than do in practice, especially if you're trying to do this on you own). 
  6. Make the changes, and notice what you notice. Might further changes be needed? Just keep going till it either looks, feels or sounds just right when you review it. 
  7. How satisfied do you now feel with your life? 
  8. What actions have arisen as you've developed this new representation? When will you take them? (NB the answer may be "none", because the changes have happened unconsciously. In which case I'd invite you to set a date with yourself to review progress in a few days or weeks time once everything has settled. (I recently had a very intensive sports massage session, and it wasn't until 2 weeks later that I realised the tension has finally gone completely. It had slowly done it's magic over the 2 weeks once the massage guy had started the release. )

What action can you take today to bypass the barriers or resistance you have to having the life you want?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out, and using nature to do that via Landscaping your life too.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

The Purchasing Coach's 10th Anniversary


Wow - little did I know 10 years ago today that I'd still be here working for myself 10 years later! 

Not because I doubted myself so much as hadn't thought about what I was going to do, and hadn't planned for it. 

I just felt it was a good idea, and went for it!

Feelings are certainly the way I've made decisions about what to do in the last 10 years - even if the procurement strategies I've written have been more data driven! 

Here's a snapshot of the feelings over the last 10 years.

It's felt a little erratic - at the start, and many times since.  

It's felt like the spark might go out

It's felt a little lonely - as if it's me on my own trying to keep the spark going.

It's felt a little confusing - as if business and entrepreneurship have been a different language to the one I use in the rest of my life.

It's felt like I needed, and got, support to keep the spark going

It's felt structured, focused and on point.

It's felt exciting - with lots going on.

It's felt aligned

It's felt part of something bigger

Making a difference, and adding a spark for long term sustainability - for me, the organisations' I've work for, and the planet

and I've loved every year, and look forward to loving every year of the next 10 years.

If you want to be part of the next 10 years do get in touch +44 (0)7770 538159 - whether that's to inspire change in procurement, business, or your life more generally.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach, and Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change - inside and out

If you were hoping for a list of insights from the time I've worked for myself see my post from 3 years ago Fab at 50 with its list of 50! Or pop over to Twitter and #alisonrbcmanniversary for tweets from the day that shared what I'm passionate about.