Monday 27 March 2017

Why all maps are wrong

Understanding the following concept 17 years ago resulted in my stakeholders saying I was easier to deal with - and me thinking they were!
The world map is a great analogy that demonstrates what we're doing all the time when we're developing our own world view & beliefs.

The video explores different projections of the Earth and mirrors what we're doing every day of our lives - making our own projection of what we see, hear, feel and understand, and storing that map believing it to be the truest projection available.

It's no wonder misunderstandings occur when we realise we're all using different projections.

17 years ago understanding that how I saw the world was only my projection/perception of it meant the words and tone I used changed, and as a result made my communication easier to hear. No longer where people told that my world view was right. Instead a world view was offered for them to make sense of from their own world view. Common ground was then found, and relationships much more harmonious as a result.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking procurement potential often using unconventional tools

Communication is one of the postcards included in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit that brings together a series of postcards from your soft skills - it's entitled Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills. More here.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

No one is a 100% brick wall

post now moved to my new website

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools 

Hypertext links take you to posts on the subject highlighted.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Standing in their shoes

“What would happen if a relationship in your life was significantly improved? What would the benefits be?”

Consider your own answer to that question for a moment – personally, departmentally, organisationally?

“Would you be willing to do what it takes to obtain that improvement?” 

More here on a Linkedin article written today on standing in the shoes of other people to help find resolution to often long standing issues.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal and procurement potential using unconventional tools

Collaboration is one of the postcards included in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit that brings together a series of postcards from your soft skills - it's entitled Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills. More here.

Monday 20 March 2017

Improving team relations

"Wow - team communication is noticeably much better since the session" said one CPO after a workshop I'd facilitated.

Yesterday I shared the outcome of a workshop where a procurement team were invited to consider how they were setback by arrogance. Use of some unconventional tools allowed the team members to give themselves advice about how their language and behaviours might be getting in the way of them positively influencing their stakeholders (follow the link to find out more).

One of the other agenda items was on communication preferences - on face value something that's fairly straight forward:
  • We all have different preferences on how we take information in, process it and make decisions. 
Not so easy to adapt our style though when we often think other people just need the same information as we do. It's simply too easy to think our stakeholders will need the same perspective of the info that we find interesting or enlightening, or will understand the information to the same level of detail that excites us, in the same format that pushes our buttons, etc.

If other people in our lives are like a door - then understanding between us and them can only be achieved if we can open the door.
You only have to think therefore about all the doors you've opened since leaving home this morning to realise how making an assumption that one size key fits all is ludicrous - with respect to opening doors and therefore, by implication, when communicating with others.
  • Pull back the bolt
  • Turn the key(s)
  • Push up the gate lock
  • Car door released when the key was in proximity of the car
  • Or pressing the 'door open' button on the key fob (not as I can do when tired and press the door lock button!)
  • Or if you went by bus - you had to put your hand out to stop the bus to get on, or press the bell for the driver to stop and open the door for you
  • Or if on a train press the top button
  • or is it the bottom button
  • Hover the electronic pass over a sensor for the car park
  • Push the revolving door 
  • Press the lift button for it to open, then push the floor level button to get the lift door to open/close
  • Push or pull the office door - with handle or not
  • Or use an entry 4 digit code, or thumb print or retinal scan (I may be going a little far with that)
  • and so on
There will be as many ways to open a door as communication preferences those you're wishing to influence will have such as:
  • Detailed & specific/global & big picture
  • Visual/Words/diagrams
  • Benefits you'll be getting (toward /the carrot)/ things you'll be leaving behind (away/the stick)
  • Motivators of achievement/affiliation/influence
  • Options/ procedures
  • Sameness/ difference
  • Primary interest: people/place/thing/activity/information  
  • Matching/mismatching
  • Proactive/reactive
Other strategies we need to consider might include someone's
  • Frame of reference - do they need others to tell them what to do - or do they only listen to what they want to do
  • Decision making: looks right, sounds right, feels right or makes sense
  • Relationship to time: in time/ through time
  • Learning styles: activist/reflector/theorist/pragmatist
  • Convincer strategy: the type of information needed to do this (see it/hear it/do it with them/read about it) + the process we adopt to be convinced: automatic/x times/y period of time/ consistency   
  • Response to stress: feeling/choice/thinking
  • and so on and so on
If you're familiar with Bolton & Bolton, DISC, Insights, Myers Briggs and other personality profiling tools, these each in their own way try to pull the above individual preferences into some common stereotypes offering a continuum of preferences which might include:
  • Judging/perceiving
  • Sensing/intuiting 
  • Thinking/Feeling
  • Introverted/extroverted
  • Assertive/unassertive
  • People/Task 
  • Cooperativeness/Assertiveness
It was one such preference the CPO had that made the biggest difference to team communication after the workshop.
  • Time required to make a decision
The CPO was unable to make a decision unless they had time to weigh up the information - so sending the information ahead of a meeting, preferably allowing it to sink in over night, resulted in more positive outcomes of meetings.

I remember one person asking "Are you telling me if I give you 24 hours to read my report first I'm more likely to get a positive response"

"Yes" was his reply.

The team all looked at each other and shared their frustration that sometimes it felt like they were not
trusted, that the CPO just didn't like their idea, or was just being awkward.

None of these were true for the CPO. The way their mind was hardwired just meant they couldn't say yes or no without giving the info time to settle, to weigh it up, and perhaps even view it from all angles.

Such a great example that we judge others based on our own preferences rather than take time to understand what will best facilitate increased understanding and therefore improve influencing.

I wonder might this be the underlying reason for your 'resistant' 'awkward' or 'difficult' stakeholders, suppliers or colleagues - you're just pushing and you should be pulling!

As with any door when you've got the right key and use it correctly the door opens easily and effortlessly.  

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

This is the 9th in a series of blogs applying unconventional tools or thinking to procurement challenges. On a scale of unconventionalness this post only comes in at a 1/10 - there are others in the series that are much higher, and require an open mind in order to obtain maximum insight from them.

Judgement is one of the postcards included in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit that brings together a series of postcards from your Soft Skills - it's entitled Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills. More here.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Are procurement setback by Arrogance?

"Are procurement setback by arrogance" was a question I asked a procurement team a few years ago.

Their initial response was "who us? ....never", and slowly as the day progressed moved to "Oh - I can certainly see why some of our stakeholders might consider our language and behaviour to be arrogant." Which then allowed them to develop a different strategy for stakeholder engagement than the one they'd been adopting.

As part of discussions around the Procurement challenges series of blogs I've mentioned the outcome of a session I facilitated with a procurement team a lot so thought I'd share the highlights here.

The title of the session was:

Our Journey to world class - making the boat go faster!

And the CPO's stated objective was:

Bringing the team together, and understanding what needs to happen to ensure team behaviours support achieving personal and stretching objectives.

The agenda included a mix of sessions: communication & influencing training, facilitated discussions/breakouts, and some unconventional tools.

The underlying structure of the day followed the process I'd developed for when you're feeling like you're up a creek without a paddle (follow hypertext for more on the use of this saying, which also explains why we used the 'how to make the boat go faster' in the workshop title).

Use of the saying meant agenda items included putting the anchor down and taking time to consider: how to get back into the main flow of the river, what was needed to keep them afloat, what guides and travellers were there to help them, calibrating their compasses, and taking paddles in hand and getting going. (More here on why I use metaphor in much of my work, and why it's such a powerful, and yet under used, change management tool.)

As part of the day I used cards from the Frameworks for Change Coaching Process *, and the following setback cards came out in succession. As setbacks they're inviting us to consider how the behaviour on the card might be setting us back from achieving our stated outcome/goal.
When the two cards were selected by two team members in succession, whilst some team members were open to the suggestion, I was also met with some dismissive statements.

Even when I asked "How could your behaviour be seen as arrogant" some responded with "It can't".

It would have been easy for me to label some of the things I heard as potentially arrogant, but how easy would anyone find receiving that feedback? And would that facilitate the change in behaviour needed?

I then decided to use another unconventional tool and asked them all to all stand up and move to one side of the room. I then talked them through the standing in their shoes exercise.

In this exercise they imagine looking back at themselves, and noticing what it feels like to be their stakeholder, on the receiving end of their own words, tone and behaviour. It was then that the penny started to drop - a realisation emerged that some of them were stuck in a stereotype of what procurement should, ought and must act like, rather than be more flexible in their approach and use the different communication and influencing styles we'd discussed earlier in the day.

As a coach my role is not to tell others what they should think or believe. My role instead is to provide the right environment and stimulus for them to tap into their own inner knowing and potential. Thus facilitating change inside and out for themselves. (It's certainly why I use the unconventional tools that I do - because they're great at helping people to unlock their own potential rather than have someone force the locks for them!)

As you consider standing in the shoes of your stakeholders, suppliers or colleagues would they consider your behaviour to be arrogant, and in what way might that arrogance be setting you back? As a result of that insight what advice could you give yourself to allow changes to be made that engender a more positive relationship with those individuals you wish to be influencing?

Another insight of the day significantly improved team working with their manager, and involved a conversation about the communication preferences of their CPO. I'll share that in tomorrow's post.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

There's an index of posts that I'd adding to as I write post like this - using unconventional tools to unlock procurement potential to resolve challenges faced. The challenges addressed are being provided by responses to a LinkedIn discussion.

* Frameworks for Change Coaching Process (FCCP) copyright Innerlinks I used the FCCP process more fully in a post earlier in the series - more here

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Ten out of ten on unconventionalness

7th post in the series applying unconventional tools to procurement challenges - with scores from 1-10 on the weirdness unconventional scale. You'll find more advice on how to get the most from these explorations here. The premise is to use the tools to obtain a different perspective on a situation - one that you're currently unsure what direction to take in. 

Be warned I'd suggest this exploration is a 10/10 so approach with an open mind, and be prepared to be confused a little before clarity emerges. I've certainly not found it an easy topic to explore on my own. 

So let me begin, and let's see what emerges ....

As we returned to the hotel after the walking meeting breakout in Warsaw during a category management workshop I said that walking could be used in other ways to find the solution to problems we encountered.

I've written previously about walks taken to resolve personal life challenges (‘not wanting to burn bridges’ and a more general ‘what next’). Today I want to share a walk to identify alternative strategies for the provision of ‘spare parts’.

This metaphorical walk would generally take place as part of the creative options generation session, ie after an indepth analysis of data has taken place. More here on the need to do this thoroughly, in a post written for a procurement consultancy I'm an associate for.  

As we walked back to the hotel, having discussed earlier in the session about the process to develop more conventional strategies for buying spares, and upon seeing the multitude of cars – parked and being driven -  I said “let's assume the cars are the spare parts”. Due to time constraints the exploration that day didn't come up with a conclusion – so this blog is my response.

Once we've selected the landscape we’re going to use as a metaphor for a challenge we're wanting more insight on, the aim is to then discuss the metaphor without reference to the problem. 

In this instance to discuss how to manage cars in the city without wondering initially what that means in reality for a procurement strategy for spare parts. In fact it's crucial that the real life situation is put to one side whilst the metaphor we've decided to use is fully understood.

From my perspective the aim for cars driven on the Warsaw roads would be to:
  • Efficiently get where they're going
  • Reduce holdups and delays
  • Minimise cost of travel
  • Obtain access to fuel/energy
  • Find adequate parking when needed
  • And to do so safely and sustainably
This could be achieve by:

Efficiently get where they're going
  • Use of well maintained cars
  • Satnav set to efficiency setting
  • Accurate and timely signposts
  • Appropriate use of roundabouts and traffic lights
  • Traffic lights with correct timings to manage traffic flow at different time of day and week
Reducing holdups and delays
  • As above
  • Speedy response to breakdowns on the roads
  • Prohibit parking in some sections of the city
  • Encouraging use of others transportation - possibly even offering park and ride
Minimising the cost of travel
  • Use of efficient cars
  • Effective policy for replacement of cars – assuming fuel efficiency increases as a car ages
Obtaining access to fuel/energy
  • Appropriately positioned petrol startups
  • Conveniently positioned charging stands for electric cars
Don't judge the suggestions just yet – the beauty and simplicity of metaphor is keeping the judgements about what is or isn't applicable or practical to one side. Remember this is a situation we're struggling to find a solution for. I'd suggest stuck because of the assumptions, musts, oughts, shoulds, resistance, fear and / or barriers to change we’re throwing in front of us. That is our current thought processes are what are keeping us stuck and unable to find a solution.

Metaphor allows us to put those doubts and barriers to one side and explore a totally different situation with the belief that once completed some of the solutions found in the one situation can be used on the currently stuck situation.

Yes it feels weird – it is weird – or should I say unconventional but since when has weird or unconventional automatically meantineffective? The first time we do anything new it feels weird, until it's the most natural thing for us to do. Most inventions and innovations are weird at first.

Let's continue ....

Finding adequate parking when needed
  • Do we charge for it
  • It is street parking or via multi story car park
  • What about out of city centre park and ride to reduce traffic in the city
Safely and sustainably
  • Set appropriate speed limits
  • Provide adequate road signage
  • Ensure satnav information re one way streets etc are up to date
  • Ensure drivers have a valid driving licence
  • Provide city driving lessons 
  • Provide fuel efficient driving training
  • Provide road safety police or cameras
Queries then arise about whether it's important to:
  • Reduce the number of manufacturers of the cars used
  • Reduce or restrict the colours of cars driven – or are your cars already just the red ones on the streets? with other colours of cars representing other buying organisations? 
  • Mandate the route taken by drivers
  • Prohibit certain vehicles from certain locations
  • Charge for access by vehicles negatively impacting the environment 
And to consider whether the following are important:
  • The building/offices and shops people are visiting
  • The other vehicles on the road
  • The pedestrians
  • The condition of the road
  • The control centre looking after the traffic lights etc 
If we apply the objective we normally have for spares to the cars then what does that mean to the above thoughts? It seems to be more about how they move about rather than what they are - is that right? Could that be right? What might it be suggesting we do differently?  

I wonder too whether I was too quick to decide the cars were the spare parts? After all the aim of the cars is to get the people where they want to go? Which would bring in other considerations such as:
  • Car sharing
  • Using the subway
  • Using other means of transport – bus, helicopter, bike, and so on
  • Reducing the need for people to come into the centre of the city – which could mean exploring the different ‘why’ for people travelling
  • Exploring the different options for accessing a car - buy or lease or simply rent it daily when needed
Once all the possible ideas about moving cars and passengers around a city centre have been explored then it's time to consider what insight we may be able to offer to the situation we're wanting more clarity on. Having access to the conclusions arising from the research & analysis, and strategic analysis phases will certainly help in being able to do this better. So too having a breadth of category stakeholders involved.

Suggestions might be:
  • Don't worry about the cars just concentrate on the traffic lights – ie what would the control centre for the cities traffic lights be like in the spare parts situation – a centralised delivery or payment process for buying spares
  • Or perhaps the control centre is where the store-men need to be located to ensure they're involved in the movement of the cars 
  • Set up park and rides in the suburbs and bring everyone into the city centre by bus – which might involve centralised distribution for spares
  • Ensure everyone has accurate satnav – ie do the stores managers know who the potential suppliers are 
  • Ensure everyone complies with safe driving standards - ie it doesn't matter who they buy from just as long as certain criteria are met
What I find interesting is this exploration would suggest reducing the make or colours of car are impossible to do. So it's very much about managing the flow of cars better, and getting inefficient cars and unsafe drivers off the road. Does this mean we shouldn't spend time trying to reduce the number of spare parts suppliers? 

Working in a group with this would allow for richer ideas, analogies and solutions. It's not so much about the new options definitely arising from the exploration of the metaphor, as much as following up on any ideas / tangents that emerge as a result of spending time looking at the metaphor.

I'd love to hear from those involved in buying spares to see if this has shed any additional light on the subject.

Other posts using metaphor which were a little easier to understand have used gardening as a metaphor for procurement, and applying thoughts about weather, busses and dancers to procurement talent.  

I'll get back to a 3/10 later this or next week as I continue with the series applying unconventional tools to procurement challenges.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

Hypertext links take you to posts written on the subject highlighted.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

How to have a flourishing procurement garden

Metaphor is such a powerful tool for facilitating change - it can get overlooked as too fluffy or even too unconventional.

I believe you ignore metaphor as a business change management tool at your peril.

Ignore it at your peril that is if, where you or your team currently are is not where you'd like them to be.

Change is hard, and resistance to change all too common, and yet change management is often overlooked when exploring either how to bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be or, how to resolve the challenges being faced to get there. (Follow the hypertext link for more on Implementing change using Kotter's 8 step process for leading change).

I don't want to repeat the whole of an earlier post on metaphor, but if you'll forgive me repeating the main reason why metaphor is so good at facilitating change, it's because it bypasses the following beliefs:
  • We've always done it like this
  • If it ain't broke don't fix it
  • We tried that before, and it didn't work then
  • But what will I do then
  • I like doing it this way 
  • It won't work
  • We're not going there 
  • I don't want to talk about it
  • I'm bored about talking about it
  • No
Or other variants in the same vein that mean we defend our position, and reinforce our current point of view. All beliefs that make it hard to be able to stand back, get some perspective and find a solution.

When using a metaphor we are asked to put the current real life situation to one side, along with those unhelpful beliefs, and consider what a solution within the metaphor looks like. As we explore the art of the possible within the metaphorical situation we leave our resistance and preconceived ideas to one side. 

Metaphors also carry a large amount of information within them - I like to say if a picture paints a thousand words then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures. Which means it's laden with potential to be unlocked and applied to the real life situation we're comparing it to.

For 20 years I've successfully used gardening as a metaphor for supplier management with non-procurement managers. It has worked because those managers know more about gardening than they do procurement. There's much to learn, especially when they realise we do mow, prune, weed, feed, mulch, water and put plants in the greenhouse, and yet often fail to do the same for suppliers.

No surprise therefore that non-procurement managers become more accommodating of procurement's involvement once they've explored a garden full of suppliers in a session.

As part of the series where I'm using unconventional tools to provide a different perspective to procurement challenges I wondered what gardening might have to add to the resolution of these challenges.
First a more general exploration of our procurement garden full of suppliers with a few vlogs from the archives:

The challenge many of us face is we may have a procurement garden like this:
Or suppliers who are just like these dandelions: 
Or this rhubarb
The answer may lie in companion planting
or ensuring adequate KPIs are implemented?
or providing sufficient support to suppliers? 
Examples that I hope have provided you with an understanding of the power of metaphor.

You may find reading the guiding principles will also help provide guidance on beliefs or actions that will help you in getting something from the above or following explorations. In essence using these tools just provides a different perspective from which to view the current situation - which may or may not provide additional insight.

I wondered how might gardening apply to some of the challenges people raised in the LinkedIn discussion I posted. 

We'll only know if I try.... Although first I think we need to put the idea of suppliers being plants to one side and explore gardening afresh. 
  • Behavioural procurement: All plants are unique. A successful gardener needs to understand the different needs of the different plants, and to then provide the right conditions for growth for each of them. The same is certainly true when dealing with people, and yet easier to remember when dealing with plants than dealing with people. Perhaps because as a fellow plant we assume other plants. think and behave the same as we do. (Another post in the series takes an alternate viewpoint to consider how we can release the bad cop image.)
  • Talent: Plants also meet different gardening needs - for example you wouldn't expect a rose bush to do the same job as an oak tree. We do however sometimes expect this of our teams. Which is okay if all you want is ground cover, or to simply fill up the garden. If you want variety, year round colour, highs and lows, interest, features, fragrance or simply grass that will cope with the kids playing football on it then you need to careful select your plants/people. One size fits all will never work. (Another post in the series takes a different perspective to look at how to resolve the issue of talent.)      
  • Talent: Plants grow if we give them the right conditions for growth - we need to understand what these conditions are, and which of those conditions we can realistically provide. Living in Scotland I certainly know many plants I could grow in Yorkshire would just not survive here. It's the same with people - each person is motivated by and requires different things. We can't just provide a sheep dip like approach, and hope to keep everyone happy. 
  • Expanding the vision of what's possible: If we're doing this in the context of a garden then I think of Kew gardens, Chelsea Flower Show, or someone going on expeditions into the Peruvian mountains to bring back cultivars to experiment with in the greenhouse - where success and failure are close companions. For me 'expanding the vision' doesn't get done within the garden but outside it - and if successful is only then applied to a small part of the garden first to see what happens. If as a result of a successful trial we bring in new plants, the old plants being replaced are composted or moved to another garden. Interesting to consider this applied to our teams - where expansion of the vision can't come when they're doing their day job. Only by having time outside the garden can they hope to develop the skills, to test, trail and be able to get things wrong so that their vision of what is possible is expanded. If we've changed the vision we may also need different plants. (Another post in the series has taken an alternative view on how to get procurement to expand their thinking about what's possible.)
The aim, as with any of the unconventional tools, would be not to critique nor judge the ideas just yet. To continue with the metaphor and expand the options and perspectives. To keep going, be open, have fun, and just use the metaphor and dig into those thousand pictures to unlock what may be hidden - to find and nurture that kernel of an idea that might just make a difference. There will be plenty of time to critique later, and that's when you can discard the unhelpful.
  • Shape the strategic agenda: Let's assume the garden is part of a wider stately house and garden that's open to the public. The aim of those responsible for running the garden then becomes ensuring that the paying public want to visit the garden as much as the house. They'd achieve this by having year round interest, interesting and rare plants, well maintained gardens, a great set of web pages showing the results of their efforts, special events (for red nose day, bank holidays, Chelsea flower show, quizzes for children and so on). As a result of these efforts there would be no possibility of being omitted from the strategic review for the stately house, because the garden would be a key part of the leadership team. Isn't that true for procurement? If we focus on the reliance on the organisation of the suppliers we engage then we should be a key part of the strategic agenda. Perhaps that's where we've got it wrong in the past - focusing on the price of the plants rather than their positive impact once planted! I suspect there could be much much more behind this exploration if a few people were to get into a room to expand it further. It's one drawback of trying to share the efficacy of the tools here - it's just me typing, and therefore just me inputing ideas too! Events and internal marketing come to mind too. Although there is a whole other exploration we could have about whether procurement are the general gardeners or the landscape gardeners - although I suspect landscape gardeners don't worry about whether they're part of the strategic agenda or not? (A post from the archives on No seat at the table may also provide an alternate and unconventional perspective.)
  • Maximising value rather than minimising costs: I think the above exploration provides some insight to this. We're focusing on the cost of the plants, as are some of our stakeholders. Where the focus should be is on the performance of the plants once they're planted and in situ. Use of metaphor might be a useful means of conveying to stakeholders where the focus is currently, and where it should be. (Although a more conventional means might be to show them the horror stories of procurement gone wrong.) 
  • Getting early engagement of stakeholders: I think these last 3 points are aligned when viewed from the stately home/garden metaphor point of view. Early engagement is a given if plant selection, location, and the general theme of the garden and it's events are seen as central to stakeholders doing their job well. We just have to find a means of doing this within our own organisations. (Another post in the series has taken an alternative view to why experts are ignored.)
How did you get on? What did you notice?

Did any of these suggestions help you understand what you might be missing? Or perhaps reading these ideas had you going off on a tangent that provided some additional insight? There's no right or wrong just thought processes that take us on a journey that may uncover something we've been missing, and that may just be the difference that makes the difference. 

One of these days I may think of a way of getting pipe cleaners into this series :-). They're certainly a very powerful coaching tool that removes the blocks for individuals in their 1:1 and 1:3 coaching sessions - if the evidence of recent weeks are anything to go by.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement & organisational potential using unconventional tools  

Hypertext links shown in the post take you to blogs on the subject highlighted.

I'd be very happy to further discuss your 1:1 coaching, 1:3 coaching, training, facilitation needs to support your team unlocking their personal, procurement and organisational potential. +44 (0)7770 538159

Thursday 9 March 2017

Momentum provides motivation

I was listening to Brendon Burchard on a podcast and he said "momentum provides motivation".

Read that again.

"Momentum provides motivation"

He didn't say motivation provides the momentum, he said momentum provides the motivation.

A great reminder that taking action towards our goals every day can also inspire further action. Rather than just the other way around.

We don't have to wait for the motivation to take that action. 

One morning a few months ago, whilst mid vision setting and thinking I had to have the vision perfect before I took action, I woke with the following words in my mind.

"Put your running shoes on."

It didn't mean literally, it meant put them on metaphorically and do something every day towards the vision.

As I often do, when I may find great insight or advice hard to accept, I made a collage. I think it's as much about the act of making it, that changes the internal beliefs and mindset, as having the resulting collage card and leaving it somewhere where I will see it regularly.

This is the collage I made.
Another collage I made at the same time was made to act as a reminder for me to do my hip mobilisation exercises daily. Exercises I know help my knees (and one reason I knew the running shoes weren't for actual running!). Exercises that I don't however do every day - other than when I did the 28 day challenge.   

The smiling face in the collage was made by the 5 year old from next door and is of me - complete with purple fringe (bangs?). Apparently he "didn't need to draw the white hair because the paper was white" :-). 

The great news is that since making the collage I have done my hip mobilisation every day.  
For me taking the time to find the appropriate pictures, cut them out, position them, glue them, talk to next door's son and help him with his drawing, and make the card was the momentum that has since provided the motivation to keep me taking action.

What can you do today to start the momentum to get where you want to go?  

I also make collage cards to use as coaching and facilitation tools with clients - more here. They were certainly very popular in a recent session with the Scottish Institute for Business Leaders with one senior manager saying:

"I found the approach valuable, and an excellent framework to help develop solutions from a new perspective. It was interesting how apparently random pictures prompted highly relevant thoughts. Definitely recommended, and approach with an open mind" left in comments in a recent post.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal potential using unconventional tools

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Insight from women on #IWD2017

I'm using unconventional tools to provide alternative perspectives to challenges you're facing (or even just niggles)(ie when the conventional way of solving a problem means the solution is still eluding you, and an alternate perspective may just be the thing you need to jolt you back on track)  
  • Challenge 3: How to get procurement teams to expand their thinking about what's possible. 
  • Unconventional tool to be used: Standing in the shoes of your role models
  • Unconventional (potential weirdness you might feel using it) score: 2/10
  • Things that will help you get the most from this post: Read the guiding principles - these provide more detail of the aims of these posts, and identify things that will help and hinder you getting the most from them. Remember you're going for new and different perspectives which will undoubtedly come from doing something different.
For more on the series of blogs of which this is one please see this post.
It's International Women's day today so I thought we'd try an easy, yet insightful, tool that simply asks us to stand in the shoes of our role models, and provide ourselves with advice from their perspective.

Since #IWD17 is about gender inclusivity I'm not going to restrict your role models to women.

The process to follow is: 
  1. Pick a challenge/niggle you'd like some insight on
  2. Identify a role model you admire (real or fictional)
  3. Metaphorically stand in their shoes   
  4. Identify advice they would give - generally or in the current situation 
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you've a lovely list of suggestions
  6. If your role model is an author, and you have one of their books handy, you could add in an extra unconventional tool of opening their book at any page and writing down the advice there too.
  7. Reflect on the suggestions 
  8. Outline a plan of action
  9. Decide when you'll take the first step
  10. Take the first step in the agreed time frame.
For example:

Challenge: How to get procurement teams to expand their thinking about what's possible

Role Model 1: Caroline Myss - author, speaker and truth sayer, even if a little blunt
  • Just tell them to pull there socks up - non of this mamby pamby wishy washy language they don't understand. Tell them the world has changed, and they need to change with it or go and work somewhere else.
  • Advice from her book: listen to your intuition and have the courage of your convictions. Do not pay attention to the data if your intuition is screaming "do it" or even "don't do it". 
As ever don't judge the advice you get till you've got all of it.

Role Model 2: Wayne Dyer - author, speaker and no longer with us 
As I said in a blog at the time of his death, for me his teachings included:
  • Compassion for self and others
  • Respect for self and others 
  • Trust and listen to your intuition
  • If we squeeze an orange we will always get orange juice 
  • You can't give away what you don't have
I also wrote this tribute that included the words
  • What you see in another is as true within you as it is within them
  • Find the music in you, and walk the talk with gratitude
Role Model 3: Captain Jean Luc Picard of USS Enterprise (from Star Trek)
  • Make it so
Role Model 4: Admiral Kathryn Janeway and captain of USS Voyager (from Star Trek)
  • As they say in temporal mechanics department - there's no time like the present.
  • It's you ... who underestimated us
  • There's got to be a way to have our cake and eat it
Welcome to my world - because as you may have guessed I'm not censoring who I think of.

Role Models 4&5: The Kidlets next door - boy of 5 & girl of 3
Advice: A belief that anything is possible - why would anyone even think it was impossible. Which reminds me of the post written after seeing astronaut Chris Hadfield speak earlier in the year - the sky is not the limit.

I suspect we have enough there. If you had any difficulty you might want to actually envisage standing in their shoes - but that does increase the weirdness unconventional factor to 4/10. 

The action is to now reflect on the advice and consider what action plan you can develop from that or behaviours or beliefs you need to model. For me they would be:
  • Believe it is possible
  • Consider how you or others might have underestimated the abilities of those involved
  • Show respect and involve them in developing the plan of how to get from where they are to where they need to be  
  • Trust they can do it
  • Ensure you are modelling the behaviour you want to see your team demonstrating
  • Listen to that quiet inner voice of wisdom - where does that suggest the answer lies. You may need to release some musts, oughts and shoulds to do that.
Do let me know how you get on applying advice from your role models to your own challenge/niggle. Or perhaps my exploration added something to your thinking on this or another challenge?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

Tuesday 7 March 2017

A different perspective on the challenge of Talent

I asked for your procurement challenges. You shared them with me in order for me to demonstrate the different perspectives the unconventional tools I use in my work could provide to these challenges.

The first post was a general 'Viewing challenges from different perspectives', and insights can be applied to any challenge in any discipline.

Today's is a quicker process - for me to write about as much as for you to read. Not necessarily less insightful, and its use was prompted by someone's response that 'talent' was the challenge that needed resolving. Others went on to elaborate on what specifically about talent was the challenge but for today I'm just going with the word 'talent'.

The Procurement Challenge - using unconventional tools to provide alternative perspectives (ie when the conventional way of solving a problem means the solution is still eluding you, and an alternate perspective may just be the thing you need to jolt you back on track) 
  • Challenge 2: Talent (You might want to think about your relationship to this challenge so that you can make most sense of the insights and perspectives shared later. You could also choose any other challenge to apply this tool to too. It's certainly better to have an issue to apply the demonstration to than just read about it. Which I suspect would leave most people cold and unable to see the benefit of it - a bit like reading about making a chocolate cake, with no pictures, and not then having the chance to eat it :-))
  • Unconventional tool to be used: Metaphor - if you're not sure about the use of unconventional tools you may want to read my post 'what has convention ever done for us?'
  • Unconventional (potential weirdness you might feel using it) score: 3/10
  • Things that will help you get the most from this post: Read the guiding principles - these provide the aims of these posts, and identify things that will help and hinder you getting the most from them. I think an important principle is: Have fun, accept the absurdity, laugh and play lightly with the tool and insights. 
Metaphors are great because they invite us to set aside what we think the problem or solution is and look at what the solution would be in other contexts. By doing this we keep our minds more open and therefore more able to see alternative and perspectives we might have been closed or resistant to previously.

Other posts I'm sure will use metaphor in other ways, so too address talent from a different viewpoint, today I'm simply going to choose a number of 'things' (weather, busses and dancing) and describe them.

After we've had fun doing that then, and only then, we'll see how these descriptions might apply to the real life situation ie talent (or what ever you've chosen to bring to this exploration).

What observations can we make about weather?
  • There's lots of different sorts of weather
  • What's cold in Scotland is a different sort of cold from in Greece?
  • We need an accurate forecast - short, medium and long range
  • To wear appropriate clothing
  • Take appropriate clothing/tools with us - umbrella, sun cream, hat, coat, wellies etc
  • Embrace what ever weather we're getting 
  • Learn how best to cope with different weather conditions
  • Singing in the rain comes to mind (we could spend time exploring insight from the movie - or even try some of Gene Kelly's dancing to get our minds and bodies into a more creative mind set) 
  • I do wonder how seriously anyone took the policeman in the famous 'singing in the rain' scene 
  • Decide to do something different - ie stay in when the weather is really bad, or go out when it's lovely
  • We could move if we preferred a different climate 
  • Or perhaps undertake different activities in different locations dependant on the weather - ie not perhaps swimming in the sea in Scotland but skiing instead?
  • Does everyone like the same weather - how do we get agreement on what to do about the weather
  • What about climate control (which could take us down a whole other tangent of ideas)
  • I wrote about how Supplier management is like a thermostat last year and rereading it reminds me to ask - who's responsibility is it to control the impact of the weather 
  • We need to make sure our home is designed to protect us from, and make appropriate use of the weather  
The issue with doing this myself is the answers soon peter out - if we were doing this as group we'd be able to get silly and absurd much more easily. (I get a sense of that as I'm writing this blog, and keep returning to weather even though I've moved onto busses and dancers). 

We could just decide to stick with weather and keep going, but I'd like to see what happens if we use others 'things' as metaphors.

Please do make a note of any other additional suggestions that come to mind they might provide you with an alternate solution to the challenge you're facing currently. I'm certainly not going to have all the answers. Our unconscious's are very good at communicating to us potential solutions via metaphor - so let the communication begin with yours and start listening and writing.

It's also a little too easy when doing this to try to think every time we come up with an answer "how will this will apply to talent". The biggest insights will only be achieved by staying with the metaphor, getting absurd, allowing our unconscious to provide some answers that we can make sense of later. 

Judging ideas too soon means we're stopping our creative juices from flowing - it's likely the best ideas will only come after we've spent some time on this, started to relax and started to have some fun! I can certainly say that 10 mins in to writing the post and I'm getting more ideas as I get into the 'groove'.

Busses or trains

What observations can we make about busses or trains (Although the picture reminds me that we could ask what observations can we make about trains and weather together?)
  • They need to be well maintained
  • Be driven by a competent driver
  • Driven on well maintained roads/tracks
  • With a varied and wide timetable
  • Timetable that is communciated
  • With agreed routes
  • Be able to get us there and back
  • Be clean
  • Feel safe when we're on them 
  • Keep emissions low 
  • Enough parking along side the station/stop - I have to drive to a different station further away just to get a parking spot 
  • Close proximity of stops/stations to home/destination 
  • Value for money prices
  • Alternatives exist to either walk, cycle, drive or even fly (there's even something about feet do the walking, bikes the cycling, cars the driving, and planes the flying but can't quite get my head around the insight there (how annoying) 
  • Ease to book/buy tickets - location and options available (cash, card, contactless or in advance)
  • Have enough room (enough carriages)
  • Be able to flex room available - I remember standing in a carriage into Edinburgh when there was a Scotland/England rugby game at Murrayfield that was interesting to say the least!
  • Ensure we have the right leaves, snow to allow them to operate on the route
  • Rules of the track/road - ie speed limits etc
We could also have chosen other disciplines to learn from.

What observaions do we have about dancers:
  • Most dancers start from an early age
  • They need access to great dance teachers
  • They never stop learning 
  • It's not just about dancing but also about looking after their bodies and general health
  • They practice every day
  • They have a style of dance they excel at - ballet, tap, street, contemporary and so on. So whilst So you think you can dance invites them to be good at all styles generally they concentrate on the one style 
  • They warm up before every performance
  • They get applause after every performance
  • They're used to the success and failure of the audition 
  • They can branch out to be singers or even actors.  
  • Many become teachers themselves
  • They need to keep their muscles warm 
The idea is to keep going on one or all of these metaphors, and stop just before you start getting bored!

Once we've listed all the ideas we then apply them back to the original problem ie talent. Which for me brings to mind (in no particular order):
  • Getting universities and schools interested in procurement  
  • Warm up every day to get into the right state of mind and body for the task in hand - something we rarely do just taking what ever state of mind and body we're in into every meeting.
  • Practice procurement skills every day - not assume we know how to - but practice as a group on specific routines   
  • Show appreciation for the work done regularly 
  • Ensure people teach each other how to do things - ie openness to learning
  • Ensure we offer an environment that attracts the talent
  • Ensure we offer locations close to where people want to be 
  • Ensure the parking, canteen and other essentials don't put people off working there.
  • Allow people to specialise and understand what specialisms we need - ie let's not try to be all things to all people
  • Match peoples' skills to the activities they're asked to do
  • Ensure people feel safe to say they don't know, or need help 
  • Ensure everyone understands the tools available, when to use them and when they're not appropriate
What about you? What additional insights did you get - please do share them in comments so we can truly understand the richness of the process when done as a group.

I'll share another unconventional tool applied to a challenge later in the week - I'm adding them all to an index to provide a reference of different perspectives to dip into when facing any future challenges - personal, procurement, or organisational. 

Alison Smith 
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

Monday 6 March 2017

Viewing challenges from an unconventional perspective

Well I did ask for your procurement challenges and you shared them with me - there's enough for a few months of blogs and that's after only 3 days :-) ! Thank you very much for the encouraging response.

Here's the first in a series of posts using unconventional tools to unlock procurement potential. If you're a little unsure about why I'm using unconventional tools you might want to read my post 'what has convention ever done for us'.

The Procurement Challenge - using unconventional tools to provide alternative perspectives (ie when the conventional way of solving a problem means the solution is still eluding you, and an alternate perspective may just be the thing you need to jolt you back on track)
  • Challenge 1: Think of your greatest procurement challenge - or perhaps your most pressing challenge
  • Unconventional tool to be used: The Frameworks for Change Coaching Process *
  • Unconventional score**: 5/10
  • Things that will help you get the most from this post: Read the guiding principles - these provide more detail of the aims of these posts, and identify things that will help and hinder you getting the most from them. I think an important principle as we start is: Have fun, accept the absurdity, laugh and play lightly with the tools and insights. (Where insight comes from can't be forced - if your brain takes you off on a tangent in response to something I write - please do allow yourself time to explore the tangent.)  
Future posts will pick specific procurement challenges, and then apply an unconventional tool to them. Although I can safely say many of them will equally apply to other disciplines and professions.

Today I want to see if one of the unconventional tools can help you uncover insight now - not wait until I pick your specific challenge.

It's called the Frameworks for Change Coaching Process (FCCP) * and has a set of 3 cards: insights, setbacks and mentors.
In a 1:1, 1:3 coaching or facilitated group session a card is picked and then discussed before picking another card. Here I'm going to list the cards first to give you a chance to explore your own relationship to the words on the card, in relation to the challenge you're facing. I will then share some common interpretations and insights from those cards.

Insight cards: Invite you to consider how you might already be, or could express the words on the card more fully in the current situation.

Setback cards: Setbacks, until released, slow us down and can get in the way of us achieving our stated goals. The setback cards invite you to consider how you might be setback by the words on the card, and what action you could take to release the setback (Sometimes the action can also come from the discussions arising from succeeding cards).

Mentors: Consider a role model or mentor who expresses the quality written on the card and consider what they would do in the situation. (Alternatively, especially for anyone familiar and comfortable with meditation, and I know not everyone is, allow the energy on the card to come into your energy field via any means that makes most sense to you.)

Action: Bring your pressing challenge to mind and consider your response to the following cards.
Action: What action(s) might one or all of the cards be pointing you towards, and when could you take that action(s)?
  • Insight: You value and express the quality of inspiration in the present situation.
  • Potential setback: You are setback by conflict in the present situation.
  • Insight: By making room for a personal life, you successfully avoid stress.
  • Insight: You demonstrate integrity in your personal, social and business relationships.
  • Mentor: Courage.
  • Potential setback: You are set back by separation in the present situation.
  • Insight: Your wisdom and maturity inspire changes inside and out.
  • Mentor: Simplicity.
  • Potential Setback: You are setback by criticism in the present situation.
  • Mentor: Enthusiasm. 
I can't stress enough that your own exploration will have more validity than the following more general comments from me. Especially as for example inspiration will have as many guises as people reading this.

Which means I strongly advise considering the above cards for at least 5 minutes to allow your inner potential to speak and share what it knows to be the route towards resolution for you.
But just in case it helps here are my thoughts....

Insight: You value and express the quality of inspiration in the present situation.

Inspiration is essential when we're looking for new ideas and solutions. It's so easy for us to think we can just turn it on just like a tap and inspiration will flow. It's not that easy, and we often forget about the environment needed to foster and nurture our inspiration.

What environment allows you to value and express your inspiration? What can you do now to provide that environment?

A walking meeting went down very well on a recent workshop.

Potential setback: You are setback by conflict in the present situation.

Often when faced with a setback we respond by laughingly saying "yes I know I am setback by it", and act as if we have no choice about the setback.

Here we're invited to consider who the conflict is with - ourselves, within procurement, with stakeholders or suppliers.

How is that conflict setting you back ?

What can you do to release the setback (something that is much easier done when discussing and challenged by someone else).

I can't help but wonder if the conflict might be related to the oughts, musts, and shoulds but that perhaps says more about my own conflicts than yours. Could it be the conflict between doing what you think is right, and doing what you think you have to do according to the common stereotype for business? Just a thought.

Insight: By making room for a personal life, you successfully avoid stress.

Hmmm ... for some this may be a pat on the back for having a healthy work/life balance. For others my question here might be when did you last take some time away from 'the challenge' ie we can focus too much on a problem and allow it to grow and consume our every waking moment. Doing that certainly prohibits our ability to tap into our inner wisdom to unlock the answer.

Don't forget these are my interpretations today of the words on the card, and whilst I'd like to hope they're based on frequent insights from the cards after 12 years of using them, they could also just be because of how my day is going!

Just to say - coaching sessions often only include 3-5 cards. I've pulled a few more because in a group setting I've found that to be more appropriate and effective ie you may find only 1 or 2 of these cards particularly resonate for you, all of them do, or none of them.

Insight: You demonstrate integrity in your personal, social and business relationships.

What would doing this look like?

Mentor: Courage.

Who do you know who demonstrates the ability to show courage? What would they do in this situation? Or perhaps it's what would they not be doing?

Potential setback: You are set back by separation in the present situation.

Who or what is the separation with, and how is that separation setting you back? What are the negative outcomes arising from that separation? Often setbacks are about getting in touch with the discomfort involved - ie the discomfort can then provide us with the motivation to find a solution and release the setback.

Insight: Your wisdom and maturity inspire changes inside and out.

I love this card. A reminder perhaps to listen, share and act on your wisdom and maturity. Or to notice the impact sharing your ideas has on others. It's too easy to belittle our own contribution rather than notice the positive impact it can have.

Mentor: Simplicity.

In a world that likes to make everything more and more confusing and complex what would simplicity look like? How would you be acting to express this simplicity? What would you also stop doing?

Potential Setback: You are setback by criticism in the present situation.

Whose is the criticism you're listening to, and in what way is it holding you back? Or perhaps it's you making the criticism of others?

What would happen if you were no longer spending time allowing others criticism, or your own, to use up valuable time in your day?

Perhaps it's criticism about the simple answer provided in answer to the previous card. I could say get over it - a simple answer is a simple answer don't go making it harder than it needs to be. There's plenty of hard challenges out there without making a simple one harder!

Mentor: Enthusiasm. 

When faced with advice, even if we've given it to ourselves, it's easy to talk ourselves out of taking the necessary action. That may even be where the criticism from the previous card comes in.

What would enthusiasm look like in the current situation - how would that help you resolve your challenge, achieve your goal, or simply take the first steps?  What can you do to keep hold of that enthusiasm over coming days?

Action: As you reflect on the above cards - what insights, ideas, challenges, thoughts, tangents, or actions have come to mind as you've consider your own or my interpretation of the cards? What action will you take, who needs to know about this action, and when will you take it?

I'd love to know how you got, and get on.

I've previously shared cards and insights from a 2 hour session I facilitated with a group of  12 speakers in 2009 entitled 'Keeping on track in a downturn' that may provide a better sense of how the FCCP is used when aimed at a specific issue.

I hope you enjoyed the first exploration of a challenge using an unconventional tool to assist with unlocking potential. More later in the week.

Feedback below or via email most welcome. Do also please get in touch if you'd like to discuss me facilitating a session with your procurement, contract management or supplier development teams.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking potential using unconventional tools.

* Frameworks for Change Coaching Process copyright Innerlinks There's a personal version, ie non-business version, you can buy yourselves called Intuitive Solutions. It has 3 sets of cards - insights, setbacks, and the third are not mentors but act in the same way.  

** ?/10 on degree of unconventionalness. I remember a colleague years ago, that I was sharing my latest unconventional tool with, saying "if you'd told me 2 years ago that I'd be doing this I'd have thought you were mad. Yet I don't. It's as if I've gone on a journey with you, and you're always a few steps ahead on the unconventional scale". In other words I may have forgotten how unconventional some of the tools might feel when first used. Do leave feedback in comments.  

Posts previously written that use unconventional tools and that could relate to the challenges shared on LinekdIn this week include: