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:


  1. Having attended one of Alison's events, 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 recommend and approach with an open mind.

  2. Thank you Jeremy that's very kind of you to leave a comment. I'm glad you found the session helpful.