Friday 1 December 2017

Purchasing Coach: Advent Window 1: Problem Reversal

25 unconventional coaching and facilitation tools to surprise and delight

Window 1: Problem Reversal

Level of unconventionalness out of 10 = 2
  • Identify as many ways of making the current situation worse - ie how can you have more of the problem, 
  • Have fun and get absurd, 
  • Mind maps on a flip chart are great for this with everyone contributing (as you'll discover below, it's not such a creative process with one person doing it alone!)
  • Once you have a lovely long list identify mitigating actions to ensure the suggestions don't trip you up, nor are the reason for your future or continued failure.  
Festive/Holiday season example: 

How to have the worse Christmas/holiday ever.

Before the holiday
  • Leave everything to the last minute
  • Be very unclear with others about your plans 
  • Don't listen to what others want
  • Steam roller ahead with your own plans
  • Say yes to everything - work and personal 
  • Say no to everything 
  • Say yes to things you don't want to do
  • Say no to things you do want to do
  • Set unrealistic deadlines 
  • Focus on one task to the exclusion of everything else on your to-do list 
  • Have no idea what preparation you need to have done
  • Do no preparation
  • Put pressure and stress on everyone around you ahead of their holidays 
  • Start to erode into other people's holidays by giving them work at the last minute (e.g sending out a tender on Christmas eve with a deadline of 2nd Jan - but you'd never do that would you?)
  • Party hard every day running up to the holiday (although I realise for some this might make for the best holiday ever)
During the holiday
  • Read your emails daily
  • Interrupt other people's holidays with work
  • Ignore and don't speak to anyone (again this might be someone's idea of bliss)
  • Spend most of your time head down in social media 
  • Do nothing you enjoy 
  • Ensure only those that don't get along are invited to the same party/meal
  • Focus on the negative to the exclusion of any positive
  • Spend lots of time with people you don't get along with 
  • Be ungrateful for everything
  • Eat and drink nothing you enjoy 
  • Play at being Scrooge
  • and so on.
Solutions might include:
  • Be grateful every day 
  • Plan to do what you enjoy doing
  • Be clear about the criteria for success for you for the holiday
  • Understand other's criteria for success
  • Plan ahead
  • Develop and prioritise a to-do list - NOW
  • Identify things you can do in spare moments throughout the weeks running up to the holiday
  • Delegate if possible
  • Say no, or ask if it can wait till Jan
  • Use your out of office to manage expectations
  • Ensure people know now when you're planning to be away.
  • Don't go cold turkey with your emails - wean yourself off them slowly over December (other suggestions for email management can be found here)
  • and so on
If there had been a few of us doing this exercise we would have had a little more fun with it, and have identified some ludicrous suggestions that no one would ever do - and yet ......

You may also find that these suggestions could be applied to a challenge you're facing. As you reflect on that challenge review the above suggestions and notice what you notice. You may just be surprised with what you discover.


Benefits: Fun means of finding solutions without the defences going up about the reason for the current situation. Great way of uncovering the obvious we're ignoring/have forgotten about!

Uses: Strategy and Vision Setting, Coaching, Problem Solving, Creativity & Innovation

Participants: Better when there's a few of you to bounce ideas off each other and have fun together.

Alison Smith
Unlocking procurement potential - using conventional and unconventional tools
Procurement and Business Speaker, Coach, Trainer, & Facilitator +44 (0)7770 538159

Earlier in the year I applied some of the unconventional tools shared in this series of advent posts to common procurement challenges - more here. Otherwise, I wonder what will be behind window 2, and what tool will get the coveted 10/10 on the unconventionalness scale!

NB: Conventional thinking can simply give us more of what we've already got which is why I always consider the applicability of an unconventional tool or two in any situation.

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