Monday 21 May 2018

Garden full of suppliers

For over 20 years I've used gardening as a metaphor for supplier management. It was the foundation for Landscaping Your Life, a tool I developed and use in my coaching, where nature more broadly is used as a metaphor for life.

Why gardening?

Because many of our internal stakeholders, especially those in the UK, know more about gardening than they do about supplier management.

They know that lawns need mowing.

Lawns also need weeding,

along with many a flower bed (or is it just mine?),

and the odd wall.

The power of the metaphor is realising suppliers also need mowing and weeding - just like that long tail of suppliers that needs to be reduced.

Plants also need pruning, whether it's to ensure they flower again this year,

flower again next year,

or to ensure they're fit for the purpose they're in the garden for anyway (ie like this rhubarb that once it's bolted it is too late to save it for this year's crumbles and pies!)

That's the purpose of supplier contract, risk and performance management reviews. Checking that suppliers continue to meet the needs of the business, and haven't expanded their remit into areas they're not supposed to be in, or clearly have no expertise on.

Sometimes plants/trees need chopping down as they're no longer providing fruit, and have died.
Like those Suppliers whose contract expired years ago, or that keeps getting extended, when no one is really sure what they do, nor value they deliver.

There are plants that are just coming into flower,

plants that continue to flower over a wide period of time,

plants that are just about to flower,

plants that open and close with the sun,

plants that will flower much later, 

and plants that never flower - and are there for their decorative leaves.

Always room for a picture of a cat me thinks, who accompanied me around the garden whilst taking my pics.

Remembering that each supplier has been chosen to meet different business needs. 

Each supplier also with their own needs, some needing time in the greenhouse before planting out (especially here in Scotland),

others more frequent watering,

feeding, or support.

The challenge in business is, that many managers treat suppliers like the tree planted in the corner of the garden, left unmanaged and forgotten with roots that are now undermining the very foundations of the house. Oblivious to how their own behaviour supported the undesirable outcome.

What attention do your suppliers need, and when will you give it to them? 

More analogies between gardening and supplier management can be found on this Purchasing Coach Pinterest board. There's also a number of video blogs on the subject over on a Purchasing Coach playlist.

Watch out on the Purchasing Coach Twitter, Facebook and Instagram this week for insights arising from Chelsea flower show #RHSChelsea that can be applied to supplier management.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing seeds for effective supplier management.

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