Sunday 17 February 2019

What's your strategy for action?

What’s your strategy for refuelling your car?

Or more precisely, what’s your trigger for action?
  • Seeing the fuel indicator get to 1/2 full or perhaps a 1/4?
  • Maybe it's reframing the dial and seeing that it's 3/4 empty?
  • Hearing the alarm tell you the tank is approaching empty?
  • Filling up every Saturday morning?
  • Heading for fuel when you’ve a long journey ahead?
  • When you notice a cheap price?
  • Only when you start to feel the panic about running out of petrol?
  • When you pass your favourite petrol station (for a while I frequented one such location due to the M&S food shop on site)
  • When you stop for a comfort break
  • When waiting to pick up the kids from a class
  • Or something else entirely?
  • Perhaps it's about exploring other options instead of a petrol fuelled car - electric? taxi and/or car hire.
Are you aware of the decision making criteria that you're using to support this trigger?
  • Lowest price
  • Lowest total annual cost
  • Lowest total lifetime cost
  • Retain maximum resale value for the car
  • Managing cashflow
  • Engine friendly - which I believe supports not leaving it till the alarm has gone off as we stir the bottom of the tank!
  • Minimising disruption to your day
  • Minimising detours
  • Efficient use of time
  • Access to car 100% of time with 150 miles capacity
  • Reducing stress
  • Predictability of your schedule
Criteria that each result in a very different trigger for refuelling.

The reason I ask, is that shortly I’m headed to refuel my car using a different strategy than the one I’ve used for years. A new strategy that will I believe will reduce my stress, use my spare time efficiently, minimise detours and I understand improve the performance of the engine.
You see, I’ve always resisted refuelling the car and my strategy for years, ok decades, has been the sound of the indicator telling me I have x miles till I run out!! Little did I know, whilst using this example on a recent supplier management workshop, that in addition to helping expand delegates’ thinking about the triggers suppliers might have for taking action to avoid problems, it would help me solve my own resistance to refuelling.

Understanding the decision making criteria and arising trigger people use for action can be a very useful tool for problem solving.

For example, in the supplier relationship management workshop we were discussing complaints being received about the service provided by a supplier. A supplier who believed their service was 5* worthy, and yet user feedback suggested it was *2. Once we started to explore the criteria both parties might have for taking action, it wasn't hard to see how problems might have arisen.

Even in the LikedIn post on the subject of refuelling the car it's easy to understand how the different criteria people are using could lead to heated debates if we were needing to find one optimal strategy for fuelling the car:
  • One fueller discounting the criteria for minimising stress (ie avoid the alarm strategy),
  • Another calculating the annual saving of always buying at the lowest price, and
  • Another getting annoyed at the frequency of arriving late for meetings having had to refuel to get to their destination.
What triggers for action might be fuelling ineffective practice in your life?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach

You might also find the post about using nature as our coach for supplier relationship management interesting.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Dear Organisation, with love from Procurement xx

Dearest Organisation,

A year has passed since I first wrote to you professing my love for you, and disappointment that we weren't doing more together.

Disappointment that our main role was firefighting,


chasing the low hanging fruit,

and ignoring the elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room that time and time again contributes to getting procurement wrong - such as in these very public disasters and gets bigger every year.

The elephant in the room that means, against our better judgement, we give you what we think you want and focus on price not cost!

This year let's make a commitment - a commitment
  • to listen,
  • to communicate, 
  • to understand each other's needs, 
  • to work together,
  • to support each other,  
  • to challenge the status quo, 
  • to be the change we want to see, and 
  • do great things together
I'm in - are you?

With love from Procurement xx

For a PDF of the full letter do email me or see my LinkedIn profile - because together we can do great things.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Insight from nature applied to Supplier Management

I love my job - but you know that right?

I particularly love it when I am able to bring everything I do together into one workshop.

Last week I facilitated a 'supplier relationship management' workshop. Although we decided it should really just be entitled 'relationship management' as we acknowledged our own contribution to the relationship and outcomes we get (50:50).

I say facilitated, but perhaps the better word for it was coached, because whilst we did cover some theory and models there was also lots of discussion to help attendees to explore a subject they're already doing on a day to day basis.

Discussion that touched on coaching improved performance, rapport, influencing, developing trust, managing meetings, conflict, and rewarding great performance. 

The aim of coaching is to help people to learn something for themselves - not to be told what to think. Coaching leads to long term changes in thinking and behaving - teaching not so much - unless its supported by coaching once back in the office.

We did touch on the GROW model for coaching performance of suppliers but we also tried a number of unconventional tools (see an advent series of posts from the archives introducing many of these).

Using nature as our coach and metaphor for supplier management was one of the tools that we used on the workshop that I was very pleased with the outcome about.

Imagine the following location:

"Idyllic rural location, ideal for hiking and climbing enthusiasts. Very sociable atmosphere with guests hanging out in the evenings, live music most nights. Unobstructed and breathtaking mountain views. Ideal for single travellers" 

What landscape do you imagine as you read these words?

For IP reasons I can't share with you the image used in the workshop but if you imagine the image at the top of this post with a series of hammocks hanging across from one cliff to another you'll get the idea.

The description above, that one delegate read out to us before showing us the image, had us all imagining something very different. It was used as a reminder to ensure we have the same interpretation as our suppliers about the specification and 'spirit' of the contract.

Of course, we know this insight logically and intellectually. By using nature we're tapping into our unconscious and creative mind. Tapping in more deeply to our inner wisdom might just ensure the insight is not forgotten when we jump to blaming a supplier for not meeting our expectations. Or when we're drafting an action plan and believe the words we're using are obvious and could never get misunderstood - could they? 

Other images and insights chosen in this exercise are shown below, although again I've had to use different images. You may want to view the pictures first and consider your own insights:

What action have these images inspired you to take?

Here's what we got on the day:

All the elements coming together and getting the balance right.

Penguins take it in turns to be on the outside of a huddle and take the brunt of the wind and cold. That is, they understand that can't do it alone and need the support of the whole colony to survive.

All parts of the garden need to be nurtured - watering, feeding, weeding, pruning etc. Other wise we'll just end up with an over grown garden. Which links to many post I've written about the link between supplier and plant management.

Rather than get too distracted with the trees we need to look beyond to the bigger picture to focus on the sky and what's at the other side of the current situation. To remember where we're headed rather than get side tracked or too despondent with the current landscape.

We should be this proud of the relationship we have with our suppliers. Relationships should look calm and serene from the outside even if there's plenty going on under the water.

Back to basics - we can only squeeze so much.

And one image that reflects another insight from the session was - that too much noise can dilute the message you're trying to make and you can lose the clarity both parties need in order to work effectively together. Which is why it's important to not over use the word "urgent" (but that's another post for another day!).

What did you notice as you read this post - what thoughts came to mind that might provide a different perspective on a situation you're facing at the moment?

I'd love to discuss how I may coach your team on any aspect of category management, or supplier management adding in or focusing exclusively on the very important aspects of emotional intelligence and creativity.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
+44 (0)7770 538159

For a wider use of nature as your coach see my Landscaping Your Life blog and also my book Can't see the wood for the trees aimed at helping you get back on track when you're stuck in a rut, up a creek without a paddle, going round in circles, are out on a limb, feel like a fish out of water or can't see the wood for the trees.