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Saturday, 17 December 2016

My year in Blogs


I've loved 2016 - I'd even go so far as to say it's exceeded expectations.

It's hard to say definitively why, but if I was to guess I'd say it's got a lot to do with doing the things I'm passionate about, I'm good at, and that also make a difference. A fabulous triad to be bringing into work every day. Well - not every 1 of the 366 days in 2016 obviously. Like everyone I have days when it's just work, and I'm looking forward to the end of the day, especially the day after a 3 day workshop or I've travelled back from somewhere! That said, I've have thoroughly enjoyed the largest percentage of 2016, and share here my highlights as told by the blogs I've written.

The Purchasing Coach's 10th Anniversary 
Little did I realise when I left full time employment in February 2006 that I'd still be here ten years later! Yep February was my 10th anniversary of working of myself, and the highlights shared at the time can be found here.

Soft Skills Development (or should that be: (Not so) Soft Skills Development) 
Soft skills development has always featured on workshops, and always gets a mention in the answer to 'what will you do differently as a result of attending the workshop' question.

This year, however, I've had much more opportunity to explore soft skills with clients via numerous half day 1:1 coaching sessions, and 1:3 clinics.

The clinics offer the opportunity to apply soft skills or procurement tools and techniques to current working challenges, allowing attendees to leave with a new strategy for dealing with their work then, and in the future.

Clinics in 2016 have covered stakeholder engagement, creativity, negotiation, planning & time management, and business requirements. Clinics on facilitation skills, and conflict resolution are being considered for 2017.

Feedback from these coaching and clinic sessions have included:
  • "I’m more: resilient to the challenges, positive, confident and motivated" 
  • "My stakeholder is now listening, and more respectful of me"
  • "I no longer take problems to people but also take potential solutions"
  • "Coaching has challenged me to think differently"
  • "It’s been great to try out different scenarios in a safe environment"
  • "I am taking more responsibility for my own reactions and judgement of others"
It's perhaps the reason I've loved this year so much, soft skills and personal development is an area I'm very very passionate about, and it can have such a transformational impact on the individual, those around them, and their results. What's not to enjoy :-)

Blogs on the (not so) soft skills have included:
With the occasional rants
Unconventional Coaching and Facilitation Tools 
I'm certainly motivated by difference. Whilst the syllabus for workshops might often contain similar content, the way of conveying the learning is in constant change. I'm always looking for a different and more effective means of embedding new insight, as much to keep me fresh and excited about the training as anything.  

When solving problems the more conventional tools and techniques have often already been tried by the coaching client before the session, and found to be unsuccessful. Sometimes resistance to change may also be making itself know. In these instances more unconventional tools, that keep barriers down, can be a huge advantage. It's certainly why I have them in my coaching toolkit. They don't come out for every session, but they're there to use if needed AND if I believe it will support the client in moving from where they are - to where they want to be. 

The more unconventional tools I used this year have included:
  • Use of metaphor - I LOVE it
  • Changing our language - because words have power
  • Exploring the metaphors contained within our language - for example going around in circles, getting out of our comfort zone/universe with links in those blogs to other blogs written in previous years on not seeing the wood for the trees, being stuck in a rut and so on.
  • Using our submodalities to change our perspective on a situation - in one post I explored becoming more confident using this process
  • Use of nature as a metaphor for our lives - such an insightful tool
  • Taking a walking meeting as we did on recent workshops in Warsaw (at the request of the client after the success of it happening at an earlier workshop) 
  • Using pipe cleaners to solve problems - one solution to a communication issue was shown in the picture above
  • Doing something different every day - it's such a powerful tool for shifting mindsets 
  • Frameworks for change coaching process - because sometimes we don't know what the solution is, and don't want to be told by someone else either, and might just consider what the cards have to ask us. 
  • Collage - yes you read that right - collage 
Procurement Transformation and Change Management 

There's also been time in the office developing category management and supplier management toolkit's for clients, and the accompanying training workshops (via other consultancies and direct). The above links don't take you to blogs written this year but blogs written last year that have been updated to include content covered during this years workshops.

Other popular blogs written on procurement this year include:
With over 80 posts written this year on this Purchasing Coach blog, and over 30 written on my Landscaping Your Life blog the above index only provides a snapshot of the blogs I've written this year.

and so finally...

Travels, and walking the talk

I left a voicemail message for my mum saying "I'll ring you when I get to Schiphol - no wait I'm not going via Schiphol this time - I'll call you from Brussels". I've also missed 2 connecting flights, had my luggage turn up a day later than me, and now need a new suitcase because mine has split!

In other words travelling has certainly featured a lot in 2016 - from Glasgow, Manchester, Derby, and London in the UK, to Atlanta, Shanghai, Amsterdam and Warsaw further afield. Many multiple visits, webex's, conference calls, meeting rooms, meals in restaurants and airports, and many nights in a hotel!
On my return from Shanghai in August I took a well needed social media break, and as you read this I will already have started another. I'll be back full of the joys and raring to go in early January (see Services for 2017 blog to give you a sense of what might include, and my new year's resolution "we didn't leave our humanity at the door" post).

Wishing you festive greetings, and a great start to 2017.

EnJOY

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Using unconventional tools to unlock the potential of procurement teams.

Follow hypertext links above to other posts written on the subject highlighted.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Are they answers or solutions?

This week I've been exploring how the language we use helps or hinders us in achieving our goals? Unless you find achieving your goals easy, and never come up against roadblocks, next time you're struggling to decide which direction to go this simple technique may provide another perspective.

Yesterday the use of the word 'problem' was identified as a potential block to finding a solution. Earlier in the week I wondered how procurement having no seat at the table could be resolved by looking at other tables where we wanted to sit. In both examples, in order to achieve a breakthrough in the current situation, we were 'playing' with the words being used, or perhaps 'exploring' them is a better description?

Today I want to explore the impact changing just one word can make. One word that has the potential to move us from stuck to unstuck, or from failing to succeeding, or out of control to knowing precisely what to do. The word may change dependant on the circumstances, and will certainly differ between individuals, but trust me there will be a word.
It surprised me too when I discovered it. Author and speaker Caroline Myss says words have power - I just didn't realise she meant every word we use has power.

Before reading further it's certainly going to make more sense to you if you think of a situation you'd like more clarity on, something you're feeling stuck about, or where you're struggling to find a solution. You can then apply the insights shared below to that situation, and discover for yourself the efficacy or otherwise of the technique.

The word I'd like to highlight today is 'solution', because for one client using a different word instead of solution made the difference from them not knowing what to do to knowing what to do - seemingly in the blink of an eye.

A few weeks ago a coaching client used the word 'solution' to describe a situation - ie they were struggling to find a solution. Their body language, facial expression, tonality and general state were not resourceful as they spoke about finding a solution. They certainly couldn't think of what they should be doing to solve the problem they had.

Until that is, I used the word 'answers' in the context of 'needing to find some answers'. Suddenly their body language changed, tonality became excited, and a whole set of potential solutions came tumbling out of their mouth! Even I was surprised at the speed of change in their outlook.

If you're struggling to find a solution therefore, or it's been eluding you for some time, you might want to change the words you're using to discover if an alternative might get you moving again.

For example, instead of wanting to 'find a solution' about a current situation, would using any of the following help you change your perspective and find that solution more easily.
  • Answer - find an answer
  • Resolution - achieve resolution
  • Reaction - decide how to react
  • Explanation - explain the situation 
  • Perspective - change perspective
  • Response - find an appropriate response  
  • Result - get the right result
  • Opportunity - identify the options
If you're applying this to a real life situation that you were feeling stuck about take time to consider each of these suggestions. It's certainly not about reading the list quickly, and then saying "Nope - that didn't work". As you use each word in the context of your example notice what you notice - does the situation feel, look or sound different to you? or have more ideas come to mind? or do you just feel less stressed about it? 

What about changing solution to:  
  • Settlement - agree a settlement
  • Moving - get you moving again
  • Key - discover the key
  • Intention - intend to do x
  • Unstuck - get unstuck
  • Ideas - explore some ideas
  • Observation - observe what's going on 
  • Quick fix - find a quick fix
  • Tweak - understand what to tweak 
For someone else 'solution' might not be the word we need to change - perhaps it's more about ensuring we use the plural ie 'solutions'. At least we'd not then be looking for that one perfect action but looking instead for a list of potential opportunities.

Solutions however, might be the perfect word, and it's more about changing the verb applied to it:
  • Identifying solutions
  • Discovering solutions
  • Exploring solutions
  • Understanding the solutions
  • Observing the solutions
  • Finding the solutions  
  • Agreeing the solutions
  • Achieving a solution
  • and so on
The key challenge in any moment is to:
  • Notice you're stuck,
  • Notice the words you're using to describe the stuck situation, or 
  • Notice the words you're using to describe the solution that's eluding you
  • Use a different word(s) to describe the challenge you're facing, or the outcome you want, or what you need to do to get there 
  • Notice what you notice 
  • As a result of the word change do you feel more or less stuck? 
  • What action can you now take? 
I know it sounds simplistic, and also weird (unless you're used to working with me already that is), but you only have to remember your reaction when someone last suggested you speak to someone you're still very angry with, or have fallen out with to realise how much power words do have.  

In another coaching session a client was using the word 'demands' in the context of 'making demands on the supplier'. In order to shift the stalemate that had been reached, I invited them to think of an alternate word, a word that might change how they were relating to the situation. For example the word to use instead might be: request, suggestion, position, needs and wants, stance, analysis, or the one I thought sounded better at the time for that example was 'offer'.  

If words really do have power how will you use them today? 


Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change Inside and Out - and here's why that's important

For support in developing soft skills in 2017 either individually or as a team do please get in touch alison@alisonsmith.eu or +44 (0)7770 538159

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Is your language stopping you from finding the solution?

Yesterday I suggested that the solution to a problem might be found in the very words we're using. That is, the solution to going around in circles may be to metaphorically explore the circles, or that trees would provide the solution when you metaphorically can't see the wood for the trees, or that procurement not having a seat at the table in organisations would be resolved by exploring how to get a seat at other types of table.

In this post I'm suggesting that the words we use can also stop us from finding a solution. As Caroline Myss says "words have power". They have power because words create internal representations in our mind. If the image that comes to mind when you use a word is this
rather than this
There's no surprise that you think and feel differently about the situation, and the likelihood of finding solutions might be very different too.

We're all different, and so a few of you may be more inspired by the brick wall, however the majority reading this will think of solutions more easily when imagining the 2nd picture or a similar image that conveys for them movement and ease.

I'm not just talking about words like can't, impossible and never which certainly tell the mind that a solution is out of reach but other words.

In the past I've written about using 'no pain, no gain' as a particularly unhelpful saying. Today I'd like to explore the use of 'problem.'

I'm sure we've all caught ourselves saying we've got a 'problem' and then correcting ourselves to say 'challenge' or even that the 'solution is currently eluding us'. We instinctively understand that labelling something as a problem means we're saying to other people, and our own mind, that it's all the things listed below.
We're telling ourselves at the onset, as soon as we use the word problem to describe a situation, that it's complicated, difficult, muddled and messy! Any wonder then that solutions are hard to find?

I saw the following job advert on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, and initially responded to say I loved the job title.
How fantastic does being a Head of Problem Management sound.

Until I considered what it actually meant, and could potentially mean within the organisation.

Does a problem manager just manage the problems - make lists of them, define them, sort them into piles and see success as well managed problems? Do those in the organisation go to the problem manager to gossip and moan about the problems. Perhaps there's a notice board where problems can be viewed for all to admire - ranking problems out of 10, and being particularly pleased when they've identified a 10/10!

It may sound silly, trivial or down right rude to you - and it might be. The proof is in whether problems in the organisation are lower or are now resolved quicker as a result of having a Head of Problem Management or not.

I'd love to explore whether a Head of Solution Management might reduce problems encountered in the organisation - you never know perhaps the Head of Problem Management hands their problems over to the Head of Solution Management for them to be resolved?      

What do you think? Would it make a difference to you? Do you notice the impact words have on you, and make a conscious decision to use words that support the outcome you want?

If you're getting the results you want there's no need to pay attention to the words you're using. If success is eluding you, or there's an increasing sense of stuckness then why not explore the language you're using to describe the situation. You never know, your language may just be what's keeping the solution at arms length.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

Available to help you and your team explore how the language and metaphors you're using might be helping or hindering you in finding solutions, and stopping you achieving your 2016 2017 goals. Support available with other soft skills development too.

To find out more do get in touch either via alison@alisonsmith.eu or +44(0)7770 538159

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

No seat at the table

I'm a firm believer that the words we use to describe a problem often have the solution hidden with them too. It's certainly something I often use with coaching clients.

For example, if you're describing a situation as not being able to see the wood for the trees, what solution would you have in a real wood with real trees (yes I really have written a blog on that, and had senior managers walking around a wood to explore it too).
Solutions when seeing the trees and not the wood might include:
  • Getting a map
  • Getting out of the wood
  • Following a path
  • Taking to higher ground to get more perspective
  • Chopping some of the branches or even trees down
  • Following the sun
  • Waiting till winter when the leaves have fallen 
  • and so on
The aim being to identify the solutions in the metaphor first, and once you've exhausted the ideas to then determine what they mean in reality. For example, what would getting a map, or perhaps using the one you have, mean in the situation you'd been describing as not being able to see the wood for the trees about?

Yesterday I saw the headline of a recent Procurious blog by Nicholas Ammaturo,

No seat at the table, time to build your own chair.

The blog explored what action procurement needed to take to improve the current situation of exclusion from the top table, which included improved education, communication, and sales.

I wondered what a metaphorical exploration of the words would uncover, and here's the outcome of my wondering. Do please leave your own thoughts in comments below, after all a metaphorical exploration will certainly be impacted and limited by my own beliefs and ways of thinking.

The first consideration is what table do we want to sit at?
Are other tables more or less favourable? What shape are you imagining the table is, and if you change its shape does the situation feel different?

There's no right and wrong in metaphor just suggestions and ideas. The aim is to stay away from the real life situation for as long as possible, to just get as many ideas written down. Go silly, go even sillier, certainly go off on the tangents your mind provides. Once you've explored the metaphorical situation from as many angles as possible do then decide which of the ideas might have the kernel of a solution contained within it for the real life situation.

To continue ... What's taking place at the table that's so important? Can't it be covered when you're not at the table? What would your advice be to a 5 year old who's feeling left out at dinner time in school?
  • Speak to a teacher
  • Find a friend
  • Offer to share a tasty lunch
  • Build up their confidence
Or perhaps it's about starting by sitting on the children's table first before we've demonstrated we're able to join the adult table?

Solutions to not having a seat at the table may also include:
  • Bringing your own chair
  • Bringing your own chair and table
  • Sitting on the floor
  • Standing
  • Sitting on the table
  • Standing on the table
  • Suggesting they move to or make the table bigger
  • Go for a walking meeting 
Building my own chair might also be an option, but it's an option that takes effort, skill and potentially enthusiasm I'm lacking. Although there I am doing what I'm suggesting we don't do, and being critical and negative too soon! All ideas are good ideas, and building a chair might work for someone. After all in the Field of Dreams movie they did say "If you build it, he will come".
So perhaps IT IS about having our own table and chairs and inviting people to come and sit with us?
If the table we want a seat at is at a swanky restaurant then the solution might be:
  • Making a reservation well ahead of time
  • Getting someone else to take you
  • Finding out and following the dress code
  • Saving up
  • Engaging the restaurant on social media
In most homes someone would find you a seat if they wanted you there - so perhaps it's actually about getting an invite to sit at the table.

If we wanted an invite to something, a party for example, what would we do:
  • Go as someones guest
  • Bump into the host, in the hope they'd invite us
  • Invite the host to something first
  • Send them a present
  • Just turn up
  • Ask for an invite
  • Ask why you've not been invited
  • Have other people who are attending ask for you to be invited
  • Pay for a ticket
  • Offer to make a donation to charity if you get an invite
The idea is to steer clear of thinking about the meeting/table you do want an invite to. When doing that it's too easy to start thinking "that won't work", "I've tried that before" and that stops us coming up with innovative solutions. This process keeps us open to finding a solution that might just work. 

Exploring what we'd need do to get invited to other sorts of meetings might help - to attend a local book club for example we'd need to:
  • Be interested and passionate about reading
  • Read the book
  • Have something interesting to say about the book 
  • Not want to talk about other books
  • Offer to host the meeting
  • Turn up on time
Or what about getting an invitation to see the Queen - we'd need to:
  • Have made a difference to other people
  • Do work which delivers fabulous benefits
  • Be the best at what you do
  • Ensure others talk about you to the right people
  • Become an expert corgi looker afterer
  • and so on. 
Think of other meetings and other tables and consider how you'd get to sit at them. Perhaps even chairs you'd rather not sit at:
The song from the musical Les Miserables takes empty chairs and tables into a new direction and asks us to consider the impact of actions that ultimately end up in us making sacrifices! (I did warn you - there's no good or bad ideas - just tangents to be explored that may, or may not shed any light)


Going in another direction completely we might even do a problem reversal exercise, and think about what you'd need to do to definitely not be invited to sit down. It's a great technique for identifying things you might be doing that are getting in the way of an invite coming your way. (Another technique where being absurd, and having some fun pays dividends.)

You may even want to play around with the words being used - what happens if you think about there being no 'bench' at the table? It's certainly feels less formal, and perhaps opens up the opportunity for more sociable discussions about inclusion at the meeting.
As I'll discuss more tomorrow the aim is to change our internal representation of the situation from one that is a problem with no solution, to a challenge that can be overcome. Any of these explorations might enable internal resistance to be lowered, and a solution to be found.

What happens if there was no seat on the amusement park ride ..... for me the insight is that there's always the next one to sit in, and it's never that far away!

Yes I'm afraid it's easy to get carried away, but sometimes out of absurdity comes clarity!
After you've got a lovely list of potential solutions it's time to determine what that means for procurement and them getting to attend board or c-suite meetings. Solutions might include:
  • Inviting the leadership team/ c-suite to your meeting
  • Having a regular meeting that everyone wants to come to
  • Ensuring you talk their language
  • Ensuring you're making a difference (one that would make the queen proud)
  • Demonstrating you have mastery of procurement - ie not just good at it but are experts
  • Believing you have a right to attend the meeting (rather than waiting for an invite)
  • Demonstrating the value procurement have delivered
  • Developing alliances with senior managers
  • Not running before you can walk
  • Ensuring you're visible and bump into the right people
  • Releasing your impatience
  • Releasing the formality and making it more sociable
  • ??
It's easier to apply the solutions we've discussed when you're applying it to a real life situation ie your mind will see the analogy and make sense of it and offer a suggestion. It's certainly much harder for me to be doing it remotely without reference to a specific culture, board, people, motivations, values, experience and process etc.

Next time you describe a problem using specific language you may want to spend some time exploring how the language might also contain the solution.

Tomorrow's post will explore how our words can stop us finding solutions to the challenges in our lives.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out - sometimes a little unconventionally

Other posts exploring solutions hidden in our language
Follow the hypertext links in the above text take you to posts written on the subject highlighted.

Image of trees at the start of the blog is one of my brothers - for more do see his website.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

A sense of Hopelessness and Achievement

As social media started to buzz with the forthcoming sleep out in Edinburgh on Thursday, in aid of Social Bite's village project for the homeless, I reflected on my own experience of sleeping out for charity in 2009.

Here's the blog I wrote at the time:
When I said I was going to be in a sleeping bag all night for charity people assumed it included a tent but it didn’t. A ground sheet, a mat, survival (or plastic) bag, sleeping bag and lots of layers then me against the elements. The elements sure had a sense of humour in Edinburgh on Friday night – 45+mph winds and rain too.

We bedded down at 12 and left at 6. So we were only there for six hours. Four of my team mates shared the same ground sheet, with other teams on other ground sheets within singing distance. I’m not sure an impromptu chorus of “always look on the bright side” was heard but a song about rain was. It was interesting to hear it gather momentum as we all started to sing from within our own sleeping bags at some point in the middle of the night. There were of course others on other ground sheets in 4 other locations around the UK. 700 sleeping bags in total.

At one point I could hear the rain, not dissimilar to what you can hear when you’re in a tent. But this time the rain I could hear was only inches away from my head falling on the survival bag I’d managed to pull over my head by bending my knees. The Byte Night branded wee willie winkie hat, that all 700 of us wore, was pulled down my face. The only part of my face open to the elements being my nose so I could breath. We realised of course when we got up in the morning that the rain we heard had then moved on to the mats and ground sheet and then had nowhere to go. So we woke in pools of water. If we were lucky we were dry although many weren’t and emerged very wet and even colder. 

There were some insightful moments I shared on twitter about the connection to nature as I lay there looking up at the moon or that you can hear the wind coming (we had about a minute of hearing it getting nearer and nearer and knowing any moment it would hit us too). 


But many of the other insights weren’t shared because they came when I was too cold to text and didn’t want to move for fear of the rain or wind then being able to get at me. 

Insights that some people do this every night. Imagine not really being able to get comfy enough to fall asleep or the cramps and aches because of how you’d had to sleep to keep dry and out of the wind. What about not getting up to go to the toilet because you know you’d then have to get back into your sleeping bag with all your wet clothes on. Or knowing when you do get up that you’re going to have to dry your clothes and sleeping bag somehow. I had a whole new sense of appreciation for the hand dryer in the toilet the next morning. If there hadn’t been a queue I’d loved to have stayed there longer getting dryer and warmer.

We were there to support Action for Children who support homeless young people. Scotland has a higher percentage than anywhere else in the UK with 15 in 1000 of young people being homeless. We were there for one night. I could get up the next day and throw the wet and soaking sleeping bag, mat and clothes into the survival bag, throw that into the boot of my car, call into Tesco as I drove home, collapse into a nice warm bath and then have a massage from a friend later on. My face that had the brunt of the wind was able to be well moisturised during the day. Similarly my feet that had got wet and stayed wet all night.

Those we were supporting aren’t so lucky. I’m not sure they do get things dry and can’t imagine the physical aches and pain everyday that join the emotional ones of why they’re even there in the first place. So hopelessness in the title because that’s how a night in the rain can make you feel. I certainly understand why people who do this every night can get into a spiral unable to see a way out? I also understand why those who support Action for Children do what they do to help young people out of the spiral. 

Achievement because it’s something I wasn’t expecting. As the weekend has progresses the sense of achievement has increased. I didn’t realise I’d feel proud of doing it nor that it would make me realise how much I can do if I set my mind to it. I’d done it to raise money after all and as a team am pleased we raised over £1.8k and as a location over £45k and increasing.

So today’s call for action is to do something that really feels like it’s outside your comfort zone and realise how much more you can do. If that doing then helps others that’s even better.


In the intervening 7 years the need for a call for action unfortunately hasn't changed, even if the charity being supported has. Next time you go to walk past someone asking for some change on the street why not stop, or support social bite by giving generously, or alternatively buy your lunch from their Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen shopsor choose to help someone who needs it to get themselves literally and metaphorically back on their feet, because we all need a hand, and a friendly face, now and again.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Are you feeling festive?

My social media feed is full of people saying that they're now feeling festive. Generally this feeling has been preceded by seeing or doing something - whether that's receiving their first Christmas card, wrapping the presents, singing the first carol or, as in my case, decorating the tree. 

In other words we're attributing a feeling we're having to an external stimulus. 

It's interesting that we often forget this wonderful strategy when we're in need of changing how we're feeling. I'm sure we can all recall times when for example being more confident, positive, calm, or focused is eluding us, and yet is just what we do need for the task in hand.

We have a choice in that moment about staying with the state of mind we're in, or doing something to change it.  

It's a bit like the song that's just started playing on my ipad - we have a choice what style we sing Hark the Herald angels in. We don't have to end as we started. In any moment we're free to turn the dial up or down, to find just the right emotion we need. 
   
I've written before about my prescription for positivity. It's a checklist I have for things I know shift my state to a more positive one. A list that includes listening to songs that help, and will now have another Pentatonix song added to it "Mary did you know" - which gives me goosebumps and a sense of connection with all that is, and of hope for the future. A sense of hope that I take into my work after listening to it. (Or perhaps I'm just in a Pentatonix sort of mood :-) - they were recently on The Voice over in the US singing Jolene with Dolly and Miley!)

The prescriptions we have to achieve any emotion will be unique, and will also include things to stop doing as much as things to start doing as I wrote about in posts about happiness, not spending time with miserable mackerels, or sitting at my desk and trying to be creative!
Other posts I've written have explored the strategies we may employ to achieve states of mind such as creativity, more bounce, and presence

Using external triggers to shift our state of mind is also a frequent theme I explore over on Landscaping your Life where I use nature to inspire change - posts have included confidence, and speaking with confidence.       

What state of mind do you need to achieve your goals today, and what do you need to do to be fully present in that state?   

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

and sometimes feeling festive may just require waiting for a different time of day!
Follow the hypertext links in the text to other posts I've written on the subjects highlighted.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Are your KPIs inspiring positive change?

The challenge when developing workshops is to ensure that the sessions and breakouts embed new knowledge and insight for the delegates. Insight that means delegates go back to the office with changed mindsets, behaviours, ways of doings things or knowledge.

We’re all familiar with death by powerpoint, avoiding that therefore isn't that difficult to do! Developing breakouts is a little trickier, and certainly worth experimenting with.

A recent exercise for KPIs was one such example, and wonderfully helped bring the key learning points alive (even if I say so myself).

In order to have an experience of monitoring the KPIs they'd developed I asked the group to develop KPIs for the supplier management workshop that we could measure daily.

They thought they'd developed SMART and unambiguous KPIs that would drive the right behaviour, and certainly not get in the way of them achieving their stated objectives for the workshop. What we learnt however is, that even with the best intentions, KPIs can easily be counter productive or confusing.

Ambiguity of the KPI
One KPI suggested that 80% of delegates needed to get one 'a-ha' a day. 

As the workshop progressed the definition of an 'a-ha' was refined to include: something you'll do differently as a result of the workshop, an insight, something new, something that's made you think and so on. 
We discussed the % at which we'd be worried - ie 80% took the training from green to amber. What % took the assessment to red, and in need of urgent action?

Not linking KPIs to the outcome you want
Of course a-ha's are not necessarily the things that drive a change in behaviour - which is why I always ask "what will you do differently as a result of the workshop". Which could be better measured a week or month after the workshop, as delegates are asked to reflect on what changes they've noticed themselves making. Or even better their manager is asked to identify positive changes they've noticed,

Not applying weights to KPIs
We explored the impact if the above KPI did dip into red on one day - did that mean the workshop was a disaster? 

We felt the survey monkey to be sent after the workshop would hold a bigger weighting of whether the workshop was a success or not. Which meant we questioned whether there was value in monitoring a-ha's every day at all.

Responsibility for achieving the KPI is one way
I often call the a-ha's light bulb moments. 
We discussed whether it's only the content, and the trainer who has the ability to impact the achievement of these light bulb moments: Lack of clear personal goals for the workshop, distractions, resistance to change, false understanding of current competency level, and even not eating the right things, or drinking enough water can all have an impact on the attention of the delegate. As I touched on yesterday the heating in the room can also impact attention.

Which points to ensuring that the KPI's are seen as the responsibility of all parties involved not just the supplier. After all, if as a trainer I'm just chasing the big a-ha's, my sole focus on this may impact other areas of the training, and the delegates may not take responsibility for their attention and interest to ensure opportunities for a-ha moments are not missed.

KPIs that motivate wrong action
One KPI suggested time keeping needed to be 9-5 +/- 10 minutes. 

This resulted in a conversation about my ability to start before 9, and how many of the delegates would need to missing for me to not start on time, and was that fair to monitor me on something that was being impacted by their actions?  

It was interesting however to observe my behaviour. 

As we came to the end of day 1 I noticed the time was 1647 and said I'd keep in talking until 1650 in order to meet my KPI! A silly example I know, and yet such a great example that if we're not careful our KPIs can drive counter productive behaviours. 

KPI's that don't flex to suit the day to day agreements being made between both parties 
Due to flights on the final day meaning we wanted to leave a little earlier than stated, we extended day 2 by 30 minutes. We realised therefore that the wording of the above KPI needed to state 'agreed time' not to state the precise time. Otherwise we failed to meet the KPI for no reason than it was assumed that every day started at 9 and finished at 5.

The conversation about KPIs then touched on procurement KPIs that also provided examples of the above points:
  • Budget reduction targets when procurement don't own the budgets
  • Savings targets against first quote which mean suppliers could be asked to ensure they don't put in a good first quote, or are asked for quotes earlier in the process than we should
  • Savings KPIs that only monitor forecast saving, and don't go on to measure actual benefit delivered
  • Lack of any balanced scorecard with focus purely on savings   
Once you've developed your KPIs how will you ensure they drive positive not negative change in your suppliers or procurement team?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday, 28 November 2016

Is your Supplier Management like a thermostat?

Are your suppliers running too hot or too cold, and who is responsible for making adjustments so that they're just right?

On a recent supplier management workshop in Warsaw we were finding the temperature in the room hard to manage. At the end of day one the dip in attention and enthusiasm for the last 30 minutes was put down to the room being much too warm.

What it seemed had been happening is much like supplier relationship management in some organisations, that is:

One person adjusted the thermostat because they were too cold – taking it from -3 on the dial to +1, some time later someone took it to +2, and before long it was at +3, and we were sweltering.

Image result for thermostat
The next day we agreed rules for adjusting the thermostat:
  • One person was responsible for altering the dial
  • No one else was allowed to change the dial
  • The person making the change would get feedback from others before taking action  
  • Movement of the dial would be in single moves ie -3 to -2 to -1 and so on
  • Time would be allowed before subsequent changes to allow the earlier change to have time to take effect
Which resulted in a much more pleasant working environment.

Much the same I'd suggest applies when managing suppliers – what do you think?

Who is responsible for managing changes with your suppliers, and do they allow for small increments changes allowing time for feedback before taking further action? 

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Are there similarities between F1 and your supplier management

Oh dear - first and second in the world would seem to be a great success but at what cost to Mercedes? More here on the news today that Nico Rosberg won the F1 title in Abu Dhabi.

As I read the report I wondered how it represented many supplier/buyer relationships in organisations?

If Mercedes is the relationship the supplier might be Rosberg, and the buyer Hamilton. Each wanting to win at any cost, ignoring the needs of the long term relationship in favour of the short term win. In fact even going out of their way to scupper the other party (apparently Hamilton drove slowly in an attempt to stop Rosberg coming in third or above).

How much time and energy has been wasted by the relationship to keep these 2 parties even talking I wonder? How sustainable are these actions for the long term relationship?

Where might you be ignoring the calls of the relationship for personal or even organisational gain?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

This blog feels aligned with the post written during the Olympics about winning together or leaving suppliers as the losers.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

You don't want better communication do you?

Whilst we were debriefing the pipe cleaner session during the recent supplier management workshop, that I shared in yesterday's blog, I had one of those a-ha moments that I intend delegates to get during training sessions. When that happens it's always followed by me saying "I must write a blog", so that I may explore it further, and here it is!

In essence, the solution to many of the problems being discussed this week was "improved communication". They all knew this, and yet what to do still eluded them.

As they described their pipe cleaner sculptures the words they used seemed to express more succinctly the solution - as if communication was only a vague chapter heading waiting for paragraphs to emerge. Paragraphs that would give the solution more clarity.

The aspects of lack of communication that emerged from the starting stuck pipe cleaner sculptures were described as:
  • Silos
  • Talking to themselves
  • Ping pong
  • No talking
  • Cage with no door
  • Disconnected
  • Confused
  • Square minded 
Yes words that do describe 'ineffective communication' but words that also provide much more of an idea of where the solution may lie.

Solutions such as:
  • Interconnecting
  • Closer working
  • 2 way communication 
  • Aligning goals 
  • Starting talking
  • Going in the same direction
  • Opening minds 
  • Opening dialogue 
  • Simplifying communication
  • Taking responsibility
Words that then led to conversations about what improved communication would look like in each of those different situations.

When you next find yourself saying the solution lies in improved communication, you may want to remember that's only the chapter heading - you have to open and read the chapter to really find out what to do.

I'd love to know how you get on - I'll keep you posted too.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out  

Friday, 25 November 2016

How could pipe cleaners have the answer?

During a recent half day Procurement Innovation and Creativity clinic via webex, to a group of three people over in Atlanta, someone mentioned they'd attended a workshop where they'd used pipe cleaners to introduce themselves.

As anyone who knows me well will understand it wasn't long before I had 500 multicoloured pipe cleaners on the way to me, with a desire to find a means of using them at the next workshop.

Whilst I love unconventional tools, I will only use them if I think they align with the intention and goals of the workshop, and support the learning outcomes. Which meant I hadn't quite got my head around how I'd use them on the supplier management workshop this week in Warsaw.

However the delegates were keen to understand different ways of resolving problems with suppliers and so I found myself uttering the words "let's try the pipe cleaners". 

I then asked them to use the pipe cleaners to represent the current unsatisfactory situation they wanted some insight on, and then to do one for the best possible outcome. 

One result looked like this:
Which became this:

Or this: 
Became this:

or the bottom structure became the top for both of these examples


I could continue - but assume you get the idea.

I then asked them in turn to describe the difference between the two sculptures - these are the notes I made at the time:

The words used to describe the 2 sculptures certainly seemed to contain the kernel of an idea within them. Ideas that, whilst perhaps not revolutionary, had hidden close to the surface of their owners subconscious only able to be expressed via the sculptures that had been developed.

We discussed the potential solutions that were emerging as a result. What I then asked the delegates to do was identify actions they could take as a result of the guidance provided by these sculptures - or even sculptures others had developed.

One insight for me was about our ineffective use of the words 'needing to improve communication'.

Unconventional tools certainly have their place when the solution is eluding you, and they can certainly speed up the process to achieving resolution.

If you're struggling with a problem what tool can you use to bring forth the very solution that's thus far hidden from you?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change - inside and out 

Some of the other unconventional, yet effective, tools I use in workshops and coaching include: 
Follow hypertext links to previous blogs on the subject highlighted.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thank you

Happy Thanksgiving

I know we don't generally celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK but I do enjoy the reminder to give thanks for what we have in our lives. A few years ago this reminder was supported by a visit to Findhorn, and the wonderful habit of giving thanks for the food on the table (something I still wish I did more often especially when in the company of others)

This year I had a great reminder of the value of giving thanks a week or so ago when my friend sent me this letter:
It was in response to my friend and I putting faces for Well Child, supplied by Carrs Billington along with their purple bale wrap, and purchased by my friend's brother for the farm in Cumbria, UK. 

Imagine two 50+ year olds laughing as we decide which eyes went with which nose and mouth, as we scrambled up the wall and over the lower bales to enable the faces to be seen from the M6 (on the left hand side, 1 mile after jct 37, headed north)
We got so much enjoyment from making the faces, the farmer enjoyed our laughter, and the now mainly bedroom ridden retired framer enjoyed the face we made for him facing the farm house and his bedroom.
Little did we know that regulars on the M6 would also find enjoyment in our efforts.

If we don't tell people the impact they've had in our lives, and given thanks for that, how will they know?

Thank you for reading and being there over the years as I've written about what inspires, enthuses and yes even the rants. I do appreciate the comments, and the well wishes.

Who will you thank today?

Alison  Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

Other blogs on the subject of thanks include a cleaner on the train thanking us for our rubbish, and reactions to street cleaners as I stopped to thank them.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Do you have presence in coaching?

Blog in draft form and unfinished at this moment in time ...... (wonder how that relates to presence ?!? it's certainly the first time I've done it hmmmm )

Whilst attending a coaching CPD session at the weekend we discussed presence, and what presence could bring to a coaching session. This blog is an outcome of my thoughts / ruminations on the subject. Writing it is certainly helping me corral those thoughts - even as yet unfinished.

What does presence mean to you? Is is helpful? Are you able to achieve it when needed? What difficulties do you have in embodying it? You may wish to consider your answer to these questions before reading my own exploration, or not.

Before starting this blog I wrote a Landscaping Your life blog to discover what insight there may be from presence in nature. The outcome of that blog feels like it's made the original intention of this blog a little redundant - in that for me it's provided the essence of presence.

I wonder however what does presence look like in real life - how would I know when I have it and when I don't.

After the workshop I was sent a wonderful poem the Clearing by Martha Postelthwaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Over the weekend of coaching sessions, and an action learning set I wondered if presence was just as this poem describes - that sense of holding the space, and only acting when then time is right, in the moment.

So many times the urge to speak came, and as the conversation continued I held onto to that thought, and listened as the conversation went in a variety of directions. I listened and also waited for the time to share that thought. The problem was when I shared it it felt like it was jarring the conversation - like a spring being asked to come back to an earlier shape.

I failed to fully be present, and observe the words that could adequately express the thought in that later moment.  My words falling misunderstood on ears that may have heard if only I'd tuned into the new moment, and expressed the idea that was live in that new now.

I listened to the following video as part of my engagement with ULab a MOOC run my MIT. It shares the 4 levels of listening, and presence feels like it fits in with the 4th level of listening. See what you think...


That's me off to catch a flight so I will leave my ruminations there and come back to them and your comments then ...... Perhaps like the conversations over the weekend this blog can emerge from the field as we explore it together? As yet unfinished because others have something to say in order for the journey of discovering to continue.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change Inside and Out

Two books mentioned at the weekend were Presence and Presence - the first by Peter Senge, Otto Sharmer et al, and the second by Patsy Rodenburg.