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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Unlocking the potential of procurement teams


I've written before that my life changed in 2000 after attending a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner workshop. Changed, because I started to take responsibility for the outcomes I was getting in life and at work. I was easier to deal with, and the world felt a lot easier to deal with too.

There was another aspect to the change - and that was the work I was doing.

Prior to the workshop I was a Procurement and Category Manager responsible for procurement activities. In other words, I was involved in getting the most value out of the goods and services being bought by the organisation. Something I'd been doing for 15 years at that time.

After attending the NLP workshop additional activities crept in utilising the tools I was learning - my title also changed to reflect these new responsibilities - Procurement Communication and Personal Development Manager.

If I was to describe what I became then it was a manager responsible for the personal and professional development, well being, and effectiveness of the team, and coach when people were stuck. Stuck - in either their personal or professional lives.

Perhaps put more simply I helped them unlock their potential.

If it's not too soft and fluffy I believe the benefits of unlocking people's potential goes without saying. Just in case it's not so clear to others, what I've observed in the 17 years since that first workshop is that unlocking someones potential can improve or increase their: (in no particular order)
and a few things they'll be invited to release:
Understanding the category management or supplier management tools is essential - but 'what' we do is only half the equation. The remainder comes from 'how' we do what we do. It's no use bulldozering stakeholders to accept a recommendation for example, if that then means they do the exact opposite.(Unless of course you're happy with just delivering forecast savings, and not real ones.)

For the last 11 years I've been self employed delivering a mix of category management consultancy, training and coaching - with a whole load of unconventional tools, development of the 'how', and unlocking potential thrown in too. See my year in blogs for a sense of what 2016 entailed.

In 2017 I'm looking to further expand the elements of my role that deal with 'how' procurement teams do what they do, and unlocking their potential.

If you're interested in developing the 'how' they do what they do to further unlock the potential of your team please do get in touch - alison@alisonsmith.eu +44 (0)7770 538159.

I look forward to exploring what unconventional tools (or maybe even conventional ones) would support your team most so they may exceed yours and the board's expectations.

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

The picture above is one of 96 jigsaw pieces we had engraved with the objectives of the procurement team for that year. Everyone had one jigsaw piece, and took them to meetings to swap and discuss. As objectives were met an online jigsaw was completed - see below for a real life attempt at completing it at one team meeting! 

This innovative approach, along side other activities, ensured an improvement from bottom quartile in the MORI staff opinion poll in our first year after merger to upper quartile the following year - including the following improvements.
  • Feeling motivated in present job: 19% increase 
  • Feeling valued: 32% increase
  • Satisfaction with communications: 42% increase

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Life, Animated

I've just finished watching BBC Four Storyville Life, animated, and would highly recommend you investing 90 minutes of your time to watch it too. (It's available on iPlayer in the UK for the next 28 days. More here for worldwide viewing).

Nominated for an Academy Award, this film tells the uplifting story of Owen Suskind, an autistic young man and his family. After unremarkable early years, at the age of three Owen withdrew and suddenly stopped spenghimself in Disney animated films, using them as an emotional road map to reconnect with the world.
Owen and his family describe the challenges he faced growing up and the understanding he drew from these stories. Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams tracks how by repeatedly watching these Disney classics, Owen learned to view the world as deep and complex, as well as inspirational and instructive.
Life, Animated is a remarkable insight into Owen's unique way of seeing the world, and an emotional coming-of-age story as he leaves home and takes his first steps towards independence.
Watching the Lion King for example reminded Owen that "it's important that when our parents can no longer help us we have to figure things out for ourselves."

As this identification with Disney films developed it became apparent that Owen identified himself with the sidekicks in the films.

"I am the protector of the sidekicks - no sidekick gets left behind."

Never a hero, just the sidekick who helps the hero fulfil their destiny. Owen even went on to write a story 'land of the sidekicks' which has been made into a short film.

In addition to reminding me of the Tamarians in Star Trek Next Generation's Darmok, who only communicated in allegories, this identification with a specific role reminded me of Caroline Myss's work on archetypes.

Archetypes have been around since Plato (not often I mention him in my writing), and were popularised by Carl Jung (ditto).

Archetypes are psychological patterns or roles that we embody. For example if I mention being a mother archetype, certain patterns of behaviour would be common the world over. If I asked you to take on the mother archetype, therefore, you'd know what to do. You wouldn't need to be an actual mother to take on this role just identify with it, and act out the patterns of being a mother.

It's the same with the victim archetype - we'd all know how to act out or embody that role? A healthy victim, and the shadow side too, you know the one, that never takes personal responsibility for anything in their life, and always looks to blame everyone else for what's happening.

When we're stuck or wanting to understand what we need to do to resolve a situation, understanding the roles or archetypes involved can help. After all if one person is acting out the father role, and the other person the naughty child, we can all write the script for the relationship and issues likely to occur. Similarly the relationship between victim and bully.

Understanding the archetypes at play allows us to understand the choices available to change the current patterns we're adopting. For example a 'victim' may decide to move to being a 'knight' or an 'adult'. The decision made however is often unconscious and may simply sustain unhelpful behaviours. For example someone who identifies themselves as a victim, may rush to take on the knight role to squash perceived bullies even if the issue really is their belief they're a victim. Other times of course the knight role may just be what's needed.

As with any of the tools I use, archetypes is just something to consider when the outcome we've got isn't what we want it to be. To consider how the role we're playing is, or isn't contributing to the outcome we've got.

Here's a little more about the concept.

Caroline Myss's work suggests that at any time we each have 12 archetypes that we can pull upon as we go about day to day living - personal support teams if you will to guide our every action.

"They provide the foundation for your personality, drives, feelings, beliefs, motivations and actions" C Myss Archetype Cards 

Caroline suggests 4 of these archetypes are common for everyone:
  • The Child
  • Victim, 
  • Prostitute, and 
  • Saboteur.
You don't have to look far in politics or business at the moment to see many adopting their prostitute archetype - willing to do anything for financial gain (but don't get me on that particular rant).

There are different 'flavours' of each of the above archetypes - with for example the child archetypes including:
  • Wounded child
  • Abandoned child
  • Magical or innocent child
  • Nature child
  • Eternal child - Peter Pan anyone? 
  • Dependent child
When you embody the child archetype which of these best describes your actions?

I'd have to say I think I'm the innocent and magical child - seeing the beauty in all things and believing that anything is possible!

There are 8 other archetypes we also each have in our support group. These might be:
  • Student
  • Addict
  • Knight
  • Prince
  • Athlete
  • Artist
  • Fool
  • Seeker
  • Rescuer
  • Alchemist
  • and so on
What archetypes might be in your support team, and how are they supporting or hindering you in realising your full potential?  

Archetypes is an interesting concept and not one I use that often in the work I do. Every now and again, however, something someone says has me considering the roles being played out, and wondering how these are contributing to the current situation, and what changes could be considered to shift the outcome.

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

On a similar vein to the archetypes I've written a number of blogs about metaphors hidden in our language, and how understanding them can help us release the blocks that are holding us back.

I've written about how life is very different if we see life as a garden, machine or a war. With for example, conflict being seen as something to be encouraged and embraced if life is a like a war, and to be avoided if it's like a garden.

I've also written about using sayings we might be using to describe a situation we're facing:
Even the language of others helps us understand how our actions are being perceived by them:
  • Procurement being seen by suppliers as wolves!
Of course we can always try metaphors on - for example last year I invited us to think about what Harry Potter or Paddington would do to be more creative in our options development.

I also use nature as a metaphor for life over on my Landscaping Your Life blog.

I'll be sharing more about the unconventional tools I use to unlock your or your team's potential over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Define your problem

Albert Einstein is reported as saying “if I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it.” 
19 days to gather the data, to define a common language, to understand the assumptions being made and prejudices, and to understand the resistance and motivators. 
A day to solve it, and then time thereafter to implement it. 
More on applying this insight to procurement activity here in a blog written for Future Purchasing.