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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What state are you in?

I went to the top of Glastonbury Tor at the weekend and it was a beautifully sunny, if also very cold and windy, day. Once at the top I managed to get right up against the Tor and shelter from the wind and spent over an hour and half there.

A tweet I sent at the time reflected that it's one of the few places in the world that I am able to stop. I don't fidget. I don't feel the need to move. I don't feel the need to do much. I wouldn't say lots of thinking goes on either. Generally I just look out and chat with others who join me for their 15 mins at the top.

On further reflection I realise that it's a place that helps me be more grounded - a trait I can sometimes misplace and allow the headless chicken to take control.

I wondered about the difference places that I visit - each with a different state they help me achieve:
  • Glastonbury - Grounding
  • Findhorn - Intuiting
  • Cumbria - Peaceful
  • Bamburgh - Relaxed
  • Florida - Laughing
  • Sydney/New York - Inspired
  • Uluru - Connected
I think my current home here in Burntisland perhaps offers a little of all of these which is why I stay when so much of my work is down south.

We often think our state is determined by what's happening to us - a bad day means a bad mood, a good day the opposite, a long awaited meeting possibly apprehension and our first date excitement. It's true these events can lead to us choosing to feel that way. We do, however, have a choice - it's not the bad day that directly led to a bad mood - in between there was a choice made about our response to the day.

When it's hard to make the most resourceful choice that's when doing things that help us achieve the desired state kicks in. I might not be able to go to Sydney every time I want to be inspired but I can tap into the people, books, films, clothes, colours, music etc that help me become inspired.

What state would help you most today and what could you to do to access it more easily?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for resourceful states for all your purchasing team (in the whole of the UK and even more work in Scotland would be GREAT)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Who am I?

As part of the theme on self awareness and the ways that it's lack can be the cause of much distress in our lives, at work and at home, I'd like to look at our identity. That is the person that we believe ourselves to be - the answer we give when asked "Who are you?" or even sometimes the answer we give to "What do you do?"

I'd like you to read each of the following in turn and then take a moment to try it on. That is to act as if that identity is meaningful to you and to notice what you notice - what happens to your body posture, to how you're feeling, thinking and noticing and what you're doing?
  • I am a woman/man (delete as appropriate)
  • I am a mother/sister/daughter/wife/father/brother/son/husband (delete as appropriate)
  • I am a friend
  • I am an old woman/man
  • I am a middle aged woman/man
  • I am a young woman/man
  • I am a leader
  • I am a follower
  • I am an entrepreneur
  • I am a businessman/woman
  • I am an employee
  • I am a troublemaker
  • I am a peacemaker
  • I am a purchaser (replace with your own profession)
Perhaps you felt very comfortable, or uncomfortable with some of these, did you fidget or perhaps sit up straighter? The fact is that what ever identity we have about ourselves in a given context will impact how we feel, how we think and how we behave. It can't therefore but impact the reaction others have to us in that situation either.

For example:
  • 'I'm a follower' might lead to passive behaviour in a meeting even if you really have the solution to the problem.
  • 'I'm an old woman' might lead, subject to your belief about age, to a choice of less than energetic pastimes and saying "No" to others' suggestions more.
  • 'I'm a troublemaker' might lead to disruptive behaviours.
  • 'I'm a purchaser' might lead you to behave as if anyone who isn't a purchaser, or what ever profession you're a member of, doesn't know as much as you.
Rather than allow old and possibly out of date identities to hijack your activities why not choose the perfect identities for you, ones that enable the most resourceful you to be present in every situation. This week I'm going to take the following identities with me into my work and notice what I notice:
  • I am a problem solver
  • I am a facilitator
  • I am a writer
  • I am a communicator
  • I am a beautiful woman :-) 
What identities will you choose?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds to purchasing understanding their identity and its impact on others

Peanuts picture Source: paulabliss.com via Alison on Pinterest

Saturday, 20 October 2012

How our values get in the way!

I wonder if you recognise any of these statements that you may have uttered about others in the past:
  • They're lazy
  • They just don't respect me
  • They're dishonest
  • They're just not focused enough
  • They treat some people so differently
  • They're selfish
  • They're too wishy washy
  • They just never finish anything
  • They talk all the time
  • They don't talk enough
These statements may or may not be true. What I find interesting is that our judgement of others, such as those made above, are impacted by our values. Other people with different values may not even understand such a statement made about someone, never mind agree with you, and may often ask "what do you mean?"

Values are what drive our behaviour. For example someone with a value of achievement might work late on a Friday night to finish a piece of work, whereas someone with a value of affiliation might instead leave work on time to go to the pub with everyone and finish the work on Monday. Their behaviours support them meeting their values - that is they do what's important to them. What your values are will determine which of these individuals you'd join on the Friday night and how you'd judge each of them.

The issue when we get annoyed with others is we forget that it's our values that are supporting the judgements we're making. We act as if the judgements we're making are true, factual and objective statements about the person. They're not - they're simply our view of the world.

Let's take "They're dishonest" as an example. The factors that might make someone utter these words depends on their definition of honesty which might be any one of the following:

  • They tell the truth
  • They tell the truth at work
  • They tell the truth when asked
  • They don't keep secrets
  • They don't tell lies
  • They only tell white lies
  • They do what they say they're going to do
  • They're true to themselves even if that means breaking a promise to someone else
With this list demonstrating as much about my definition for Honesty as anything. I was watching a film this weekend and realise I could also add:
  • They're honest about their feelings
  • They don't steal
I'm sure this list could be expanded further - please let me know what I've missed.

Even if we have the same definition (ie mix of the above) we might have different criteria for determining if someone meets the definition.
  • Assumed to be honest until proved otherwise (how many times would they need to get it 'wrong'?)
  • Assumed to be dishonest until proved otherwise (how many times do they need to prove it?)
In actual fact there are as many definitions for honesty as people having a view on it - each subtlety different from each other.

Next time you rush to judge someone why not explore the value that's impacting this judgement and understand how others might judge that behaviour differently. Perhaps more importantly if it's one of your core values recognise that the 'emotion' attached to your judgement is more to do with your relationship to the value than their behaviour.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for understanding in procurement teams

'I love honesty' picture source: legaljuice.com via Alison on Pinterest

Friday, 19 October 2012

Self awareness helps resolve issues


Here we continue the journey to explore the many solutions to purchasing's problems. One cause of problems is lack of self awareness of those within purchasing. I'd suggest it's also a common cause to many business problems but we can only change ourselves not others and therefore the solution discussed in this blog lies within. 

Many of my blogs share my own personal journey of self awareness which didn't really start in earnest until 2000 when I attended an NLP workshop. Once started it never stops - now I'm always looking at the impact of my own thoughts, feelings and actions on whatever I'm doing. Especially if the outcome I'm getting isn't the one I want.

It's so easy to blame others for the wrong/off tangent outcomes we find ourselves in. You know the sort of thing:
  • It's their fault
...mmm there I was expecting to type a list and realised as soon as I started typing it's simpler than that. As long as we're acting as if it's someone else's fault we are saying we can't do anything to change the situation and that's not correct.

Others' reactions to us are impacted by our behaviours (body language, tone or words) and our behaviours are impacted by our:
So when in conflict with others, or blaming them for the lack of success it's useful to explore which of these may be impacting the outcome and what changes we may want to try to shift the situation - after all if you keep doing what you've always done you'll get what you've always got. Forth coming blogs will discuss the impact of a number of these (I'll add links as I write the blogs).

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for self awareness in your purchasers

picture source: amazon.ca via Alison on Pinterest

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Communicate, communicate, communicate


Often blogs about stakeholder engagement, communication and influencing (such as my blog earlier this week) focus, quite rightly, on: listening to your stakeholders, finding out more about them, talking in a language they understandtaking responsibility for misunderstandings, finding out what motivates them, engaging with them and asking for their input and support.

But you know what - sometimes we do have to be on transmit rather than listen, we do have to focus on our objectives, what we're up to and what we want our stakeholders to do and we do have to tell them what we want and why. And here I mean not keep it a secret, or have them second guessing what we're up to. I can't tell you the number of times I've worked with clients and the cause of the problem is lack of information in the minds of the stakeholder.

That is procurement, or what ever department or individual is wishing to influence a stakeholder, seems to be providing information on a need to know basis - and wrongly assessing how much information they need to share with their stakeholder. The causes for this incorrect assessment are many but might include:
  • making assumptions about what the stakeholder already knows
  • not understanding how much information you're taking for granted
  • making a decision that there is information they don't need to know
  • believing that if you tell them they might take all the credit 
  • believing that if you tell them everything they might do it themselves
  • believing if you tell them they'll break confidence and tell everyone
As a rule of thumb always assume your stakeholder needs more information than you're giving them.

Who do you need to communicate more fully with?  

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for effective communication within your procurement team
 
Picture curtesy of Pixabay

Monday, 15 October 2012

Stakeholder Engagement is often the solution

Following yesterday's blog sharing the potential root causes of purchasing problems I'm jumping straight to Stakeholder Engagement. That is ineffective or no stakeholder engagement is a common cause to many purchasing problems. 

There's a number of reasons I start here not least that a few weeks ago I promised Laura a blog on this. Another reason is I saw a picture of the Dalai Lama on facebook today taken during a talk entitled 'Finding common ground' and shouted "Yes" very loudly and realised now was the time for the blog. As I type this I can also hear "This is the time, this is the place" wafting across the airwaves from the radio in the kitchen :-). So I guess I have no excuses!

What does stakeholder engagement mean to you?

No - please don't rush to read on and find out what I have to say - please do take some time to think about what it means for you and in your work. Who would you define as your stakeholders? What contribution do they have on the work that you do? and on its success? What contact do you have with them currently? and what is the format and style of that contact?

Stakeholders can include customers and suppliers but for the purposes of this blog I want to concentrate on internal stakeholders. Internal stakeholders - that for purchasing might include operations, manufacturing, quality, engineering, design, new product development, finance, marketing, sales, accounts payable, facilities, legal etc. This list will also include the senior leadership team and other senior managers.

As a result the answer to "what contribution do they have on your success?" is "HUGE" - you can't do it without them. Well that's a lie - you can go off and tender and put in place a contract without them. True success for the business, however, is in unlocking the value and that is only achieved when they use the contract - and they won't do that if you've told them what to do without asking for their:
  • Involvement
  • Input
  • Ideas
  • Potential pitfalls
  • Problems to solve
  • Goals
  • Understanding
  • Permission
  • Support
I've heard it all before why engagement isn't possible and it's all poppycock!
  • "If we tell them what purchasing is all about they'll then do it themselves" - in reality if we take time to tell them the full breadth of that purchasing involves and the skills needed they'll realise they can't and don't want to do it and would welcome our input.
  • "They just won't listen to us" - so change how you communicate with them - it's up to you to communicate in a way that facilitates others listening.
  • "We don't have time" - how much time does it take to sort out the problems arising from putting the wrong contract in place?
  • "They don't want to save money" - having common goals and language is imperative and purchasing goals need to be understood and supported by the whole business. You can't agree them in isolation.
  • "If we involve them they'll just tell us we have to use their favourite supplier" - and will continue to do so irrespective of what you do unless you both go on a journey to discover what supplier is right for the business.
I recently facilitated a procurement project kick-off meeting. One of the internal stakeholders said "This is great - in the past I've had to persuade my team to use suppliers purchasing have put contracts in place with without any of us knowing why we've changed supplier and the benefits we should be seeing. Especially when we've seen problems increase not decrease. Today's meeting has helped me understand the tools and criteria you use and will help me support what you do. Thank You." and more importantly followed by "Do let me know what I can do to help."

Isn't that what we want - finding common ground so that our choices are supported by those who have to implement them?

What will do today to improve your stakeholder engagement?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for effective stakeholder engagement in purchasing

Collaborative hands picture source: blog.taigacompany.com via Alison on Pinterest

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Integrative solutions to those purchasing problems

Following yesterday's blog sharing the potential root causes of purchasing problems I'm jumping straight to Stakeholder Engagement. That is ineffective or no stakeholder engagement is a common cause to many purchasing problems. 

There's a number of reasons I start here not least that a few weeks ago I promised Laura a blog on this. Another reason is I saw a picture of the Dalai Lama on facebook today taken during a talk entitled 'Finding common ground' and shouted "Yes" very loudly and realised now was the time for the blog. As I type this I can also hear "This is the time, this is the place" wafting across the airwaves from the radio in the kitchen :-). So I guess I have no excuses!

What does stakeholder engagement mean to you?

No - please don't rush to read on and find out what I have to say - please do take some time to think about what it means for you and in your work. Who would you define as your stakeholders? What contribution do they have on the work that you do? and on its success? What contact do you have with them currently? and what is the format and style of that contact?

Stakeholders can include customers and suppliers but for the purposes of this blog I want to concentrate on internal stakeholders. Internal stakeholders - that for purchasing might include operations, manufacturing, quality, engineering, design, new product development, finance, marketing, sales, accounts payable, facilities, legal etc. This list will also include the senior leadership team and other senior managers.

As a result the answer to "what contribution do they have on your success?" is "HUGE" - you can't do it without them. Well that's a lie - you can go off and tender and put in place a contract without them. True success for the business, however, is in unlocking the value and that is only achieved when they use the contract - and they won't do that if you've told them what to do without asking for their:
  • Involvement
  • Input
  • Ideas
  • Potential pitfalls
  • Problems to solve
  • Goals
  • Understanding
  • Permission
  • Support
I've heard it all before why engagement isn't possible and it's all poppycock!
  • "If we tell them what purchasing is all about they'll then do it themselves" - in reality if we take time to tell them the full breadth of that purchasing involves and the skills needed they'll realise they can't and don't want to do it and would welcome our input.
  • "They just won't listen to us" - so change how you communicate with them - it's up to you to communicate in a way that facilitates others listening.
  • "We don't have time" - how much time does it take to sort out the problems arising from putting the wrong contract in place?
  • "They don't want to save money" - having common goals and language is imperative and purchasing goals need to be understood and supported by the whole business. You can't agree them in isolation.
  • "If we involve them they'll just tell us we have to use their favourite supplier" - and will continue to do so irrespective of what you do unless you both go on a journey to discover what supplier is right for the business.
I recently facilitated a procurement project kick-off meeting. One of the internal stakeholders said "This is great - in the past I've had to persuade my team to use suppliers purchasing have put contracts in place with without any of us knowing why we've changed supplier and the benefits we should be seeing. Especially when we've seen problems increase not decrease. Today's meeting has helped me understand the tools and criteria you use and will help me support what you do. Thank You." and more importantly followed by "Do let me know what I can do to help."

Isn't that what we want - finding common ground so that our choices are supported by those who have to implement them?

What will do today to improve your stakeholder engagement?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for effective stakeholder engagement in purchasing

Collaborative hands picture source: blog.taigacompany.com via Alison on Pinterest

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Integrative Business Solutions

Wouldn't it be great if there was just one definitive answer to every problem or challenge in life? Just think how much easier it would all be.

The first challenge, however, is there isn't one solution - there's many solutions. Also the solution that works for one person, team or business wont necessarily work for another and vice verse. I'd also suggest that what solution works for them today won't necessarily work in a month's time. The key, therefore, has to be how to access the right solution for that situation and for today.

Find someone who knows - ask them - is often one of the things we try. Yet having spoken to a handful and more of 'specialists' about my knee I realise that what we get is what their specialist area would proclaim to be the solution. The solutions offered for my painful, troublesome, inflexible and apparently arthritic knee have included:
  • a new knee
  • a realigned knee
  • injections in the knee
  • pain killers
  • weight loss
  • special shoes
  • insoles
  • specific exercises
  • cutting out certain foods - e.g. wheat
  • eating more of other foods
  • digestive enzymes
  • herbs
  • releasing the fear
  • being me
No one 'specialist' was able to offer all these potential solutions - I had to ask questions of many specialists and assimilate my own list of potential solutions. My arthritis Pinterest board is a testament to how many different solutions there are to consider.

With my knee I'd suggest the answer lies in a number of these:

The pain killers work in the short term and enable me to exercise the knee to strengthen the muscles that have become weakened with pain. These strengthened muscles can then be trained to work more effectively by more and yet different exercises using those specialist shoes to take the weight away from the grinding bones whilst doing so. Weight loss will help that too. Taking potentially inflammatory foods out of the diet and putting more anti inflammatory ones in will help the body to heal that area more easily. The digestive enzymes will help me digest the food more easily to ensure the minerals I digest are available for use in the repair of my knees. Releasing the fear and being me will stop my constant doing and tightening of the muscles that stop the knee doing what knees do. When the digestive system is working more effectively the foods I took out or foods, herbs and enzymes put in will need to be revised. So too the exercise regime needed to continue to allow the knee to strengthen and repair. All solutions working together to avoid the dreaded solution of a new knee! All solutions working together so that I may continue to be Auntie Alison who cartwheels and jumps on the trampoline not one in the corner watching it all going on around her!

Isn't it the same in business? Short term fixes will only work if more long term solutions are implemented to ensure more healthy systems, processes, procedures and ways of working are utilised and embraced. A new process wont work if it's not aligned with the values of the business or beliefs continue to be held that "it's not how things are done around here." Success will be tantalisingly out of reach without communication and engagement with internal and/or external stakeholders. Not forgetting the impact a healthy environment, both within and outside of work, will have on the individuals making the changes.

With both examples the journey has many twists and turns. Solutions used in the early days fall away as the conditions for new solutions to be tried arise. It requires a constant assessment of the impact of the ripples arising from the actions - with new and different solutions used to tweak and gently bring the person, team, project or business back into healthy alignment with their goals.

What do you need to change to ensure you embrace a more integrative approach to finding solutions to your problems? Me - I'll be writing more blogs on this subject over coming weeks.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for integrative solutions for purchasing

Ripples in the water picture source: mindbodycounseling.com via Alison on Pinterest

Monday, 8 October 2012

Stop, Look, Listen

Before I went on holiday life had got very very busy - you know the sort of thing: get up and immediately turn on the PC, eat on the go, too much time spent on planes, trains and automobiles, eating too much of the wrong foods, no time for me or friends (or laughter for that matter), collapse in front of the TV for some mind numbing 'entertainment' to wind down before collapsing into bed. Oh yes ... not forgetting that irritability with the world and especially at the lack of speed everyone else was going!

What a difference a week can make!

It was a holiday of sorts - a week retreat if you will at a conference and training centre celebrating its 50th birthday. There were many local, national and international speakers offering lecturers and workshops for 7 hours a day for each of the 7 days I was there.

Over forth coming blogs I'm sure I'll share some of the insights shared during those lecturers/workshops but on my first day back in the office I'd like to share what I learnt about the pace of my life and more importantly the changes I'm making.
  • Stop: Stop the constant doing. The 7 hours of lectures were spread over 13 hours a day. That is we had lots of time to stop. 30 mins break in the morning, the same in the afternoon, nearly 2 hours for lunch and 3 hours for dinner. Initially I was frustrated with all this 'wasted' time. Now I realise it gave us time - it gave me time. Time to eat and then digest the food that had been prepared for us, to digest what we'd heard, to connect with others, to take time out or to catch up with any other activities we needed to attend to. It's interesting how often we try to fit these into the time we've set aside to attend to our To-do'ing.
  • Look: I'm sure my constant doing in the past, with that all too familiar physiology that goes with it - head down and a fast speed of walking, means I've missed much. Last week I had time to look around and notice the world around me - the people, nature and my own thoughts and feelings. That very 'looking' enabled me to connect to an energy that's been missing in my life for a while - a spontaneous, creative and expansive energy that is one that I need often in the work I do. Let's just hope I don't get too busy to let it slip through my fingers - again! 
  • Listen: I didn't attend every one one of the sessions on offer. What I did was listen to that quiet voice inside that suggested this lecture was one I would attend and this one wasn't. What that facilitated was a week where the information and insights came at a pace I could handle. It certainly wasn't about listening to that other critical voice inside that said "You might miss something." "But you've paid for this!" "What will others think?" This is one significant change that I'd like to continue now I'm home - taking time at the start of the day to listen to that quiet voice about priorities and To-dos. Which this blog is an example of because I wrote it first before looking at the emails!     
I'll let you know how I get on in embracing these changes. Certainly as I peek at my inbox for the first time,  with its 858 emails, I can feel the all too familiar voice whispering "quicker, quicker". Think I may need to print a copy of the road sign above to remind me of my commitment to change.

What changes do you need to make to enable you to connect to an energy that's needed for your work but has slipped through your fingers recently?  

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Ensuring your purchasing team takes time to stop, look and listen.