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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.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Supplier Selection and the US Presidential Selection

Suppliers are selected by people in organisations every day. Some suppliers meet expectations, and others don't. Some suppliers even go on to exceed initial expectations.

That said, the impact to the organisation of these three potential outcomes depends on the goods or services being purchased. Many may moan for example about a late delivery of a pen, but it's never going to be as important or potentially as fatal as a late delivery of an epipen.

Buyers in organisations are making these assessments every day, and I wondered what organisations could learn about supplier selection from the current presidential selection in the US.

Know what you want - what’s important to you – not subjectively but objectively, and certainly in writing. After all, many in the recent brexit vote were quoted as saying afterwards “that's not what I thought I was saying yes to”. The same can be said for buying goods and services too. This Pinterest board shows the cost of getting procurement wrong (i.e. the horror stories) – the unintended consequences of not paying enough attention to what they did want. I also wrote a blog on getting your business requirements right.

Identify which are go/no go criteria. That is, identify the needs that would mean a supplier gets deselected. The earlier in the process the better to save wasted time, and potentially the exclusion of more appropriate suppliers who are able to meet and even exceed your needs and wants.

Weight your requirements. Which requirements are more important than others. It's no use getting caught up in a requirement that only contributes 0.005 % of the decision, and ignore requirements that deliver 30% of what’s important to you.

Assess how the suppliers meet these needs and wants objectively – using an excel spreadsheet if needed. Is this supplier 5/10 compared to another at 6/10 for a requirement. That might not seem such a big difference, but when used against a number of weighted requirements it will provide valuable information on which supplier is best able to meet your requirements.

Don't make your requirements so restrictive that they only allow for the mainstream suppliers. Consideration of more inclusive, diverse and open criteria may encourage smaller, and yet equally capable candidates, sorry suppliers, to participate.

Do appropriate research and analysis of the market to understand who all the potential suppliers could be, and encourage them to engage with you. After all you might not get what you want if you allow the suppliers to self select, or only include suppliers your MD wants you to consider.

Check the efficacy of the information you're being provided. You may be very surprised with the outcome if you believe everything you're told by the supplier, or fail to understand that your selection has been heavily impacted by a big marketing budget rather than detailed analysis of the data. You only have to watch this Darren Brown video to get a sense of the possible with respect to the unconscious messages we’re subjected to.

Check the reason a supplier wishes to dish the dirt on another supplier rather than focus on what they can deliver. 

Don't get too bogged down in the bureaucracy – if it doesn't feel right to reduce the shortlist so early - don't. A flexible process allows you to keep your options open as you explore the ability of the suppliers to meet your needs.

Don't just follow the crowd – just because everyone else seems to be buying the new technology doesn't mean it aligns with your organisational mission, culture and values

Ensure the contract terms clearly identify what breach looks like (for both sides) so that you're not stuck with an inadequate and failing supplier for the next 4 years (or life time if we use the recent Brexit vote). You may also want to make it clear in the contract what the ramifications are of them making statements that you use to select them, that later prove to be false.

There's many differences between Politics and Procurement but, as with any metaphor, sometimes we can learn more about how to get it right in one area by looking at the insights from another totally unrelated area. You may even have noticed that the use of metaphor meant you were more engaged with the procurement process, in a way that you might not have been without the metaphor :-). Although I more normally use gardening as a metaphor for supplier selection and management.

How can you apply your assessment of the US presidential elections to an aspect of your life to ensure you keep on track rather than go off the rails! 

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Follow hypertext links in the text to other blogs I've written on that subject. 

More on the services I provide can be found here.

Monday, 7 November 2016

When did you last have a walking meeting?

As part of the recent Category Management training in Warsaw we were discussing different tools, techniques and ways to get into a more creative frame of mind.

The assumption is that if we do what we've always done, and sit in a room in a big office block around a table we're not necessarily going to be that creative.

During the workshop we discussed use of metaphor, collage, creative tools such as the Creative Whack pack, and other ways we might achieve a more creative mind set.

Someone suggested 'walking meetings', and I asked the question "has anyone been on a walking meeting?" and everyone said "No". This was closely followed by me asking "would you like to try one?" To which they replied "Yes".

Knowing we were coming up to a session on e-auctions, where I ask them to share their knowledge about the subject, I said we'd do that whilst walking at the same time.

The above video was taken at the start of that walk :-).

For the next 20 minutes we walked towards our mid morning break - this time at a famous Warsaw chocolate house instead of in the hotel.
Each person sharing what they knew about eauctions, and asking questions for clarification.
Passing famous landmarks as we went.
and certainly in the chill of early November enjoying the hot drink as we discussed the insight and learning we'd obtained as a result of our walk. 
Once we returned to the training room I asked it it was something they would repeat, and they all gave a very enthusiastic "Yes". I've even been asked by the client to ensure it's retained in this workshop in the future, and for a forthcoming supplier management workshop.

The benefits we observed included:
  • Better focus because we had to concentrate to listen against the background noise of the city.
  • Excitement about getting out that transferred onto the subject being discussed (certainly a benefit for eauctions)
  • The duration of the walk meant we could explore the topic from different angles and perhaps have it explained from different view points. 
  • It seemed easier to ask questions when walking side by side with others
For next time we would recommend that we:
  • Have smaller groups - we're thinking a maximum of 4 and possible even 3 would be better
  • Know how long it will take to get to our destination - 'not far away' was a little further than that!
  • Have clarity about the subject to be discussed on the way back - I think we all discussed different topics - some category management related and others not.
  • Ensure we're sufficiently dressed for the occasion - we were mainly lucky but a few returned to the training room a little colder than they would have liked.
I've used walks for looking at issues from a different perspective before. Use of a walk as simply a means of talking about a subject however, is new to me, and one I'd like to explore further if anyone is interested.

Follow the link for more on Keeping on track: Stakeholder engagement half or full day sessions for up to 3 people per session walking in Fife, Scotland in December or January (so yes it would be a case of wrap up warm even if the train will be our main means of transport and shelter if needed).

Or perhaps a Getting on track for the year ahead session would make more sense. Let me know your thoughts, and I'm sure we can develop an inspiring and transformational session together.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change Inside and Out.

An index of other blogs on topics covered during the 3 day workshop can be found here.