All posts by Abby Vige

How to Create a Buzz Around Contract Management

It can be hard to create a buzz around contract management. Get it wrong and it can sting badly. Get it right and the results can be honey-sweet!

Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Procurement can sometimes be a real flash in the pan. The commercial squad can descend on any project that looks big enough, ugly enough or sexy enough. Money and risk can be like bees to honey – the higher it is, the sweeter the taste. It’s a sure fire way to get procurement’s attention!

Procurement professionals can be highly skilled at project planning, sourcing and providing commercial advice leading to strong contract frameworks. But when the show is over often everyone moves on to the next big shiny thing. 

While there is merit in ensuring that a solid sourcing exercise is executed, often the cream on top comes from executing exemplary contract management.

Contract Management? Yawn!

Contract management doesn’t have to be boring! If businesses get serious about contract management then serious results can be realised. There is nothing worse than a set and forget contract. It is almost guaranteed that some gold is being missed somewhere.

Contract management is quite simple at the heart of it (although admittedly it could definitely do with a re-brand).

How to Get Started

1. Ride on the buzz of signing. Capitalise on the newness of the contract by setting up the relationship meetings correctly at the beginning.

If you are a procurement person who will not be managing the contract then set up the meeting with the key relationship managers on both sides of the fence. You’ll be surprised how much value you can keep extracting, even if the contract is only freshly anointed! 

2. Take time to get the roles and responsibilities right and make sure each party understands their role.

3. Measure results and performance in a meaningful way. At the beginning of the project think about good ways to measure success. Make sure to ask your internal customers and supply market for ideas. 

4. Execute. Set the meetings, carry them out, do the surveys, do the reviews, gather the data, analyse the data, report on the data. 

How to do it right

Being organisationally ready is key. While individuals can carry out actions and get results, true value is experienced when the culture of the organisation (or the procurement team) is geared towards supplier relationship and contract management (SR&CM).

The best examples can be seen where dedicated SR&CM resources reside in a procurement team, rather than expecting individual team members to carry out these tasks within a role that encompasses many other specialisms.

Contract Management Challenges

Being aware of the challenges of embarking on a culture of change can help to set reasonable expectations of what is achievable and how long it may take. Knowing some of the sticking points from those that have gone before can be helpful in scoping out the scale and length of journey that is ahead.

The common challenges can be:

  • Resource. Obtaining sign off to get dedicated resource and gaining buy-in on the idea. Finding the right skill sets can be difficult. Sometimes new roles and directions can change the culture of the team.
  • Internal customers complaining about suppliers but either: not telling anyone; not telling the supplier; not telling procurement; and / or all of the above, plus not being willing to measure performance once mechanisms are put in place.
  • Bias – not wanting to use a supplier “just because”. To manage true poor performance (as opposed to perceived), then procurement need something tangible to build the picture and also, to give the supplier a genuine chance to improve.

What is the pay off at the end of the rainbow?

If procurement functions commit to embedding contract management into their team environment there can be many rewards.

  • Increased capability within the Procurement team – opportunity for other specialisms within procurement to learn from SRM&CM experts
  • Increased capability in the business as the contract managers and people dealing with the suppliers in the day to day increase their commercial acumen in regards to having tough conversations (or good ones!) with suppliers
  • Closing the gap between the supplier and the buyer. Understanding each side of the fence and the challenges experienced from both sides.
  • Ability to tackle poor performance in contracts effectively and efficiently as evidence is gathered, reported on and monitored. We’re not talking big brother looking to punish the supply market, there are often improvements required on both sides.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

How Prepared Is Procurement For The Arrival Of The Tech Disruptors?

If A.I. can’t tell the difference between an apple and an owl, can it really take over our jobs?

By PandG/ Shutterstock

The future has arrived. Technology trends have moved from being forecasted, to disruptors to being, well…here! But how prepared is procurement to step up to the challenge? Will procurement evolve to incorporate and embrace these technologies or will we miss the opportunity to be the next Spotify or Uber.

In this article we take a look under the hood at some of the “it” crowd and see how tech disruptors can be repositioned to be enablers.

Automation

Automation has often been referenced as the reason for mass job losses and replacement of people in the workforce. Is this a realistic view of what automation is?

Automation refers to the systemisation of processes to create efficiencies. It is a programme that executes a particular task that is typically something that is repetitive and monotonous (as opposed to A.I. which is mimicking multiple tasks and is attempts to apply causation responses).

Automation can be used to replace menial tasks and ultimately release people to do other things that are more worthy of their time. Automation can help people to repurpose their time and spend it in other areas of their job that can add more value to the business, like stakeholder engagement for example. This repurposed time enables people to focus on the strategic aspects of their role rather than being purely reactive and task orientated.

Blockchain

Blockchain is effectively a filing cabinet in the cloud. It records transactions (a “block”) and each block forms part of a chain. The chain becomes a valuable information source and creates a collective environment where everyone can access everything. It is this network that can revolutionize how we experience things as it can connect previously unconnected parts of a supply chain.

Some examples include customers being able to trace coffee beans used in their morning brew from plantation to cup. Or the ability to trace the cacao plant to a single chocolate bar.  Procurement could utilise this technology to link supply chains like never before and provide true customer centric solutions (be it internal or external customers).

The applications are endless, but are we ready for it? What steps are procurement taking to ready themselves for potential new ways of working?

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

This is perhaps the biggest tech taboo of all, the ultimate fear mongering scenario. The term A.I. can imply to some people that technology will be able to create its own intelligence and that the intelligence may keep on evolving – ruling humans obsolete. This is not correct! A.I. technology requires humans to tell it what the world is. Humans are required to create the codes, algorithms and software that make it work.

There are many things that A.I. automation algorithms can’t always get right, like the infamous owl vs apple fail. A.I. requires a human to tell it what is an owl and what is an apple but there are certain subtleties of being human that simply can’t be trained.

While this provides a hearty belly laugh at the expense of the technology, it helps to demonstrate the gulf that exists between A.I. being able to realistically replace humans. A.I. is not a threat to all people in the workforce.

A.I. can be used to enhance the customer experience for example chatbots. It can also be used to programme population of key contract information instead of someone having to manually type it out. The application for A.I. in procurement would create huge efficiencies to enable us to get on with the real work.

Cryptocurrency

The advent of bitcoin changed the basic concept of how we view money. It combined an old world concept with new wave technology. It didn’t burn out or fade away it is still going strong.

The advent of cryptocurrency helps to pose the question of what could be the bitcoin of the future?

Will procurement be able to trade online for goods and services? Why not! It was impossible to imagine bitcoin taking off many years ago and look where it is now. Will contracts for goods and services be required? If the divide between the supply and buyer side of the fence is dissolving then what purpose will contracts serve in the future.

Sore head?

If you have tech overwhelm, don’t worry. This is all you need to remember:

  1. Humans won’t be replaced any time soon
  2. Technology is here and if you haven’t noticed, you’re probably about to be bypassed
  3. Procurement needs to up its game with the incorporation of technology and see it as an enabler
  4. Creative thinking is the precursor to adopting and utilising technology effectively. Release people from menial tasks and engage them in different areas of the business

But wait, the blockchain action doesn’t stop here! Join us on October 15 with blockchain experts Shari Diaz, Innovation Strategy and Operations Program Director, IBM Watson Supply Chain and Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance in this webinar brought to you by IBM and Procurious. Click here to register for Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer.

Resilience – Much Ado About Nothing?

What is workplace resilience really all about and where does the responsibility lie?

By Carsten Schlipf/ Shutterstock

Much Ado About Nothing is about resilience. In many places resilience is the new fad, hitting every employee’s mandated training schedule. The good bits are often lost in the hype and the hype is misdirecting what resilience is really about and where the responsibility lies.

What’s it all about?

There are many definitions and schools of thought to explain resilience but I like this one:

“resilience is a combination of assets and resources within the individual and their environment that facilitate the individual’s capacity to adapt in the face of adversity’

Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013; Windle, 2011

Karen Tonkin, a Chartered Organisational Psychologist and Psychometric Specialist here in New Zealand makes the distinction between employee resilience, which concerns the individual, and organisational resilience, which refers to the organisation’s resilience. These two differences are quite obvious but until she had researched this space, there was no empirical studies or evidence connecting the two or investigating casual linkages.

Often workplaces focus on employee resilience in order for the organisation to benefit. These skillsets are sold as desired, or even, required for individuals to build and gain in order to support the organisation. There are usually mandated courses for employees to attend and this is where it starts to go awry.

Traditional approaches to resilience fail by a one size fits all approach

Where resilience training fails employees is that it is often delivered in a group format and it is not tailored to the individual. While you can grow resilience traits and become resilient, it is not as simple as attending a one day course.

There have been new studies that reveal the organisations that do achieve increased levels of employee resilience have a more holistic view of resilience and they target programmes and offer initiatives at an individual level. This way of approaching resilience is successful because it acknowledges that an employee is a person with many different emotions and life circumstances that can come with them to work. The work environment must strive to be supportive and be willing to support employees wellbeing.

Leadership must lead

Organisations that are successful in increasing resilience in their employees are ditching the outdated notion of resilience as “emotional coping” and investing in the development of their people and teams.

How?

Top performing teams were noted as having the following traits in their leaders.

  • Being present
  • Fostering positive work environments
  • Making employees feel valued and supported
  • Not ruling with an iron fist, flexibility around working styles, hours and productivity
  • Creating and maintaining healthy team dynamics 

Organisations need to stop focusing on outdated concepts of resilience, stop one size fits all training, recognise the latest research and benefits of wellbeing. Leaders need to walk the talk as resilience is the cultural heartbeat of a team.

Can we build it? Yes we can!

What happens when an organisation or environment is not supportive and doesn’t tick any of the boxes above? Can you build your individual resilience in spite of your environment? The answer is yes! I have been researching various individual strategies and techniques that can help.

Building micro resilience

The topics covered so far can be considered to be rather macro. If we drill down into the concept of micro resilience, we can start to see how as individuals we can build resilience within ourselves in order be adaptable and healthy in any environment we find ourselves in.

Micro resilience involves a concept of self, it’s about the smaller interactions of the day to day, the characteristics of personality that act as building blocks to make the whole person and the daily actions you take to build your strength of character.

A recent study by Bonnie St John has combined many existing research papers, papers, books and practices to provide helpful information for people to cultivate their own micro resilience in their every day life.

Mirco resilience hacks

  • Note where you spend your time and what you spend your time doing, this is what you’re choosing to define yourself as. Starting point? What drains you? Make a list then think about interventions to minimise these things
  • Look after your health and body
  • Clarify your goals and purpose, know your direction but then set it free. Once the bigger things are set, focus on smaller daily actions that build up to those goals
  • Stake out the time for yourself and your goals, create focus times – even if this means getting away from everyone for periods of time and completely blocking out your calendar
  • Reframe negative emotions into positives or alternative views, writing these down can really help
  • Take your wellbeing seriously, priortise time to wind down when you can. Meditation, yoga, reading, playing in a rock band! Whatever it takes

The important thing is to become self-aware, know where you spend your time, what you want to change or achieve and how you are going to back yourself to get the things you need. Build your own toolbox and keep working with these tools until you can regulate emotions like a pro and take strategic pop shots at life when difficult situations arise.

While the battle grounds of the macro resilience world are most likely too much for an individual to expect to overcome or change, we can take accountability to train our own micro resilience muscles.

Please share any cool organisational training you’ve been involved in or your own personal tips and tricks!

What Makes A High Performing Team?

How do you build and nurture high performing teams?

By Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock

Recently I realised that my management brand is being built whilst I’m busy planning how I want to be a better manager. In other words, it’s the small daily interactions of how I show up in the world that count, not the long term plans yet to be actioned.

Big gestures show your leadership style, sure, but where people really form an opinion of the type of leader you are is how you greet them in the morning, how you handle stress, how you help them when they are stressed, how you organise yourself and the team in the small ways. How you back them when it counts, or if you back them at all.

I realised I am working in the opposite way to how I have been generally managed in the past and the management styles I have seen around me. If building high performing teams is seen as a strength of mine then what is that I do?

Getting back to basics

  1. Present, informative leadership

Heads of departments or general managers will be exposed to lots of high level information, often well above the relevancy and pay grade of most general team members. When managers share the information down the line it helps to build a common vision and brings all levels along for the collective ride. It also helps contextualise what being busy really means. It helps each person prioritise according to the organisation’s higher goals or hot topics of the day and helps build meaning.

2. Flexibility (true flexibility)

Flexible working arrangements are often talked about but rarely effectively executed by management. It requires someone to let go of the need to control every aspect of how they feel the work environment should run. It requires shifting to an outputs frame of working rather than presentism and hourly bum-in-seat time. Showing decency and respect to team members will render more tangible outputs then say, denying annual leave requests and privately rescinding public approvals for people to work from home. All this does is build a culture of hierarchy, need for control and lack of trust.

Respect and trust breeds loyalty and which produces higher output, care and pride for one’s own work.

3. Developing through empowerment

Development is an eye roll producing topic for most managers and even employees – but it is really important and it doesn’t have to be a tick box exercise, it can be genuine and effective with little effort.

Hacks for a procurement development plan, review in detail the follow areas:

  • Technical experience related to their job
  • Cross agency and cross team learning
  • Focus on commercial and supplier management (or other specific area in the sector)
  • Formal training, courses or workshops
  • In-house learning
  • The procurement lifecycle for gaps in their knowledge
  • Build their strengths
  • Look at procurement trends, what can they research or learn and become the team expert in

But here’s the thing, you actually have to complete the tasks and have the meetings! If these two things are executed it will evolve naturally, it can be this simple.

4. Building people’s strengths

The concept of playing to your strengths is not a new one but because of the human tendency to want to be good in all areas of our work, it’s pervasive and needs to be called out frequently.

5. Hiring a blended team

Part of making a high performing team is understanding the types of roles, personalities and levels of technical expertise that you will need for long term success. What isn’t required or even possible, is having all of the types of roles, personalities and levels of expertise. This is a utopia view that is probably rarely going to happen. Instead try to balance out the management style first e.g. a creative, fire type needs more structured staff to offset this nature. Then expand from there matching the roles in the team with what they will need to be successful, pair them off.

You’re dreaming mate

I can already hear my hairdresser in my ear saying… “this is all very well but it relies on people not taking the p*ss and having a good team to begin with. It relies on people wanting to do good work in the first place and not just focusing on getting out of the office fast enough to make Friday happy hour (on a Tuesday).”

Yes it does.

I have only worked in one place in 10 years that had such a degree of toxicity that none of these tactics would have worked. Maybe it’s because I do my homework first before applying for jobs and I research culture, leadership styles and team dynamics. But I would like to think that in the profession of procurement, most people are highly intelligent, capable people that just need a bit of trust and support to flourish and meet their highest potential.

My final tip: tell your team and your staff they are doing a good job – you’d be amazed at how this makes people feel.

New Zealand Government Procurement – A Temperature Check

A lot has been going on in New Zealand Government procurement, compounding one after the other. Where to start?

By Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

When you’re in the thick of something it’s harder to take the moment to carve out enough perspective to say something meaningful. A lot has been going on in New Zealand Government procurement, compounding one after the other. Where to start?

The Ardern effect

The Ardern effect started long before our Prime Minister was elected, it was coined during her election campaign as a way to explain (or criticise, depending on what side of the fence you are on) the undeniable, charismatic ability she has to lead and relate to people. Jacinda Ardern has gained a lot of notoriety for all of her firsts: youngest Prime Minister, first woman to be pregnant during her elected term, her partner is the primary carer – shock horror, they are unmarried to, although recently announced their engagement.

The Ardern effect has continued to follow her and is not just isolated to her election campaign as they are values that are inherent to her as a person, she does not switch them on and off. She is a leader that feels, this is perhaps the rarest thing about her. Perhaps this is the real “first”.

A leader with feels headlining at the UN

Ardern took these values and headlined them in her statement to the United Nations in September 2018 where she called out politicians and governments to respond to the “… growing sense of isolation, dislocation and a sense of insecurity and the erosion of hope.” New Zealand is a country where the Prime Minister’s response to this was to publically declare that we as a county are pursuing kindness.

The Ardern effect is a bow wave waiting to hit

I had never really seen values, emotions or concepts of a collective “betterness” be voiced in this way by a leader of our country in the theatre of politics, let alone on an international stage. I have watched with active interest how this would play out and trickle down into my day job – this vehement passion is bound to impact.

Positive warning shots

  1. Broader Outcomes

The New Zealand Government Procurement website states that government procurement can and should be used to support wider social, economic and environmental outcomes that go beyond the immediate purchase of goods and services. The Government agreed on 23 October 2018 to a set of priority outcomes for agencies to leverage from their procurement activities and identified specific contracts or sectors for initial focus.

Although the broader outcomes initiative is targeted to four priority areas, it sets the tone and the expectation that this the lens in which all government spending should be filtered through.

2. Wellbeing budget hype

The much anticipated, much talked about Wellbeing budget did not under deliver on its promise. New Zealand is the first western country to design its entire budget based on wellbeing priorities and instruct its ministries to design policies to improve wellbeing.

It’s not like Social Procurement hasn’t been done before, it’s happening in many areas, many businesses and many government agencies but what is different is the government which is leading, the context of what has happened in New Zealand recently and how you cannot move without being hit by social responsibility.

Added context

New Zealand has had a big year, here are some snippets that add to the contextual tapestry of our country:

  • The “I am hope” grass roots campaign by Mike King, New Zealander of the Year ignited the fight against mental health issues in NZ. Mental health continues to be a hot topic in our country and politics.
  • The Rainbow flag that symbolises diversity and inclusion was painted at the Airport of our capital city, welcoming people for the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) showing that we accept and support everyone.
  • The horrific terror attacks and our response as a country to love more.
  • The first country in the world to bring in a Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act that brings in new rights for employees affected by domestic violence. It gives them the right to take paid leave and to have flexible working arrangements to support them during this time.
  • NZ Government Procurement ranks number one in the world! Following research conducted by Oxford University

Poised

With our strong values based leader that is internationally recognised, our standing within the international procurement sector, the focus on broader outcomes and wellbeing for our citizens in NZ. It’s no wonder the trickle down effects are starting to make themselves known. It’s an exciting time for those of us that are passionate about social values.

Nine years of a government focused on infrastructure has been reflected in the hotness of infrastructure as a cool kid procurement job. It’s not too far off for the social warriors to get their turn to roar, conscious buying within the framework of government seems like an exciting challenge to me.

Who is ready to step up to the challenge?


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The Moment When You Become Your Worst Customer

What happens when the shoe is on the other foot? What can you learn from being the customer?


By Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Recently I found myself buying graphic design services and it was a very interesting and informative experience. From the outset and initial engagement I was clear on the base concept and the output that I needed, but through the design process I found myself to be indecisive and part way through I completely changed track.

I’m sure we can all relate to these customer types that the company PATlive have coined.



  • The Complainer: A business’ greatest ally, this customer has a lot to be unhappy about and you’re going to hear all about it
  • The Overly Agreeable:These types will yes you to death and you never get to the root of their issues
  • The Expert: They know way more about your job than you do. Trust
  • The Pessimist: There’s a dark side to every solution. Well, the pessimist believes that’s true
  • The Staller: Hard to convince and hesitant, the staller can be a major toughie

In my experience, as the customer I became The Staller. It was such an unusual feeling for me and it made me think about communication styles and how we treat our stakeholders.

Stakeholder management

What is a stakeholder? Ultimately it’s someone that you need to work with from another part of the business in order to get things done. But really a stakeholder is just a person and the quickest way to keep things moving in your project, is to understand that person, what makes them tick and what world they operate in. You then need to adapt yourself in order to reach a successful outcome.

As a function, procurement can sometimes be considered a Dictator. Most of us would certainly never treat our customers that way, but, ultimately we are operating within a “rules” environment whether we are public or private sector. No matter how agile, flexible or creative we are, our game is managing risk. This can cause procurement people to put themselves in a position that is above the customer or stakeholder, in the earlier example we become “The Expert” and we expect the business to simply trust us based on our job title, our communication style can sometimes be influenced by this subconscious expert bias.

The mash up

In an information rich world, and information rich sector, overlaying customer types and communication styles can be a helpful way to ensure that we are efficient and effective. There are oodles of four box diagrams of stakeholder management, positioning, market dynamics, the list goes on and while this is interesting to understand categories of spend / suppliers and our business – it is largely academic. Just because a supplier sees your company as a “cash cow”, doesn’t mean that the relationship manager (who may be a “pleaser” type) will be seeking to exploit the contract. I find it much more effect to break down companies, contracts, teams and relationship contact points in to communication and customer types and to be open and receptive in stakeholder meetings

Back to basics

Tips for effective stakeholder meetings:

1. Prep

  • Be clear on what your questions are, what are the gaps that you need to know?
  • Be clear on your recommended way forward but be genuinely open to new ideas
  • Know the patterns of the business unit, the trends, what they’re likely to do and have plans A, B and C ready to go
  • Decide what you’ll concede on and what you will not

2. Chat

  • Meet face to face, or at least on the phone. The more connection the better!
  • Be open, be collaborative
  • But don’t be a pushover

3. Handshake

  • Agree what the actions are in a follow up email. We all know the people that smile and nod in front of you but run off and do the opposite! Take the time to follow up a summary of agreed points.

Learnings

By objectively observing my own recent experience, I was able to deepen empathy and understanding of what is like to go through a process you don’t understand or buy something that you’re not an expert in.

My designer being the super cool professional that she is, had me well and truly covered and had already seen my curve ball coming. Such is the role of any professional, she:

  • Know’s her stuff (technical knowledge)
  • Learned me as a customer
  • Interpreted my future needs to future proof hers
  • Led me through the process in collaboration even though she knew that I would land on the final concept right from the beginning

So what did I learn from this process?

It allowed me to fully understand that customers don’t always deliberately drag the chain, they don’t wake up in morning with the intention to delay the project, or with the sole purpose to throw out my work programme. That dilly dallying is not a sign of weakness. And that sometimes, I simply do not know better than my customer!

Although the above answers are tongue-in-cheek, there is some undercurrent of truth that I think we can all confess to thinking from time to time and so I encourage you in those moments to stop and consider how you would feel as your customer.

Extra for experts

When I was writing this it brought to mind the communication style toolbox “StraightTalk” this company has been around for awhile but for good reason, their communication styles make sense and they present them in a box diagram – procurement folk love a good box diagram!

Take their quiz and see what type you are!

Bursting The Leadership Bubble – You Have Got What It Takes

People often cultivate an air of mystique about the type of person it takes to be in a senior leadership role. Abby Vige bursts that bubble…

By Andrew Angelov/ Shutterstock

Influencing up is about taking ownership of yourself and not waiting for things to be handed to you no matter how lowly or isolated your role is. There is always a way to move forward and add value.

I have summarised the key takeaways that I deployed early on my career, they serve as valuable reminders in any role that I am in.

1.Spot things in your team that could do with streamlining or improving #efficencyprogrammes

2. Don’t overlook the basics like creating tools and templates – this can be gold #bigdata #storytelling

3. Do your time, do the churn and take each opportunity as it comes #rollyoursleevesup

4. Get organised. We are all busy, you need to get efficient with your time #productivityhacks

5. Pick a senior that you can trust and test ideas with them, they can be your biggest ambassador #squadgoals

Mystery management

People are people no matter what their job title is or how senior they are, this seems so obvious! but many of us have cultivated an air of mystique about what type of person it must take to be in such a senior role. It’s worthwhile to take a moment to put them into slow motion in order to unpack what’s actually going on.

The slowmo replay

We all recognise this scenario, the most senior person in a organisation walks through an office in close proximity. You’ve never spoken to them, never been introduced to them, you are just one of oodles of people that they manage. In many instances they will most likely know your name but your day to day jobs don’t require any personal interaction. They waft through the office almost like an apparition. The air of leadership. The manager has landed.

How it’s interpreted

When I have mentored people coming up through the ranks, I have noticed that they often hold these people in such reverence. They make bold assumptions about the life they must have lead, the number of degrees they must hold and how super duper busy they must be. It’s often stated “…there’s no way I could do that job…” And so I ask them, what makes you think this? They say “well because they have such a high level job and so much responsibility, they must have so much technical knowledge and experience, their job must be insane”. While some of this is usually true, it does the manager a disservice. Is a titanic sized shipload of technical knowledge where the value lies? Are these the most valuable things they can teach us?

Bursting the bubble

When you slow the manager down, view and accept that they are a person just like the rest of us, the reverence bubble will pop. In the demystifying the senior manager we can begin to see what really matters, and what matters is knowing how they human and what they learned in order to get to where they are.

Human hacks

These are the questions we should be asking.

  • What things have happened in your life that have given the capability to be able to do this role that you’re in?
  • What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
  • What does stress feel like to you? How does it present, what brings it on and what do you do?
  • How do you manage competing time priorities?
  • What did you try that didn’t work? What did you try that did work?

The answers to these questions lay out a path that maps the journey of experience. A degree isn’t going to teach you instincts about your business, a degree can be important but it doesn’t teach you about resilience that is crafted and learned over time. The technical expertise is not what makes most senior managers, it’s the life skills.

Behind the veil

Senior managers need to challenge themselves to pull aside the curtain and be open to people about what they’ve done in their life to build the person that is the leader before them.

From this point, people can make an accurate assessment about what type of calibre it takes to be in a certain role and whether those skill sets suit their strengths, their values and their aspirations.

Get away from the technical and focus on the human.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Voicemails Are Dead So Why Do We Use Them?

Why do we all have a voicemail system and why do people continue to leave them? Abby Vige discusses instant gratification

By Aniwhite/ Shutterstock 

When we’re stuck in the work grind and we see our phone light up with news from beyond our present moment, our spirits buoy a little! Yay! Then we drop when we realise it’s just a voicemail. It’s almost as bad as when you think have a text but it’s just spam from your telecommunications provider. Sigh.

Confession

I have to admit that I never clear voicemails, some people even state in their voicemail greeting that they do not clear them, so why do we all have a voicemail system and why do people continue to leave them?

Voicemails date back to the late seventies when a chap patented his unique “Voice Message Exchange” and sold the electronic message system to 3M. Since this master stroke of genius, we have never looked back. When voicemails were invented they made sense, there were no emails and faxes were yet to reach their peak. But do they make sense as a business or connection tool in this modern era?

A message from beyond

The reason I don’t tend to clear my voicemails, is because as soon as someone leaves one the news instantly old. Or, there is very little information that warrants the effort of clearing them all and then phoning each individual back “hey, Susan from accounts here, phone me back” why should I?

Enter the experiment phase…

After having this question kick around my head for awhile, I decided to scratch the itch of my curiosity and prove what I thought to be true. I listened to every voicemail across 2-3 days and phoned each person back, the top results were:

  • They had already emailed me the query and was surprised I was phoning them
  • The issue at hand had substantively evolved
  • They had found out the answer themselves

The motivation for them to leave the voicemail had initial merit, but in some instances, just minutes later the situation had changed. My stark conclusion was that most of the conversations were in effect, a waste of time.

Now, I don’t want to be seen as a VM hater, Procurement is a customer centric, customer service industry. But this is not the way I add value to my customers or to my organisation. Voicemails fall in to a “reactive” space for me and I’m much more of a pro-active gal. I love to be accessible to my customers, but you’ll often find me at their desks in person because face to face conversations are worth it.

What’s driving Susan?

The experiment was interesting and somewhat validating but the question remains, why do we feel the need to leave the dreaded VM in the first place? Most people assume that it’s because email as a written form, takes longer to write out verses simply phoning the person and requesting that they phone you back. It’s also generally accepted that voicemails enable us to convey emotions and urgency.

But what is really driving us is more of a simpler basic human need, the need for instant gratification. The term itself is self-explanatory but it in this context what is driving us is our self-centric view of the world. Even though we know it makes sense to write an email and include more information and leave it for when the person is available to digest it, we forgo these long-term benefits in favour of short term benefits that resolve something in our world, we feel better.

This is subject that has piqued curiosity for many years and found its roots in pop culture through the 1960’s infamous “Marshmallow experiment”. This was a major psychological study conducted by Stanford Professor Walter Mischel where children between 4 and 5 years old were given the choice of having one marshmallow to eat right away or they could wait for the researcher to come back and they would get two. The results of watching the kids wait has been the subject of many a video and even adverts.

How this plays out at work

The desire for short term gratification is often exasperated by the pressures of a work environment where the sense of needing to get things done and done quickly rules supreme. What underpins the need for instant gratification? The need for the issue to be passed on, to be received – ultimately to be heard.

We eat the marshmallow over and over, we can’t wait, we can’t help ourselves. Those of us that don’t leave voicemails most likely transfer the gratification to other media or medium. Even your neat and pretty to do list or post it note system fits the short term satisfaction bill.

The biggest insight gained from the experiments was the link proven between delaying gratification and being successful in life. Those 4 and 5 year olds from the 1960’s that waited for the second marshmallow, had higher academic scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.

What we can learn

If we train ourselves to be less reactive and to delay those hard wired gratification urges, we can increase our productivity in focused and targeted areas. Ultimately raising our value to the organisations we work for, whether that is a company or working for yourself.

Take the challenge….

  1. Don’t leave voicemails
  2. Pay attention to your inner world, before you take action, think about what is driving that action
  3. Start small and repeat that small action each day
  4. Keep visual reminders about your top priorities
  5. Keep yourself accountable

5 Productivity Hacks You Should Be Using Now

When things are really hitting the fan you don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal.


By Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

The panic is real. So many things to do, all of equal value and all due yesterday! How do you cut through the noise? Here are my proven hacks for achieving the impossible.

Mindset

The most important place to begin is your mind. Often in high pressure situations you begin to worry. You worry about the volume of tasks you need to do, the timeframes, the pressures put on you to deliver and the number of project responsibilities.

Within this context (the brow furrowing worry), the brain becomes overwhelmed. Research has proven that ability of working memory to direct attention to what’s relevant is incredibly compromised, the brain is effectively running lots of programmes at once and everything slows down. In terms of how the brain processes information, we know that the brain dedicates capacity to verbal information and some capacity to spatial information. When people are worried it is common that they talk to themselves in their head – worries tend to be verbal and therefore compete for the limited pool of capacity.

Psychologist Sian Beilock found that when students are presented with a mathematical problem presented horizontally “32 – 17 = x” it demands more of the brain’s verbal resources than when the same problem is presented vertically.

The brain processes vertical information visually and therefore accesses the spatial capacity which has less demand for its resources.

This is often why making lists can feel better!

Taking back control

Understanding how the brain works is one thing but if things are really hitting the fan then don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal! Here are my top five productivity hacks to help you take back control.

1. Eisenhower Matrix

President Eisenhower was on to something when he shared this technique of decision making and prioritisation. It is a four box quadrant that helps you organise tasks in order of urgency and importance. My on-the-ground approach is to draw up four large boxes in my notebook and head them up according to what I need e.g. Urgent / Do now, Do next, Monitor, Delegate then I simply put each task under these headings and focus on one thing at a time.

2. Find an organisational app like Trello

Once you have identified the individual tasks and organised them into an Eisenhower, it can be helpful to transfer them to an electronic platform where you can easily access and update them. I am a huge fan of Trello, it is a free “to do list” app that I use for all of my projects. Having your to do list in an electronic platform gives you the opportunity to share your to do list and collaborate with other people as well as update things when you’re on the go.

3. Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management technique that dates back to the 1980’s, it was created by Francesco Cirillo and is based on the principle of short, sharp, concentrated bursts of activity. If you’re curious, the technique is named after the Pomodoro (tomato) timer that Cirillo used when he was at university.

Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix completed and your life uploaded into Trello, take the most urgent tasks and block out your calendar accordingly. You may need to play with the time period that suits you, some people can do a full hour but I prefer no more than 30 minutes – that’s a long time concentrating on one task!

4. Technology lock down

It’s so simple to do and yet most people do not apply this last trick, shut down the emails! Close your emails and any other system that can notify or distract you.  Do not assume that you are superior to the temptation of technology and distractions. If you see an email pop up, you will be tempted to answer it. Just say no!

5. Change your environment

If possible, work away from your usual spot. Either work from home, a different desk, a café, a meeting room. It can be anywhere just as long as you can concentrate. Breaking away from your usual work spot should reinforce the objective you are trying to achieve, and most importantly it can keep you from being interrupted.

If you implement all of these tools and combine them into a new way of working, you will be sure to come out the other side winning. What are your proven hacks? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

Don’t Let Your Action Bias Take Control Of Your Career

What is this motivating force that continually drives us? The answer could be – action bias.

Recently I found myself in unfamiliar territory; I had reached the bottom of the barrel. There was no big project to immediately sink my teeth into. I had achieved the unthinkable, I had achieved the workplace equivalent of clocking Facebook, there were no more stories to load.

Like any staffer worth their salt I was able to quickly fill that barrel back up but the level of discomfort that I felt stuck with me. It boarded on anxiety. I started pondering… what is this motivating force that continually drives me? The answer could be – action bias.

Action Bias

The term Action Bias comes from a 2007 study of penalty kicks in football “an analysis of penalty kicks shows that the optimal strategy for goalkeepers is to stay in the goal’s centre. Goalkeepers, however, almost always jump right or left. This implies that a goal scored yields worse feelings for the goalkeeper following inaction (staying in the centre) than following action (jumping), leading to a bias for action.”

A large part of my driving force within the workplace can be characterised by ambition, the desire to do a good job, to achieve outcomes, to deliver and “complete” but also to keep busy. It’s the last part that made me reflect.

Is keeping busy always a good thing?

We all have colleagues in the workplace that are constantly busy, the never ending flurry of shuffling papers, or the ghost colleague that is always in meetings and seemingly only comes back to the desk to sigh. Rationally we know that being busy doesn’t correlate directly to the quality or output of a person’s work but as a society we generally buy into the belief that being busy is a good thing.

The other recognisable “busy bee” is the creative thinker, the fire type, the fast paced ideas guy or gal. The negative association with these action orientated people is that they can shoot first and ask questions later, they jump to conclusions and engage in solution mode before deep analysis has taken place. While this is most certainly not a bad thing, it can be if done 100 per cent of time.

It could be proposed that the drive and motivation behind being busy is really just a societal acceptance of action bias.

So what happens when we stop? What happens when we take time to think?

What are the alternatives to being busy?

Looking at the items in the barrel, I realised that the new additions were improvements and value add’s and the bonus is that they are now captured in my work programme amongst the demand driven projects received directly from the business. The tendency towards action bias worked for me in this instance but I don’t think it should be my default.

Being busy can be characterised with a certain type of pace; moving fast and being stressed.

But, when you break it down being busy is about working towards a goal at a consistent pace that delivers the results you require. By reframing busyness in this way you can see the fast action and stress as a symptom of the belief system – be kinder to yourself. It is important to schedule time for strategic thinking and brainstorming that extends beyond the near future.

It is important to find time to think of new projects that deliver value to the business. It is important to think beyond the scope of “work” and perhaps the most shocking of all, it can be as simple as going for a walk and getting some fresh air.  Taking time to pause and go for a stroll in the sun is perhaps the most productive thing that we can do.