All posts by Abby Vige

5 Conversation Starters for your Festive Party

Ready for another round of parties this festive season? Here are some hot tips and conversation starters to get you through your next social engagements.

conversation starters
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

The festive season can be a continual revolving door of social situation after social situation. When it comes to the work environment not only do you have to deal with your own office but often those within your customer or supply network as well.

Making small talk and being stuck in social situations is even harder when your energy is low and you’ve had enough of people. What makes it hard for us to engage in conversations and why should you care?

Fear of Being Rejected?

A University of Chicago study by Nick Epley has revealed the biggest reason people don’t want to engage in conversation or small talk is a fear of rejection. This causes the brain to assign a high degree of risk in the concept of talking to strangers or making small talk.

There has been a further study that has proven this assumption to be incorrect, where no initiator of small talk was rejected.

Myth Busted

Armed with cold hard scientific facts doesn’t make the situation any easier but at least you know that most people are willing and receptive to talking. Here are five conversation starters to get you taking that all important first step.

1. Check the attendees and do research

Look up who is attending and what projects that they have recently completed. This can work for internal office parties and for your customers or suppliers. Work related topics are the safest, but make sure you keep it light.

2. How to deal with hierarchy

There have been a few occasions when fate has left me a few drinks in standing with the CEO. Don’t be silent susan. Management are human to, stick with safe topics like plans for the holidays. If you’re feeling really jazzy ask them what their biggest success or challenge was in the past year.

3. Common ground

If you’ve exhausted all your “go to’s” then try to think of some common situations where you may be able to relate to each other. Start simple with “are you more into podcasts, books or movies? What’s your favourite?”.

A Harvard University study has found that asking people about themselves can cause a change in the brain that naturally enhances their mood. The trick is to make it general enough that it doesn’t seem intrusive.

4. Do the twist

Flip the script a bit. We all get stuck with the usual silence fillers of “what are you doing for your break?”.

Tweak things slightly and ask “what are you most looking forward to over the holiday season?”. You’ll make the person think and it will provide opportunity for light, but genuine, conversation.

5. The naughty list

It’s good to keep in mind things that are a no go zone. If these things are executed exceptionally badly, they may prove to be career limiting moves.

  • Don’t get wasted. Monitor your drink intake and make sure you eat!
  • Don’t participate in gossip. You’ll get such a cringe when you next see the people in the sober (fluorescent) light of day
  • Don’t cross the personal communication line. It’s probably not a good look to leave voice notes over messenger or create an IG story of your new bestie.
  • Don’t discuss work in depth. It’s amazing what you can hear on public transport or out and about, let alone at an office party. If you are representing your company at a customer or supplier event then don’t be drawn in to talking about the competition or your organisation. You’re still logged on.

By applying the first five tips and avoiding the naughty list you’ll be sure to be on top form this festive season. No ragrets! Regerts! Oh, you know what we mean…

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.

The Introverts Guide to Office Parties

‘Tis the season for office parties. And also the season for introverts everywhere to agonise over whether they really want to attend…

christmas parties
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

There is nothing worse than the festive time of year for an introvert. All the dreaded required and implied invitations come in. It’s also the time of year when energy is lowest, you’re just amped to get out of the office for a well earned break. Not rub shoulders and trade awkward bants with office colleagues that you already see waaaay too much of.

You’re in a Social Pickle

Follow these tips to manage any social situation where you find yourself held hostage.

Parties – do your homework

Don’t ignore it, you’re going to have to face the facts that this dreaded situation is upon you. Find out who is organising the party and ask them how it’s going. You’ll likely get a barrage of problems and issues, act as a safe venting space and you’ll gain their trust. They’ll give you a preview of the rundown of how things are going to go. You can use your new found friendship to conveniently place yourself away from the scheduled office conga line.

Maths is your friend

Arrive early to leave early. Attendance and face time at an office party is about being seen, you don’t have to be there the whole time to get a tick in the box for attendance. It can also double as a great excuse to leave “yeah look I’ve been here 14 hours already helping susan prep the sausage rolls, so I really need to get home to let kid/dog/goldfish out for some air…”

Find a role

Use your new office BFF aka the party organiser to your advantage. Find out if there is anything you can strategically do to “help” to remain largely unseen with limited interaction. Hand out props to people going into the photobooth, help the band get their gear in, clear tables or fill up the toothpicks.

Size matters

The number of people at the party could have an impact on how much the dialled is turned up on your introvert richter scale. Review the RSVP list and check who is going versus who is invited. As you’re scanning the list think of any relevant projects they’ve been involved in and store away some one liners like “how did you find your experience on [x project]?”

Where’s your energy?

The labels of extrovert and introvert were created in the 1920s by the psychologist Carl Jung. In a nutshell he states that the difference comes down to whether people recharge by being around people or being alone.

In a party situation if you can quieten the external stimulus enough you may begin to see where your mind is. If it’s racing in a million different areas worrying about a million different things then you need to focus on just one thing, even if that one thing is twirling the straw in your glass.

Back-up Strategies

If the top tips don’t work then do some prep and follow these tried and true failsafes.

  • Seek Refuge. Find a safe team and stick with them.
  • Infiltrate. Call in back-up, invite some people loosely related to your team and form your own rival crew. Even better if they also hate office parties to! Think of the biggest project your team worked on during the year, are there any stakeholders that you could invite?
  • Decline, don’t go. If you really hate office parties that much then try to decline and offer an alternative like a team lunch out. At least you can limit your interaction to a small group of people.

The Best Kept Secret

The ultimate survival strategy comes down to one thing: own it.

There is no harm in being straight up with people. In fact it can be a really good conversation starter and you’ll probably be surprised how many people are exactly in the same boat.

Own your label and own your needs. Take that fresh air or break in the bathroom to recharge. The hungry extroverts have been filling their bellies with all the social antics and office banter. It’s ok to refuel by yourself on your own terms.

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.

Swiping Right for Social Enterprise

Procurement should be swiping right for Social Enterprise to create broader outcomes. It’s not the easiest change to make, but it’s a vital one for the future.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Doing things in new ways can be awkward. It’s like dating, there is nervous tension about expectations versus reality and how you will be perceived. Will you be able to “sell” your positive traits well? Will the other person measure up to your idea of success? Do you split the bill or pay for the whole thing? All of the rules from your last relationship have gone out the window – this is new territory.

In New Zealand, the Government has recently changed the procurement rules by shifting the focus towards ‘Broader Outcomes‘.

“Broader outcomes are the secondary benefits that are generated by the way a good, service or works is produced or delivered. These outcomes can be social, environmental, cultural or economic benefits, and will deliver long-term public value for New Zealand.

Broader outcomes require you to consider not only the whole-of-life cost of the procurement, but also the costs and benefits to society, the environment and the economy”

New Zealand Government Procurement Rules

There is no longer a focus on value for money, which is sometimes treated by some as getting the lowest price. The focus is on public value which is multifaceted.

What Else is New?

There have been other subtle changes to the Procurement Rules which have removed barriers whether they were real or perceived. The direction is set, the path has been cleared and now we must dust off our dating profiles and learn to do business in different ways.

We must actively seek commercial outcomes that derive social impact. This is not to say that was not in the consciousness before, but it was not quite as front of mind as it is now. 

Challenges of Putting Yourself Out There

This welcomed change brings about some challenges. There are varying degrees of experience and knowledge of working in a more agile or lean manner within procurement ecosystem. Applying new ways of working to the core machinery of Government can be even more challenging.

While the appetite is there, it can take some time to grease the entire wheel to move. There are many sectors and government agencies where these types of models and ways of approaching procurement have been around for eons.

It’s about bringing together the case studies of what has worked well and applying them more liberally to other opportunities.

Procurement functions can feel pulled, with one foot stuck in the traditional process driven tendering world and the other foot in the new procurement world. The new world focuses on early engagement and co-designing solutions more than ever before.

In the new world, procurement adds value at the beginning of the process and through effective contract and supplier relationship management. Procurement is not the process, in fact this will be largely automated in the not so distant future.

The new world suits the smaller businesses, the start up’s, the social enterprises as it makes Government more easily accessible.

Who are we Swiping Right for?

There has been a marked increase in interest in social enterprise or purpose driven businesses. This does not mean discriminating for these types of businesses but rather, deliberately bringing them on the journey or slicing up parts of projects that may be better delivered by these types of businesses.

It’s about giving them a voice at the concept stage or joining them up with other larger businesses who can bring in the big guns and who are sometimes better placed to take on larger risk.

The Awkward Social Enterprise Disco

Generically speaking the large buyer (particularly government) can look at start-up’s or small businesses with a high degree of risk and uncertainty.

  • Can they met all of our requirements?
  • Can they grow to meet the evolving capacity demands that successful projects often breed?

The smaller supply side of the fence often look at government as impossible to break in to, focused on lengthy tenders, slow to move and offer contracts that require extreme liability stances or loaded risk that shifts the balance towards the supplier. A small start up or social enterprise, for example, might not have the knowledge to begin to deal with our often seemingly fixed ways of working.

What’s Working?

The movement is happening, here is what I see:

  • Agencies working together
  • Buyer and supply side meeting and connecting
  • Different sectors of the supply side engaging to work together
  • More and more green lights everywhere: internal buyers, management, stakeholders, suppliers and the rules are more supportive
  • Procurement functions are helping to facilitate the gap by connecting supply markets and private sector with internal buyers
  • Procurement functions are working with the internal buyers by showing different ways of managing the process, e.g. co-design, agile, sprints, early supply market engagement.
  • Starting small, not tackling the significant contracts first.

Why Bother?

Because we should, because it’s the right thing to do and because spending the same dollar twice by making an impact and providing tangible social good with taxpayers’ money. Just. Makes. Sense. 

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