All posts by Abby Vige

Design Thinking Applied To Procurement

Don’t reinvent the wheel, apply design thinking tools to help you plan your next procurement.


Agile processes and design thinking are not fads, they are here to stay. During a three day design sprint that I participated in recently. I was bombarded with many different models designed to stimulate creativity. The result was a continual stripping down of our ideas until they were polished and on target.

Using these tools to break down our assumptions and continually test and probe ourselves for new answers was both exhausting and inspiring. Tools to aid design thinking don’t have to be high tech, new or complex to be effective. They are simple and freely available, so why aren’t we utlising them more in procurement?

Design thinking in action

Here are some of the design thinking exercises that I have used recently in my work:

  • Lightning Demos: before a workshop set the attendees homework to discover relevant tools or examples of either how your problem has been dealt with elsewhere, and/or things you’ve interacted with in your daily life that you find easy to use e.g. pay wave credit card for ease of transacting, a website you’ve used, etc.
  • ‘How Might We…’: takes challenges and poses them as questions.
  • User Journey Maps: These help to build empathy and understanding. Start with how your user first encounters your business / product and map out their experience end to end.
  • Crazy Eights: You fold your A4 piece of paper into eight sections and set the timer for eight minutes. Try and think of any solution possible, no matter how out there.
  • Game theory: Using cards to stimulate combinations of thinking differently e.g. event cards, theme cards, product idea cards. Draw one each from the pile and see what ideas it generates.
  • The Five Whys: the idea is to keep interrogating the cause of the problem to ensure any solution has dug to the actual root cause. In the example below often the response would end at fixing the leak.
  • Personas: Another empathy building tool. Build up a detailed persona of the core or target user and use them when designing ideas.
  • SCAMPER: The acronym represents seven techniques for idea generation: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate and Reverse
  • Dot voting: With an overwhelming amount of post it notes and ideas, each person gets two dot stickers to place on the post it note that they feel is the most important and contributes to addressing the problem statement.
  • Decision matrix: Because everyone loves a four box diagram in procurement. This Is a great way to clear on priorities, especially if there are a lot of dot stickers!

Want to find out more? Google has made their design sprint kit free, its open source and available for anyone to use. You can find further information about each design thinking tool cited above by visiting their website.

How can you apply these to your procurement project?

Many internal customers come with pre-formed solutions and ideas of how to solve the problem or opportunity they wish to approach the market about. The design thinking exercises are quick ways to ensure that the right solution is being reached for. If the customer is not willing to participate, you can do these by yourself.Test for new ways to solve the issue and test that the problem or opportunity has been correctly identified in the first place.

Ditch the 400 page strategy

The Lean Canvas is where we can start to bring all the creative thinking together on one page. It should be clear, concise and make a convincing case for change. There are many free examples online. The lean canvas can be used to replace the traditional procurement plan document for low risk procurements. It can also cut down a category management paper to it’s essence, making the perfect executive summary for others to digest at a glance.

This sounds bonkers

Are people really doing this? Yes! My current workplace is central government agency and we are using the lean canvas approach in the place of traditional procurement plans.The co-design process can replace tenders effectively. The theory of change model is the perfect framework to accelerate an idea and unlock its true impact.

Get inspired and start thinking outside of the procurement box!

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 To Take Back Control At Work – And Learn To Say ‘No’

We can teach ourselves how to politely decline that unwanted extra work and save our energy for when it’s needed.

Do you find yourself taking on more and more work? Are you one of those people who gets dragged into every project? The one others always ask for help?

If you have people-pleasing tendencies or find it hard to say ‘no’, then read on.

Often people-pleasing comes from a well-meaning desire to help and be useful. Psychologists would say that it has its roots in an individual’s requirement for external validation and a need to be liked.

I’m a recovering people-pleaser myself. And I know the difficulties in saying ‘no’ at the office are not limited to those who have a deep psychological need to be validated.

I have seen it pop its head out to say ‘hello’ in many different work situations.

At work, fear of saying ‘no’ can be driven by a desire simply to keep your job. Or to be well placed for promotion. But accepting every little task can soon lead to feeling overwhelmed – and to burnout. 

Claw yourself out of the hole

Healthy self-awareness will help create strong boundaries to ensure that you are in the driving seat in your career. And that as far as possible you control how you are treated at work. 

If you understand your values and your career drivers you can use these as a compass to navigate what you will and won’t get involved in.

Check yo’ self

  1. Know yourself and values – take the free assessment to see what your values are at VIA Institute on Character or try Clifton Strengths Finder. 
  2. Recognise your communication style and preferences.
  3. Be aware of your triggers and needs.

Check your job – what do you get paid to do?

  1. What is your core role and its required tasks? Boil it down to the three most important core components of your role.
  2. What extra stuff that is not in your job description do you do anyway? Assess that list. Does any of it come from perfectionism? Being a people-pleaser? Not wanting to say no or renegotiate?
  3. Once your job is boiled down to its core components, write it on a post-it note. If you can’t fit it into three bullet points on a post-it note then keep refining until it does.

Your post-it note is what powers you, it sticks in your pocket all day. 

Tell someone

Communicate with your manager about what you’ve learned. I have done this many times in my career and in the past with this exercise I have:

  • Received a promotion
  • Demonstrated the need for new staff (three additional staff hired)
  • Gained a new job title
  • Been offered an out-of-cycle pay rise.

I’m not guaranteeing these outcomes for everyone but they’re more likely if you can explain what you’ve learned.  

Power yourself up

Think of it like armour. 

If you need help learning to say ‘no’, you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t actually have to utter that terrifying word.

Make sure you understand what your core focus is. Then anything that doesn’t align begins to stick out like a sore thumb. 

INCOMING! Here comes Shirley trying to get you to do her work again.

What does your post-it note say? If it’s not your core role, then move on to another victim, Shirley. ‘Thanks for the offer, but I’m focusing on my priority areas at the moment, working towards multiple deadlines.’

INCOMING! A shiny new opportunity has revealed itself, but your time would be stretched if you take this on as well as everything else.

Ask to be on the steering committee, which is only a 1-hour commitment once a month. ‘That sounds fantastic, I would love to be involved. I’m at full capacity at the moment. Is there a way I can be involved that wouldn’t be so time-intensive?’

INCOMING! Your boss asks you to do 50 things by the end of the day.

Take out your list of core tasks and ask what they would like you to stop doing in order to accommodate the new tasks. 

In review

  1. Understand yourself.
  2. Spring-clean your job.
  3. Get clear on what it is that you do and boil it down to 3 bullet points.
  4. Wear these like a badge and assess anything incoming against this.
  5. Hold your boundaries firm and reject anything that’s not in alignment.

Use these tips to clarify what inspires you and the core functions of your role. This empowers you to say ‘no’ and make the most of your time.

Hack Your Meetings And Get Your Life Back

Say goodbye to meetings that quickly run off track and have no actionable outcomes with these fresh approaches

We have all been stuck in meetings that either don’t need to happen in the first place or drag on and lose any ounce of effectiveness. These can be tough to sit through, especially if you’ve got better places to be!

Read on for some tips on how to create more effective meetings and alternatives to meetings.

Update how you approach running meetings

Gaining effectiveness can be as simple as making some tweaks to the traditional format. These five actions below are designs to see you ditch the outdated format of sitting around the table listening to the biggest extroverts in the room.

  1. Rotate the chair so that different people get to bring their own style.
  2. Set a simple agenda where the headings are always the same so that people can prepare in advance. For example, the most pressing issues today or this week, what is working well and what needs to change.
  3. Keep the meeting to its scheduled timeframe and don’t be afraid to use your phone to time it.
  4. Stand rather than sit to encourage short conversations that get to the point.
  5. Create a voting system or a phrase to quickly identify when everyone is on the same page (and therefore can move on) or identify areas that may need to be shifted offline. Try the five fingers voting system.

However, if it’s not a recurring meeting with a group of familiar faces or if it’s a 1:1 style with a customer or senior person then create a basic structure. Here’s mine:

  1. Confirm the point of the meeting
  2. Offer a brief overview of the issue at hand
  3. Explain your desired outcome and why
  4. Explain how you know you’ll have sorted the issues at hand
  5. Confirm follow up action points and set realistic timeframes
  6. Follow up with an email

These types of meetings can be nailed in 15 minutes if you control the flow of conversation and stick to the agreed topic at the outset of the meeting.

Ideas on switching up traditional meeting formats

You’ll recognise yourself in most of these situations so here’s how to flip them.

Team management and the day-to-day

Traditional: Manager/s talking at staff

Flip: Bottom-up not top-down

Description: Team members take turns to lead. Everyone brings their top three work priorities and we sometimes add in something lighter like “success this week will be… making it through the finance meeting”

Team planning sessions or away days

Traditional: Managers plan the content. Staff sit around tables listening all day.

Flip: Unconference.

Description: Get the team to plan out the day and what would be meaningful to them. Run an unconference. The benefit is that the team is empowered by creating the topics themselves. This results in a higher chance of buy-in will lead to a higher chance that ideas are carried forward when back in the office.

Project collaboration

Traditional: Meetings, teleconferences and more meetings

Flip: online

Description: Where possible, move all conversations online. Working with a tool like Slack and trello can be a great way to collaborate with a team and is particularly handy for teams that work in different time zones or that are spread across different organisations. The meetings then become a check-in point rather than a critical requirement to keep the project moving. I have found this to be very successful and a way to ensure that additional work-related side hustles don’t creep into your main gig.

Don’t put the “ass” in assume

Take the time to assess the different personality types of your team and people you meet with regularly. It’s important that meeting structures and formats suit different personalities – even if it’s only on a rotational basis.

For example, being a fire type and an extrovert, I am prone to assuming that if anyone has something to say they will just say it. Not true. People often need a warning about the structure of the meeting and what it will be about. They need time to process and come back with ideas and it’s important to allow this to happen. Even if the feedback is via email after the meeting, give people alternatives to speaking up directly.

Don’t let meetings run your life. Change how you view meetings and claim your time back. Combined with some basic productivity hacks, you could completely change your approach to working and conquer that ever-growing to-do list!

Interested in more hot tips on how to hack your work and get more productive? Join the Procurious community of 37,000 members where you’ll find daily inspiration.

In Need Of Some Fun At Work? Try These 5 Things.

Tomorrow happens to be ‘Fun at work’ day, so get in the mood with these 5 tips…

Work struggles can be real. Whether it’s a toxic work environment, a terrible boss, an annoying colleague or menial, soul-destroying tasks, there are times when we find our vibe is far from flying high. 

How can you begin to turn the tables and take control back?

Following these 5 tips will help you live your best (work) life.

1. Ask what drives you

Understanding your career drivers can help to work out what you can change in your current position. Or to unlock what you could be doing instead.

If you want to change your current situation or outlook, then first you need to understand yourself. 

Use the free resource Career Drivers Assessment by Crowe Associates.

The exercise helps to figure out your motivations in life. What drives you? Is it material reward? Power and influence? Creativity?

The resource then asks you what you can do to amplify your drivers. And to minimise anything that blocks your drivers. 

From here you can brainstorm tasks within your current job that align to your drivers. Or have fun mapping out new career options.

2. Know your values

Your career drivers should align with your personal values. Take the free assessment at the VIA Institute of Character to see what your values are. 

Many studies have shown that playing to your strengths in the workplace lays the groundwork for achieving success. 

It is better to build on your strengths than work on your weaknesses. 

Choosing a career or opportunities at your current workplace that align with your values – aka your superpowers – will set the scene for you to thrive. 

Use your values and career drivers as a checklist to assess any opportunities.

3. Stick to what you can control

Stephen R Covey’s 1989 classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People outlines a tool that helps you figure out what is within your control and what isn’t – and therefore should be dropped.

To understand how to use it and its application to the workplace, visit habits for wellbeing

In the exercise you brainstorm things that are out of your control. For example, worrying about the next election. And you think about what is in your control. For example, who you can vote for. 

4. Nurture a growth mindset

Over 30 years ago Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck took an interest in students’ perception of their failure. 

She developed the concept of a growth or fixed mindset. This has been making a comeback as one of the basics of positive thinking. 

Dweck encourages us to remember that the human brain is plastic. It has the capacity to learn new behaviours or rewire old patterns. 

In the workplace it is important to use the circle of control above combined with the growth mindset outlined below. 

It doesn’t mean there will be no rainy days at work but it could eliminate a large amount of noise. 

5. Follow productivity 2.0

In 2019 I wrote an article on productivity hacks

These are tools that can help with streamlining tasks. They are about taking a step back and looking at time management. 

How can you be effective with your time?

Nutshell. Look at your job in a nutshell. Break down the core components of your role. What are the key tasks that make up your day? 

Many job descriptions are different to what we actually do day to day. But don’t forget to check the job description.

You could be spending your time doing additional work that is not within your core role.

Batching. Group your key tasks into categories. For example, customer relations, data input, report writing, phoning suppliers, strategic planning or updating systems. 

Now think about the pomodoro approach and undertake all tasks within a category in one go. Each batch should last 20–60 minutes. I find it useful to spread these out over a week.

3 things. Prioritise the tasks above and take the 3 most important things that need to be done that day. 

Think carefully about what needs to be done versus what you want to do or what you are trying to avoid.

Focus. Make time for these 3 things, even if you have to block out time in your calendar or work away from your desk.

The hardest thing of all? Work until they are completed!

Connect. With all this newfound knowledge of your skills make sure you don’t forget the number 1 way to increase fun in the workplace. Connect with people! 

Find a work wife/husband/partner. Hang out with inspiring people. Find a mentor. Mentor someone yourself.

Join a network or club. It’s more than just having a chinwag, it’s about building a lifeline. You never know when you’re going to need it. 

So if work is sometimes a drag, try these 5 tips to take back control and build a better future.

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!