All posts by Hugo Britt

Navigating The World’s Largest Procurement Conference

ISM2018 is nearly upon us! With an action-packed agenda featuring no less than 100 educational sessions to choose from, it’s vital that attendees arrive in Nashville with a plan.

In just a few weeks I’ll be making the 22-hour journey from my home town of Melbourne all the way to the sequin-studded city of Nashville, Tennessee, to report on the jewel of the international procurement calendar, ISM’s Annual Conference.

No matter where you’re travelling from, it’s crucial to understand your key conference objectives in advance. Why? Because this isn’t a conference with a linear agenda where you simply sit back and watch a series of presentations without having to make any choices. On the contrary, there are 100 sessions packed into four days, with many of the sessions running concurrently. That means that at any one time, you may have to make a decision between nine simultaneous sessions.

My advice is to make your conference plan today. Don’t try to pick your sessions over breakfast at the conference itself, and certainly don’t try to make the decisions in the 5-minute breaks between each session!

Naseem Malik, Managing Partner of MRA Global Sourcing and member of the ISM2018 Conference Leadership Committee, told Procurious that it’s essential to have a plan before you go. “There are a lot of learning tracks, lots of great presentations, but there’s only a finite number of sessions you can attend. It pays to have an attack plan before you go. You can target a specific learning track, or mix and match.”

SVP of Procurement at NFP, Lara Nichols, has similar words of advice. “Chart a course through the sessions. Read ahead, and think about how to spend your time. Plan it out like you would do before going on vacation! If you’ve done some pre-planning, you’ll have filters in place to help you pick well when you’re presented with a choice.”

To further complicate the decision-making process, this isn’t just about you. Most people who attend ISM2018 will be there as a representative of their wider team, so it’s critical that the sessions you attend are also relevant for your colleagues back in the office.

As such, try to keep these criteria in mind:

  • Does the session align with my personal objectives?
  • Will the session be relevant to my company?
  • Will the session have actionable takeaways?

Before you get on that plane, ensure you’ve had a conversation with your manager or your colleagues who are staying in the office about what they would like you to bring back from the conference – whether it’s market intelligence, new contacts or benchmark information. It’s also important to agree on the format that this information will take – do they expect a written report? A formal presentation? Or just an informal update when you’re back at your desk?

So – to take my own advice, I’ve made a plan of the sessions that I’ll do my best to attend at ISM2018. Here it is:

The Keynotes

ISM always attracts impressive keynote speakers who usually provide the highlight of the conference. This year, Arianna Huffington (Founder of Huffington Post and CEO of Thrive Global) will present on how to “thrive” in the digital age and build a culture to win the future. For procurement professionals interested in how the power of social media can help them professionally (hello, Procurious!), this should be a fascinating session.

Everyone is talking about Amazon, which is why John Rossman, a former Amazon executive with wisdom to share on making your supply chain a golden asset, will definitely be speaking to a packed house. Rossman will share the key to scaling, Amazon’s secrets to drive accountability, how to achieve operational excellence, drive innovation, and deliver what customers truly desire.

American politician Mitt Romney was scheduled to complete the keynote line-up, but withdrew after announcing his candidacy for the 2018 Senate election in Utah. But never fear – Romney has been replaced by two giants of the American Intelligence community, General Keith Alexander (CEO and President of IronNet Cybersecurity, Former Director of the NSA and First Commander of U.S. Cyber Command – and John Brennan, Director of the CIA 2013-2017, and former US Homeland Security Advisor. Personally, I’ll be fascinated to see their comments in light of Edward Snowden’s now-famous absconsion from the NSA, and the current White House’s prickly relationship with intelligence agencies.

The Signature Sessions.

If they haven’t been booked out already, the nine signature sessions listed in the agenda will soon fill up, so make sure you register soon. Highlights include:

  • A CPO Town Hall and Networking Event featuring four CPOs who will answer questions on procurement transformation, providing value in M&A activity, innovation, stakeholder alignment, managing risk and retaining talent. (Update: ISM tells me that there are still some places available for this session.)
  • A session on the Evolution of Procurement and the future of the CPO, featuring SAP Ariba’s Chief Digital Officer, Dr Marcell Vollmer and Futurist Tom Raftery.
  • Elevating Employee Engagement – featuring leadership expert and executive coach Dima Ghawi, who will talk about how to tackle generation gaps, virtual teams and the global workforce.

Other Sessions

Still feeling overwhelmed?

The good news is that ISM has provided plenty of tips to guide attendees through the maze of sessions, including Learning Tracks, information on how each session is aligned to certain competencies in the Mastery Model, and proficiencies based on years of experience.

There’s still time to register for ISM2018, taking place on May 6-9 in Nashville, Tennessee. Don’t forget to drop by the Procurious Booth #207 to learn how to supercharge your procurement career through the power of online networking!  

Procurement In 7 Memes

They say a picture tells a thousand words. How about a procurement meme?

Okay, millennials. Strap yourselves in, because I’m going to attempt to meme. Is meme even a verb? Perhaps not, but that isn’t going to stop me.

For older readers who don’t really know (or care) what memes are, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Whether it’s Bad Luck Brian, Kermit Sipping Tea, or King Leonidas screaming “SPARTA”, I’ll attempt to add a bit of context around the meme before applying a Procurement gripe to each.

1. Boromir Demurs

Rivendell; Middle Earth. The mood is tense. Gandalf has brought together a motley crew of humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits to discuss how best to destroy the One Ring, which has to that point proven impervious to both magical and physical force. A solution is put forward – take the ring to the enemy realm of Mordor and throw it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. At this point, the human warrior Boromir makes his most famous speech of the film, beginning with the words “One does not simply walk into Mordor…”

Since The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir (Sean Bean) has become a meme, trotted out as a retort whenever someone suggests something that’s impractical, unrealistic, or simply a bad idea.

Here’s my procurement take:

Amirite? (Am I right?) This is Procurement 101 stuff – a company that selects its suppliers based solely on the cheapest quote will inevitably run into risk and quality issues. And besides, if that’s the strategy, then you might as well set up an e-auction system that automatically selects the cheapest bidder, then dispense with the procurement function altogether. Which brings us to…

2. Bad Luck Brian

Poor Brian. This high-schooler in his plaid vest and braces never gets a break. The meme generally follows the formula “[Brian does something positive … something terrible happens”]. For example:

“Spends all night studying … sleeps through exam”

“Only Facebook friend is mum …. cyberbullied”

“Wins a free cruise … on the Titanic”

From a procurement viewpoint:

Procurement professionals LOVE robotic process automation. Think of all those humans doing repetitive tasks at your organisation that could just as well be done by a robot. It’s a cost-saving no-brainer, right? Bring in the bots! Great idea – until it happens to you.

3. American Chopper Argument

Stills of row between father and son from the reality show American Chopper have recently become internet hits. The meme format lends itself well to any internet argument – whether it’s a discussion about the best pizza toppings, or a protracted “debate” in an academic journal.

For my text, I’ve taken an excellent debate from the Procurious Discussion section about reporting on Cost Avoidance. Check it out:


4. More American Chopper

I could do this all day … here’s another debate from the Discussion section, this time on Decentralised vs Centre-Led Procurement:


5. Distracted Boyfriend

This has to be my favourite meme of all due to its simplicity. A man walking down the street turns to leer after a woman walking past while his girlfriend stares at him with an appalled look on her face.

In procurement land:

We’re about more than cost savings!! Really!

I’ve heard this sad story again and again. Procurement professionals are eager to show their organisations that they’re more than a one-trick pony. We talk about how we can improve operational efficiency, bring in CSR & social procurement initiatives such as fighting modern slavery, and even generate top-line growth, but it’s incredibly disheartening when the boss (usually a CFO) only cares about one thing… cost savings.

 

6. Leonidas Goes Nuts

The film 300, a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae in the Persian Wars, contains a gem of a scene where the Spartan King Leonidas loses his patience after being threatened and insulted by a Persian envoy. The envoy, suddenly in fear of his life, says “This is madness” before Leonidas responds with: “This is SPARTA” – and kicks him down a well. It’s an intense moment, as the Spartans know that the murder of the envoy makes war inevitable.

I’m really not advocating the murder of suppliers, but there are moments when you do have to remind them of the terms of a contract.

 

7. Kermit The Frog looks smug

This meme is particularly useful if you want to be facetious. Kermit the frog, calmly sipping a glass of Lipton tea, has lent himself to many a captioned meme ending with the phrase “… but that’s none of my business”.

As procurement professionals continue to wage their endless struggle against maverick spend, we inevitably have a lot of “I told you so” moments when an unapproved supplier turns out to be a disaster. Along comes Kermit…

How To Deal With The Office Timewaster In 4 Videos

There are few thing more frustrating in life than a workplace timewaster. And the worst thing? They come in all different shapes and sizes, which makes them harder to spot!

Colleague: “Hey there buddy, did you have a good weekend?”

Me: “Sure did! But I’ll have to tell you about it later because I’ve got such a busy …”

Colleague: [Sits on the desk] “Great, great… let me tell you about my weekend. Let’s see, now. It all started to kick off on Friday, just after our last conversation…”

Sound familiar? We’ve all encountered chronic timewasters at work, which is why I’ve created this quick and easy video guide on how to shut them down so you can Get Sh#t Done.

Let’s start by working out what type of timewaster you’re dealing with.

1. The Chatter

Some of us like to keep our work life and social life separate. For others, their work life is their social life. Of course there should be a fun, chatty environment at work, but again, there’s always one person who doesn’t understand the limits. So, next time you find yourself making sympathetic noises while your colleague is telling you about their various cats’ medical histories, consider the fact that it will be your neck on the line when a deadline is missed.

How to shut down a chatter: Put a cap on their time – tell them before they begin that you’ve literally only got two minutes to spare. If you really want to drive home the point, get your phone out and set a countdown timer and place it on the table between you.

2.The Delegator

I’ve worked in the past for line managers who are guilty of this, although you’ll often come across colleagues working at the same level who think it’s okay to handball mundane tasks your way.  Specifically, my beef is with people who basically treat you like a search engine. For example:

“Mate, would you mind telling me the time difference between here and Beijing?”

“How much is that converted into Euros?”

“How long will it take me to drive to head office?”

Here’s why it’s frustrating – firstly, they’re really undervaluing your skill set. You were hired for your education, your experience and your intelligence, not your ability to type words into a box. Secondly, they’re just being lazy! I’ve rolled my eyes in the past when I’ve received an emailed question (like the above) which would have been answered straight away if my boss had simply typed it into Google instead of sending it to me.

But luckily, there’s a handy tool for just this situation.

How to shut down a Delegator: Six words: Let Me Google That For You. This tool is a brilliant way to answer a question that should have been googled. It generates a short, tongue-in-cheek tutorial about how to use a search engine (starting with “This is the internet”) and finishes with the answer to the original question. Check it out.

3. The sounding-boarder

Extrovert: “Man, I LOVE open-plan offices! They’re so great for bouncing ideas off people!”

Me: “Yes. Every single idea you’ve ever had.”

Okay, it’s true. Open plan offices, and even collaborative online workspaces like Slack, are ideal for airing and sharing ideas. But some people take the concept of the “sounding board” too far. This might involve a colleague regularly reading aloud emails that they’ve crafted before hitting send, or running stuff past you that really doesn’t require your input or opinion.

How to shut down a Sounding-Boarder:

  • Invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and pretend you’re on an important call whenever your colleague gets that “sounding-board” look in their eye.
  • Give them a very short list of high-level areas where you feel you can add value.
  • Give them a taste of their own medicine by sitting them down and reading aloud the longest, dullest report you can find.

4. The Meeter

Me: “Oh, hey, just a reminder that we’ve got that client meeting tomorrow. Everything is under control, and I’ve sent you all the information you’ll need.”

Colleague: “Let’s have a meeting about that.”

Me: “Why? WHY?”

How much time and resources will corporates keep pouring into unnecessary meetings before they see the light?  Unnecessary meetings are so despised that they’ve become a meme. They’re a regular feature in Dilbert, and you can even buy a coffee mug that says “I survived another meeting that should have been an email”.

How to shut Meeters down: Insist that the person gives you some good reasons for the meeting. This includes a stated purpose, a start and end time, and a valid reason for each person to be there.

Do you know any other types of timewasters in the office? Leave a comment below!

4 Reasons You Should Never Date a Procurement Professional

She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s cute – but she works in procurement?! No, thanks! Here’s why you should never, EVER, go out with a procurement pro.

“Psst – hey. Hey, bro. I heard you’ve got a thing for Jenny on the third floor?”

“Yeah, man – we’re going out to dinner tonight. First date!”

“Dude. Listen to me carefully. Don’t do it. Find an excuse to cancel and forget the whole idea.”

“WTF? Why?”

“She works … in procurement.”

“Huh?”

“Let me explain…”

  1. She’ll be tight with money

“How about we order a bottle of champagne, Jenny?”

“Hmm … how about we don’t.”

Procurement professionals are annoyingly cost conscious. It’s in their DNA. At the first suggestion of “splashing out” with an expensive purchase, Jenny is seeing red flags and starts asking questions. What’s the short-versus-long-term value proposition of that bottle of champagne? Are there some alternative beverages that would lead to a cost saving? What would be the risks and benefits if we ordered the cheapest bottle of plonk instead? How could we better spend this money on something that would really add value for me (i.e. dessert).

  1. She’ll win every argument

“So … what have you got planned after the meal?”

“Well, Jenny – I thought we’d catch a movie.”

“Hmmm … I thought we might go to the ballet instead.”

“The ballet? No way!”

[Two minutes later …]

“OK, it looks like we’re going to the ballet.”

Here’s the thing about procurement professionals. They actually enjoy an argument. They thrive on negotiation. It’s part of their job, which means that they have the advantage of hundreds of hours of practice. While Jenny’s negotiating at the dinner table, she’s watching you carefully for dozens of nearly imperceptible signs – raised eyebrows, flared nostrils – and rapidly adjusting her strategy as she goes. She quickly destroys every counter-argument you raise, recognises when your defences crumble, goes in for the kill – and you’re off to the ballet.

  1. She’ll hold you to your word

“Here we are at the ballet, Jenny. I’m so … excited … to be here.”

“Me, too!”

“But – oh, damn, I just realised I’ve got to be somewhere else right now.”

“What?”

“Sorry – I’ve got to run.”

“Listen, buddy. We had a verbal contract.”

Procurement and supply management experts know their way around a contract. They also have a laser-vision focus on ensuring every benefit listed in the contract is realised. Jenny knows that after the contract is agreed upon, she’ll need to launch her contract management plan – with check-ins, milestones, risk flags, and the whole works – to ensure she gets every bit of value that was laid out in the contract.

On a related note, Jenny’s also a stickler for regulatory compliance. Thinking of jaywalking instead of using the pedestrian crossing to get to the theatre? Jenny won’t be impressed.

  1. She’ll constantly expect new experiences

[Later…]

“Tonight was fun, Jenny! Would you like to go out again next week?”

“Sure! What have you got planned?”

“Well … I thought we’d just have dinner in a restaurant then catch another show or something.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“That sounds like exactly the same date. Can’t you think of something different?”

Procurement professionals are tasked with driving innovation in the supply base. This means that even when her suppliers are delivering in-full and on-time, Jenny is constantly pressuring them to come up with new ideas that will change the game. That’s why a repeat of the first date just isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need to think up some innovative dating experiences. Visit a food truck festival? Go mini-golfing? Try your hand at geocaching? Just remember that no matter how much fun each experience is, Jenny will always expect a new idea for the following date.

Have you ever dated a procurement professional? Or are you (God forbid) married to one? Leave your comments below!

Five Best Negotiation Scenes In Film And TV

How much can you learn about negotiation by sitting on the couch watching movies? Plenty.

Want to become a better negotiator? You could diligently read up on the subject or attend some negotiation training courses, but for the couch potatoes amongst us, you might just learn more by watching some of your favourite films.

Negotiation scenes come in many varieties in film. Often they’re in the form of a hard sell (think Leonardo DiCaprio selling dodgy stocks in The Wolf of Wall Street), or a hostage situation (Tom Hanks negotiating for his freedom in Captain Phillips) or other life-threatening situations such as Mel Gibson trying to talk a suicidal man down from a ledge in Lethal Weapon.

But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of haggling, the following five scenes give illuminating examples of how to win – or lose – in a high-stakes negotiation.

 

  1. Sticking to your final offer – Nightcrawler (2014)

Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Lou is trying to sell a video of a crime scene to Nina, a TV news manager. Watch for:

  • Lou being willing to haggle down to a certain level, after which he refuses to budge.
  • The power shift in the negotiation from Nina to Lou (aided in part by Lou’s creepy intensity).
  • Lou throwing in a number of extra conditions when he knows he has Nina beaten.
  • Best line: “When I say that a particular number is my lowest price, that’s my lowest price, and you can be assured that I arrived at whatever that number is very carefully.”

 

  1. Doing your homework before a negotiation: True Grit (2010)

In this Coen Brothers film, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld) shows what horse-trading is all about – literally. In order to raise money to hire a Deputy U.S. Marshal to help her track down her father’s killer, she approaches an auctioneer named Stonehill with two demands – that he buys back the ponies he sold he father, and that he pays her $300 for a horse stolen from his stable. At first, Stonehill laughs in dismissal, but Ross’s perseverance and detailed knowledge of the relevant law wears him down until he yields to her demands – plus a little bit more. Watch for:

  • The moment Stonehill mentions the valuation of the horse and hence kicks off the haggling process.
  • Mattie’s threatening to walk out on the negotiation and go to the law, causing Stonehill to adjust his offer in panic.
  • Best line: “I do not entertain hypotheticals – the world as it is is vexing enough.”

 

  1. Negotiating across cultures – Snatch (2000)

Warning: strong language.

When boxing promoter “Turkish” and his partner Tommy approach Irish Traveller “One Punch” Mickey O’Neil to ask him to participate in a fight, the prospect seems simple enough. The only problem is, Mickey (played by Brad Pitt) has an almost unintelligible accent. His price is the purchase of a fancy caravan “for me Ma”, and then proceeds to list off all the features he wants included in the deal … while Turkish and Tommy can’t understand a thing. Watch for:

  • Mickey’s impossible-to-understand list of caravan features. The video clip below includes subtitles, but cinema audiences had no such assistance when this film was released.
  • The bewilderment on Turkish and Tommy’s faces as they realise they don’t know what they’ve actually agreed to. The cultural barrier between the Irish Travellers and the other characters in the film is a running theme that goes far beyond the tricky accent.
  • Best line: “Did you understand a single word of what he just said?”

 

  1. Coercion – Ocean’s 11 (2001)

“Frank”, played by the late Bernie Mac, has been tasked with sourcing the transport needed for the team to undertake the crime of the century. The dealer names his best offer, and Frank appears to accept. So far, everything seems to be going smoothly … until the handshake. Frank extends the grip to a full 60 seconds, apparently crushing the car dealer’s hand while chatting amiably the whole time. The car dealer, desperately uncomfortable and in pain, abruptly drops his price before freeing his hand. Watch for:

  • The range of emotions playing over the car dealer’s face as he realises he can’t free his hand.
  • Frank’s feigned surprise and gratitude when the dealer drops his price.
  • Best line: “If you were willing to pay cash, I’d be willing to drop that down to seven-SIX-teen each.”

 

  1. The power of silence: 30 Rock (TV series 2006-13)

By simply sitting in near-silence and looking stern, grumpy babysitter (Sherri) is able to make Jack Donaghy so nervous that he doubles her pay for working half the time. Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) comes into the negotiation with his usual swagger, but Sherri’s silence causes him to blabber and rapidly cave. Appalled at his own performance, he confronts Sherri a second time. Watch for:

  • Sherri’s tactical silence when Jack pauses to let her speak.
  • Jack rolling his eyes when he realises how badly he came out of the negotiation.
  • Best line: “I made every mistake you can in a negotiation. I spoke first, I smiled … I negotiated with myself!”

Want to suggest some other films or TV shows with great negotiation scenes? Leave a comment below!

How The Robots (Nearly) Stole Christmas

“Every Who down in Whoville liked working, a lot … until one day The Boss met a clever robot.” Continuing the tradition of a festive poem in the run-up to Christmas, check out this modern retelling of The Grinch from Procurious’ Content Director, Hugo Britt. 

Every Who down in Whoville liked working, a lot…
until one day The Boss met a clever robot.
It was sleek and terrific, with shining chrome knees,
and could do the work of fifteen FTEs.

The Boss called upon her executive team
and said with a grin that was grinchy and mean
“We’ll buy ten of these robots – that’s one hundred and fifty
Whos off the payroll – won’t that be thrifty?”

The head of HR gave a horrified gasp
“But the timing!” he said. “It’s a bit much to ask
your Whos to take a redundancy now!
It’s Christmas next week and there’ll be a huge row!”

The Boss’s brow wrinkled; her face set in a leer,
“Alright” said she, “Here’s another idea …
We’ll bring in the bots – my decision is set,
but we won’t dump the Whos for a little while yet.
They can work side-by-side for two weeks or more,
and come New Years Day, they’re right out the door.”

The very next day when the Whos came to work
They marched through the door and then stopped with a jerk
For sitting there, gleaming, daunting and massive
At the end of ten desks was a robot, impassive.

And then when the Whos all cried out “What’s the deal?”
They were shocked when the robots replied with this spiel:
“We’re your new metal workmates – we’re starting today!
We’re cognitive, clever, and can dance the ballet.
We’ll work round the clock and charge not a cent …
The ROI on us is 10,000 per cent!”

The Whos stomped as one to the Head of HR.
Seen dimly through the haze of his half-smoked cigar.
“What’s with the robots? ‘Workmates’ indeed –
You’re going to replace us! They work twice our speed!”

The head of HR, while stroking his beard
assured them it wasn’t so bad as they feared.
“They’re just here to assist. Fear not for your jobs.
Robots are the future! Stop being such snobs!
You’re quite safe (for now) so help them onboard
and we’ll have another discussion … moving forward.”

* * * * * * *

Two weeks passed quite quickly; the new year dawned bright
the Boss checked her calendar and smiled in delight.
“Today I’ll cut costs in a manner abundant –
I’ll tell one hundred and fifty Whos they’re redundant.”

She leapt to the lift and pressed second floor –
preparing to show all non-robots the door.
But when she arrived she received a surprise
At the hustle and bustle before her two eyes.

The head of the Whos leapt straight to his feet
and said “Thanks for the robots! They’re totally neat!
We worried that they would steal all our careers
but now it turns out these were unfounded fears.”

“We no longer need to do tactical chores –
mind-numbing spreadsheets and other such bores –
These robots are handling all of those tasks …
Now we have time to be strategic at last!”

The Head of HR stepped forward, then. “It’s true!
The robots are great, but your humans are too.
They’re thinking new thoughts; they’re stepping outside
the box we created with the tactical side.”

“Innovation is up! Relationships too!
Soft skills are unlocking new value for you.
These Whos are terrific – we never foresaw
that with time on their hands they can do so much more.”

The Boss raised her voice to address the whole throng
and shouted aloud “It turns out I was wrong!
I’d thought that these bots would make you inessential;
instead they’ve unlocked your hidden potential.”

“So just let me wish you a most festive season,
secure in your jobs, and having new reason
to be joyful about this happy yuletide:
humans and robots, at work side-by-side.”

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Procurious’ Hugo Britt shares his experience of what happens when you truly disconnect – whether it’s on an extended career break, or just a short trip away.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s 2009. I’m sitting alone in a tent perched high in the Italian Apennines, listening to the roaring of wild boars on the other side of the canvas. I’ve been scribbling away at my journal by torchlight in an effort to capture my experience hiking the 400km, 23-day Apennine Trail, when something makes me pause mid-sentence. I flip to a clean page at the back of the notebook and, in full caps, write the words “LIFE PLAN” at the top of the page.

I’ve still got that journal, but I remember tearing that page out a few days later, a bit embarrassed at how self-indulgent it seemed. What was I up to when I wrote it? I’m not normally one to come up with grandiose life plans – in fact, I usually have trouble planning more than a week or so ahead.

Here’s my theory.

Zooming out

By that point in my hike, I’d been trudging along for nearly 20 days. This was to be the last hurrah after nearly a year of travel. My then-girlfriend and travel partner (now, happily, my wife) was working in the UK, and I’d taken the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted before heading back to Australia – one of Europe’s spectacular long-distance trails. I was going it alone, not only in the sense that I didn’t have a hiking partner but because the trail rarely passed through towns. It was off-season, so I barely met anybody over those three weeks in the mountains apart from the odd deer hunter. I had a phone, but rarely had reception – and (it being 2009), I was yet to upgrade to a smartphone.

In short, I’d disconnected. I hadn’t thought about the job I’d resigned from for months – nor was I worrying about finding another job when my shoe-string travel budget inevitably gave out and I had to head home. If I did think about my career, it tended to be through a wider lens (“What do I really want to do with my life”) rather than the practical details (“I need to update my CV, line up some interviews, buy a new suit…”). Thoughts like this didn’t even occur to me, probably because they’d have been so incongruous with what I was doing at that moment, whether it was trudging up a slope or cooking dinner on a fuel stove.

My point is that if you do manage to properly disconnect, you stop sweating the small stuff. From memory, the four or five points in my so-called life plan weren’t about getting practical little jobs done – it was more of an epic to-do list. It included asking my girlfriend to marry me, deciding what city we wanted to live in, whether I really wanted to finish my current course of study – in other words, the big-ticket items.

Switching off on a short break

2017 – eight years later, I’ve just returned from a very different sort of trip. Our family of four took in the frenetic sights and sounds of Hong Kong for two weeks, which gave me a short, but invaluable, chance to disconnect from the office. Unlike back in 2009, I was very much employed this time around and must admit sneaking a glance at my inbox a couple of times in those first couple of days. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to switch off and did so by disabling just about everything on my phone apart from the camera app.

Switching off helped me zoom out. It helped me put some common-sense context around the unanswered emails and unfinished projects sitting in my inbox. While I can’t claim to have completely stopped thinking about work during that two-week break, my thought process shifted from the detailed level (sweating the small-stuff) to discovering the bigger picture. Almost subconsciously, I was rearranging the tasks on my plate into a realistic order of priority, and even had a couple of “aha” moments – not by sitting down at a laptop and working, but while I was doing something completely unrelated, like lining up to purchase a ferry ticket.

Find your holiday brain

There’s some science behind this. Earlier in 2017, Procurious interviewed James Bannerman, a Creative Change Agent and phycologist about the best ways to unlock creativity. He said “Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explained that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

So, there you have it. Stepping away from your career allows you to perform better in that career. Time to book my next trip.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Trump Has Exposed Corporate America to a Carbon Tariff

Putting aside the issue of catastrophic global warming for a minute, let’s look at a very possible consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement – retaliatory measures from other nations in the form of a carbon tariff on American products.

Well, there goes the planet.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has dominated the headlines all weekend, and rightly so – it’s regarded by many as the most devastating decision of his presidency so far.

Rather than dwelling on what has already been covered – the diminishment of U.S. moral leadership, short-termism, isolationism and the rejection of science – let’s examine the very real threat of economic countermeasures from other nations.

The idea of a carbon tariff was first suggested by former French President Nicholas Sarkozy in November last year. “[If Trump] won’t respect the conclusions of the Paris climate agreement … I will demand that Europe put in place a carbon tax at its border, a tax of 1-3 per cent, for all products coming from the United States, if the United States doesn’t apply environmental rules that we are imposing on our companies.”

Writing for Forbes last week, London Business School’s Ioannis Ioannou suggested a similar course of action:

“Countries and transnational institutions should seriously consider and carefully evaluate potential sanctions or economic countermeasures. A tax or import tariff on U.S. made products and services would account for carbon emissions used in the manufacturing process or, more ambitiously, incentivise leading companies to move parts of their business out of the U.S.”

Leading U.S. CEOs alarmed

As part of a last-ditch plea from Corporate America to dissuade Trump from his decision, an open letter was published last week in Washington, D.C. newspapers and signed by companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Unilever. Amongst the warnings listed in the one-pager, the risk of retaliation was called out:

Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to [clean technology markets] and could expose us to retaliatory measures.”

It’s not just the dot coms who have come out in support of the Paris Agreement. Oil giants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips made the case that the U.S. would be much better served by having a seat at the table to “safeguard its economic and environmental best interests” – i.e. retain a veto – in future climate negotiations.

The fairness argument

Trump used the word “fair” and “unfair” multiple times in his speech:

“The bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.”

“…Negotiate our way back into Paris under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers.”

“…Under a framework that is fair and where the burdens and responsibilities are equally shared …

“We want fair treatment for its citizens and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers.”

The decision to withdraw, however, means the U.S. will have the fairness argument thrown back at it. As trade partners including Canada, Mexico, China and the EU implement carbon trading systems and caps, resentment is likely to grow towards the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide. For countries looking to address this disadvantage, a carbon tariff would serve to level the playing field.

Dirk Forrister, International Emissions Trading Organisation president and CEO, made the point that the Paris Agreement was designed to avoid this situation from occurring:

“The notion of a trade battle over climate change is something everyone’s tried to avoid for two or three decades. That’s why we have an international agreement to put everyone in the same frame.”

Here’s the good news

Trump wants to renegotiate his way back in. While Trump’s apparent willingness to re-enter the Paris Agreement on American terms shows some promise, it may not be possible. Christiana Figueres, the former UN official who led the negotiations, said this isn’t how international agreements work. “You cannot renegotiate individually,” she said. “It’s a multilateral agreement. No one country can unilaterally change the conditions.”

Other nations are rallying: There has been some commentary after Trump’s announcement that the Paris Agreement is actually stronger without U.S. participation. While many of the arguments inevitably read like sour grapes, two points ring true: firstly, the announcement appears to have strengthened the resolve of other nations to meet their targets. International leaders are lining up to not only condemn Trump’s decision, but to reaffirm their commitment to the Agreement.

Secondly, the Trump Administration’s rollback of domestic climate policies, including gutting the Green Climate Fund and hobbling the EPA, means that the U.S. was highly unlikely to meet its climate targets anyway. Australian International Relations and Environmental Policy export Luke Kemp argues that this would have set a poor example: “Other countries [would have been] more likely to delay or free-ride on their pledges if they [saw] the US miss its target.”

U.S. states, cities and corporate leaders are embracing a low-carbon economy, despite (or to spite) Trump. Examples include Californian leadership in reducing emissions, and the Mayors of 61 cities across the U.S. pledging on Thursday to meet commitments agreed to under the international accord.

The transition to the renewable economy is gathering pace. The economics of higher energy efficiency, falling renewable energy prices, abundant natural gas, and the rise of electric vehicles and smart grids will continue to displace coal and oil.

November 3rd, 2020: The rollback of the Paris Agreement and other climate initiatives will take years, as will any retaliatory measures (such as tariffs) put in place by other nations. Could the 2020 election become a referendum on the Paris Agreement?

Image: Shutterstock

View from the top: Three Ways Procurement Must Transform

ISM’s top brass called in the media to map out the transformation of the profession into a tech-focused intelligence agency that will attract the very best talent.

Tom Derry (ISM CEO), Hans Melotte (Starbucks EVP Supply Chain & ISM Board Chairman) and Kristopher Pinnow (CPO B/E Aerospace & ISM Board Member) sat down with the media at #ISM2017 to answer some burning questions. With Derry providing the context while Melotte and Pinnow added their views as practitioners, three key themes soon emerged.

1. Intelligence transformation

“Times are uncertain, and business hates uncertainty”. Tom Derry sets the scene for #ISM2017 by highlighting the turbulent geopolitical situation that’s impacting the profession worldwide. The presence of two world leaders as conference keynotes – Colin Powell and David Cameron – underscores the anxiety with which many professionals are watching global events unfold.

Derry’s message is that supply managers should cultivate a sharp intellectual curiosity to not only inform themselves of disruptive events, but to position the function as a source of intelligence within the organisation. Importantly, we have an opportunity to be the voice of calm and reassurance, hosing down anxiety with facts, rather than fear.

ISM’s leadership in this area was demonstrated last year when it released a supplementary Report on Business, focusing specifically on the UK’s shock Brexit Referendum’s effect on US business. The decision was prompted by a flood of enquires from US business and media representatives about whether the data for the influential report would reflect the fallout from Brexit. Derry told Procurious at the time that ISM was in a position to gather real data and “put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

The panellists agreed that while it hasn’t always been the case, transforming into a source of intelligence for the business is something to which the profession needs to aspire. Melotte stresses that procurement needs to have all of its data intelligence in real time. “We’re digital natives,” he says. “We book our food online, we track our spouses’ flights – but the workplace is often more of an analogue environment. We need to be in the moment, preempting issues before they arrive.”

2. Technological transformation

Derry warns that if you’re the steward of a process, you’re about to lose your job when it becomes automated. But it’s not all bad news: “New types of jobs will exist in the future, with new skills required to do those jobs. The impacts of technology also have the potential to make us better at what we do, such as data analysis and being more efficient with distribution.”

Melotte tells the room that technology is critically important for our jobs and our companies, yet we’re at risk of underestimating its impact and potential. He notes that among the conference’s 2500 attendees, some will still be associating technology with automating source-to-pay processes and other fundamentals. “Fortunately, there’s also a lot of thought leadership at this conference with leaders who are imagining the opportunities for technologies within the supply chain – what we do, and how we do things,” he says.

“Imagine the potential that cognitive learning, artificial intelligence and predicative analytics will have on how we forecast commodities, demand and consumer behaviour, or how we bring insights back to our business around supplier patterns.” Melotte says artificial intelligence is just one example of the big transformation currently taking place in the profession, with an increase in speed being a key benefit. “We’ll see faster speed to market, and pilot projects that you can turn around in only three months.”

3. Talent transformation

“There’s no question there’s a demographic bump,” says Derry. The “birth dearth” between the baby boomer generation and millennials means that there aren’t enough members of Generation X to step into roles as their predecessors retire. “I’d argue that those smart young people, who are digital natives, do have the tools and the mindset to adapt rapidly,” Derry says. “You’re hiring for that kind of talent all the time.”

Pinnow talks about the importance of developing and sharpening intellectual curiosity in the talent pipeline, and says there’s a lot that established professionals can learn from new talent. “You have to recognise that you don’t know everything. You have to encourage people from a talent management perspective [to teach you new concepts].”

Melotte says that having a balance of skills in your talent pool is crucial. “In tomorrow’s world, we all have to make sure there’s a certain percentage of our teams that are data scientists; who are deeply versed in analytics to give us insights. [We need to] hire and seek out this type, migrating the competency pool to ensure there’s a balance between strategic sourcing and data scientists.”

Getting The Biggest Bang For Your Buck At A Procurement Conference

Game-on! There’s a right way – and a wrong way – to approach a major procurement conference. With your company making a significant investment to have you there, here are five tips to help you demonstrate an impressive ROI. 

 

You’ve arrived at a major procurement and supply management conference. Let’s imagine, for a minute, that you’ve hit the fast-forward button and find yourself on the other side – bags packed, standing outside your hotel and waiting for a cab.

How do you feel? Exhausted but satisfied that you’ve made the most of every minute? Or a little bit … guilty? As your taxi pulls away and heads for the airport, will you wonder whether you should have spoken to just a few more people? You’ve attended plenty of sessions, but why didn’t you take more notes?

I know the feeling. It’s so easy to snooze your way through a conference, but it’s crucial that you don’t!

Whether it’s through attending the best of the best speaker sessions, or through networking like a champion, I’m going to show you five ways to get the most bang for you buck.

It’s not a vacation

Remember the glory days when going to a work conference was, essentially, a bit of a treat? Sure, you had to attend a number of presentations but, in exchange, you were gifted a few days out of the office, possibly at a semi-exotic location, and a few cocktails at the bar with your peers.

Today it’s considered an absolute, and rare, privilege to be selected to represent your company at a major professional-development event. Budgets and headcounts are increasingly slashed, which means getting the approval to attend a conference borders on the extraordinary. As such, you can bet you’ll need to demonstrate a pretty sizeable ROI.

But you’ll only make the most of it if you’ve prepared well in advance and bring your A-game to the event itself.

  1. Have a plan

It’s absolutely crucial to understand your key conference objectives in advance. What do you, and your organisation, want to achieve? Maybe your employer is keen for you to find new suppliers, gain market intelligence, or benchmark information? You might have some personal objectives such as finding a mentor or even a new job, or want to use the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader.

The crucial point is that these events are no longer just about the individual attending.  Attendees need to multiply the investment and make sure that everyone in the team benefits from their learning from this event. This is why it is important for you to “amplify” what you learn back into your team. 

  1. Familiarise yourself with the agenda

Depending on the conference’s size, there could be dozens of sessions, many of which will happen in tandem. Take some time to constructively assess the schedule with your own objectives in mind. Select topics and sessions that are most relevant to you, and think about what will be relevant to your company, too.

Prioritise and plan your itinerary, but don’t overdo it! Be realistic about how much you can achieve, how many sessions you can logistically make it to – and how much information you can actually absorb.

  1. Become a social-media anthropologist

Nothing says “conference efficiency” quite like an advance perusal of the speakers and attendees list. It might seem extremely forward, but an invitation to connect ahead of the event via LinkedIn, Twitter or Procurious is actually pretty flattering. And, if you’ve got the courage to go one step further and send a personal message, you’ve got a great conversation starter when you eventually meet in person.

If online meet-and-greets aren’t your style, you can still benefit from researching the backgrounds and careers of attendees or speakers. This will help you to decide who you are most keen to talk to and if attending certain sessions will be worth your while.

Make sure you upload your full biography and a fabulous profile picture onto the conference App so people can find, and reach out to, you too!

  1. What’s your end game?

You started with the end in mind, you arrived at the conference armed with your objectives and a commendable knowledge of the agenda and speakers. Now you need to decide what sort of report you’re going to present back to your team.  A PowerPoint? Notes?  It’s useful to have an idea of this before the conference kicks off so you can simply fill in the gaps because,  let’s face it,  if you promptly present a comprehensive report to your peers after the event, you’re far more likely to be selected to represent the team going forward.

So, armed with this “straw-man” of your report, attend your sessions of choice and take notes. Engage with your peers to learn their views and insights, and include those in your report too. Go directly to speakers and suppliers and ask them for material that you can incorporate.

If there are media professionals  reporting on the conference, keep an eye out for blog articles with insights from the event, and catch the news from sessions that you weren’t able to attend.

  1. Share Your Learnings

Use Twitter, Procurious and LinkedIn to share key learnings live from the event. Live updates and posts from the event can make you really popular back at the office and ensure that your whole team benefits from your attendance. Don’t forget the hashtag!