All posts by Hugo Britt

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. 

 

This morning marks the start of the world’s biggest 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!

It’s my third year attending ISM’s annual extravaganza, and I’m starting – just a little – to feel like a bit of a veteran. As such, I want to do what old-timers do best, and share some advice to other conference-goers. 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

I’ve been busy interviewing members of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership committee (including  Lara Nichols, Naseem Malik and Howard Levy), and they’ve all stressed the importance of having a plan for the next four days.

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.

At ISM2017, don’t forget there’s a group of media professionals (including the team from Procurious) 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!

Are you at ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s top tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.

And, when you drop into the Exhibit Hall, be sure to visit The Procurious team at booth 439 for advice on how social media can supercharge your procurement career.  

Don’t Argue With Footballer Daisy Pearce

The “Don’t Argue” is a classic move in the often-brutal game of Australian Rules Football. While we wouldn’t recommend shoving your colleagues in the office, there are plenty of lessons to be drawn from the world of elite sport.   

It’s always interesting interviewing sportspeople for a business-related publication. Before the interview, I usually have my doubts that I’ll be able to find something in their story that is relevant to the audience I’m writing for. Five minutes in, however, I’ve filled pages of notes about the many insights professionals can glean from elite performers.

This was the case with Daisy Pearce, AFLW star and captain of the Melbourne Team. In the space of 30 minutes, she provided links between her on-field performance and business agility, advice on how women can thrive in a male-dominated profession, and finished up with some leadership-related gems.

Daisy and the “Don’t Argue”

The theme of this year’s 10th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum (taking place on 17–18 May in Sydney) is “Pivot”. Why Pivot? Because in an era where flexibility and agility are seen as essential leadership attributes, the profession’s top practitioners must be able to pivot at a moment’s notice to gain commercial advantage from disruptive forces, including new technology. In essence, this means having the ability to rapidly and intelligently adjust short-term strategies to ensure you can achieve your organisation’s long-term objectives.

When I mentioned this term to Daisy, she immediately drew a comparison with the “Don’t Argue” move in football. “When you’ve got the ball and someone comes to tackle you, a “Don’t Argue” is when you send them off – push them away – and keep moving. Basically, you give them a shove with your arm, quickly change direction, and keep going.”

For non-Australian readers (and non-footy fans), here’s an explanatory video from the AFL:

So, what are the parallels between a “don’t argue” and a business attempting to PIVOT?

  • Your short-term strategy may change but the overall goal remains the same: although Pearce may suddenly need to run in a different direction to her original course, she’s still focused on the goal posts at the end of the field.
  • It happens fast, it’s immediate, and it’s often instinctive: CPOs often don’t have much time to plan and react to a disruptive force (an enormous footballer bearing down on you at high speed makes a great analogy). Decisions have to be made fast.
  • There’s no time to argue: Depending on the nature of the disruptive force, you won’t have time to initiate a long, internal debate about what to do. Instead, a fast decision could enable your company to mitigate the damage of a disruptive force, or even profit by it.

Thriving in a male-dominated profession

While the AFL (men’s football) has been around since the 1850s, women’s football in Australia has only officially existed since 2013.

“When I was 14, the rules were that I had to stop playing football with the boys in my hometown”, said Pearce. “I didn’t know back then that there was going to be a Women’s League, and thought my football career had finished. I turned to volleyball instead, before being drafted in the AFLW in 2013.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had to overcome many barriers to become a footballer. Then main barrier, I’d say, would be that I simply didn’t consider football to be a career choice. The real barriers existed for talented women who wanted to play professionally before 2013.”

Pearce has more than one string to her bow – she’s entered the world of football commentary (also dominated by men), started a career on the speaker circuit, and has also worked as a professional midwife. “The opposite is true for midwifery”, she says. “There may be young men considering a career as a midwife, but are daunted by the female domination of the profession. My advice is to go for it – if you’re passionate about something, and it’s what you really want to do, there’s nothing stopping you.”  

Leadership on the field:

As captain of the Melbourne AFLW team, Pearce has plenty of leadership insights to share:

“My main piece of advice for leaders is to first, have a really good understanding of yourself and about how your behaviours impact others. Secondly, make an effort to understand the people on your team. Appreciate that everyone has different strengths, and will respond to different things.

“Invest in your relationships with team members and build rapport. In the long-term, it will help enormously when you need to have tough conversations. You can be both supportive and tough at the same time – people need to know you’re coming from a place of care rather than disinterest.”

Daisy Pearce will wrap up day two at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

Photo:  Getty Images

How To Survive a Social Media Storm

Media personality, author and columnist Bernard Salt weathered a social media storm last year after his provocative article about the spending habits of millennials went viral. Today, he shares his top tips for businesses under attack on social media.

Six months ago, Bernard Salt wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about what he called the “evils of hipster cafes”. The article lightheartedly poked fun at hipsters’ apparent preference for low chairs, hard-to-read fonts on menus and thumping music. But it was this paragraph that ignited a storm:

I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.

What followed was nothing less than a nation-wide reaction. Inter-generational battle-lines were drawn between the over and under-40s, a flurry of rebuttal articles were published in competing newspapers, and the issue of housing affordability – a major problem in Australia’s capital cities – was thrust firmly into the spotlight.

“The smashed avocado article was written to highlight the division in cultures”, says Salt. “And certainly, it did that. Everyone over the age of 50 thought it was terrific, and everyone under the age of 40 thought it was terrible. It exposed divisions, and prompted a discussion that will hopefully lead to a better solution.”

But it was online that the brunt of the storm took place, with critics and trolls lining up to attack Salt in 140 characters or less. Having experienced it first-hand, Salt now has some advice for other individuals – and businesses – who find themselves getting smashed on social media.

Hold fast, don’t panic, and wait one week

“It’s all about getting through the first week”, Salt says. When something happens – whether through misadventure or entirely by accident – and there’s a reaction on social media, my advice to businesses is to hold fast, don’t panic, and wait.”

Salt has broken down the lifecycle of a social media storm:

Day 1: The first day will be quite impactful, as the issue – whatever it may be – begins to trend on social media. This is when the storm front is approaching.

Days 2 to 4: The worst part of the storm. “From days 2 to 4, people will come out of the woodwork to throw petrol on the fire. The trolls, the haters, and any enemies you may have will jump at the chance to further their own interests at your expense. Hold fast! The thing to remember is that this is NOT the mainstream community – these are fanatics and social media warriors. Don’t mistake their opinions for the common sense of the majority.”

Days 5 to 7: At this stage, the main storm will have passed, and more reasoned voices begin to come to the fore. People who are more qualified to comment on the issue don’t put their hands up to contribute to the debate immediately – they generally wait, and take some time to produce a well thought-out response, either in support or otherwise.

Six months later, Salt’s smashed avocado article has been warmly embraced and is frequently referred to in discussions around housing affordability. It may have even influenced federal policy. The article has also, undeniably, helped Salt’s own career and propelled him into the role of one of Australia’s leading social commentators.

Consider starting your own storm in procurement

What can CPOs learn from Salt’s experience?

The lack of attention paid to procurement and supply management across many organisations is an ongoing frustration, illustrated every time we have to explain to people what procurement actually does. There are some lessons to be drawn, therefore, from Salt’s very successful method of grabbing attention and getting noticed.

A savvy CPO could consider putting out a deliberately provocative statement within the business that will force their colleagues to pay attention, kick-start the conversation about a particular issue, and put procurement onto peoples’ radar.

If there’s an issue that’s troubling procurement but isn’t a priority in the wider business, Salt’s advice is to “expose it, and bring it onto the agenda”.

Bernard Salt will deliver a keynote speech at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

5 Ways to Avoid Spreading Fake News in Procurement

Have you ever been guilty of presenting fake news or “alternative facts” to your CFO? Integrity is a cornerstone of the procurement profession, but benefits realisation is one area where supply managers sometimes play fast and loose with the facts.  

It seems everyone is talking about fake news at the moment. The term came to the fore after the U.S. election, when Hilary Clinton called out fake news as a contributing factor to the Democrats’ defeat. Since then, President Trump’s team have wholeheartedly embraced the term, regularly branding unfavourable reports as “fake news” and even describing selected media outlets (such as CNN and Buzzfeed) “fake news organisations”.

After Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference contained provable falsehoods about the size of the inauguration crowd, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway came to his defence by saying that Spicer was simply presenting “alternative facts”, much to the delight of Twitter users who immediately converted the term into a hashtag.

Fake news can be dangerous – putting aside whether or not it influenced the U.S. election, the phenomenon has inflamed racial tensions, led to at least one shooting (the “Pizzagate” gunman), while more recently the two nuclear powers Israel and Pakistan exchanged tense words over a news report that proved to have no verifiable source.

The good news is that solutions are popping up all over the globe. The BBC is setting up a “fake news” team, Italy plans to establish commissions of experts to rule on the veracity of news, while Germany has threatened to fine social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook for spreading fake stories.

How does fake news apply to procurement? Let’s look at two examples – firstly, the CPO’s role as the organisation’s trusted advisor and arbiter of facts, and secondly, the risk of feeding “fake news” about cost savings upwards to the CFO.

 The trusted advisor in times of crisis

When a disruptive event takes place, procurement needs to be known as the calm centre of the storm. Let’s take Brexit as an example. After the shock result in June last year, a rising sense of panic took hold of markets while business leaders worldwide were rattled. Media organisations began to speculative on the potential fallout of the Brexit vote, leading to the danger of knee-jerk reactions from CEOs and other decision-makers.

It was gratifying to see that one week later, the CEOs of the world’s two biggest professional bodies for procurement and supply management released statements that contained essentially the same message of reassurance. Importantly, both statements emphasised the procurement professional’s role as the suppressor of speculation and the guardian of facts.

ISM’s Tom Derry spoke to Procurious about his organisations’ decision to release a supplementary Report on Business revealing that the impact of Brexit on US CPOs’ buying decisions was negligible. “There has been an enormous amount of speculation about the impact of Brexit, fed by a sense of unease and uncertainty”, said Derry. “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.”

Similarly, the late CIPS CEO David Noble urged procurement and supply professionals to “act as the suppressor of panic, not the creator”. Noble said that how supply managers behave “is fundamental to how the business manages these coming weeks and months. Supply chains can emphasise or exaggerate concern, which can then be magnified all the way down the chain.”

Benefits realisation – procurement’s very own “fake news”

While the Brexit example demonstrates how procurement can either supress or endorse speculation originating in the media, there’s one area where CPOs are guilty of generating fake news themselves – the realisation of negotiated savings and other benefits.

In a report commissioned by members of The Faculty Roundtable entitled Making it Stick, researchers found that 50% of contracted savings are not making their way to the bottom line in leading Australian organisations. Without effective contract management to realise the full value of savings and other benefits, procurement professionals risk damaging the integrity of the function. Eventually, the falsehood will catch up with them when the CFO calls them into their office and demands: “Where’s the money?”

That’s why, to avoid being a purveyor of false data, CPOs must address the fundamental shortfalls that are costing organisations hundreds of millions in unrealised savings.

Five ways to turn “fake news” into real, bankable savings

Procurement teams are adept at finding the money, but it takes a whole organisation to keep the money. Given the uncertain business climate facing organisations internationally, driving savings and other value to the bottom line is an absolute priority facing the C-level today.

  1. Encourage enterprise-wide ownership and alignment with Procurement’s targets (shared targets).
  2. Bust silos through true cross-functional collaboration, particularly between procurement and finance.
  3. Work to eliminate maverick spend and other non-compliance that undermines procurement’s gains and damages supplier relationships.
  4. Establish crystal-clear benefits definitions, measurements and validation processes, agreed upon across the organisation.
  5. Create a cost-conscious culture to enable CPO-level efforts to expand the value that procurement contributes.

In short, as a CPO you’ll need integrity to win the trust and respect of your team, your peers, and your suppliers. Your willingness to accept or even endorse fake news, such as panic-driven speculation or unrealised savings, will very quickly erode this respect and lose the confidence required to run an effective procurement function.

Are You Ready For The Gig Economy? Some Of Us Have Already Taken The Leap

Kishwar Rahman, guest speaker at the upcoming Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne, Australia, shares her thoughts on the upcoming shift to a gig economy, the need for digital transformation, and the importance of networks for women in procurement.

Thriving in the gig economy

Rahman, a digital transformation lawyer, has recently completed a project as policy lead for the digital marketplace in the Australian Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Agency. She has now progressed to a lead role working for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to assist in setting up an e-Marketplace for the organisation.

“I’m a classic example of the gig-economy professional”, says Rahman. “I’ve moved from project to project, offering my professional skills. Businesses are increasingly looking to hire the right people at the right time for project-based employment.”

According to Rahman, the whole notion of the permanent role is becoming less appropriate as businesses transition towards a consultancy model where experts move between businesses or different projects within a large organisation. “It’s very different to the concept of the ‘job for life’ that existed in our parents’ generation, and still an expectation of employment in the public service.”

So, what can organisations and individuals do to prepare for the gig economy? From the organisational side, it pays to be prepared for an upcoming transformation. A gig-economy office, for example, will look very different to workplaces of the past. They will be structured around a fluid and ever-changing group of professionals coming into the business, working with others on specific projects, then departing for different roles when they have completed their projects.  One obvious symptom of this is the disappearing concept of the employees work station which is now being replaced by lockers for personal belongings and individual desks in quiet areas and larger tables for collaborative work.

Businesses also need to future-proof their customer-facing policies that currently favour clients with permanent roles. “Take banks, for example” says Rahman. “If you’ve ever applied for a home loan, you’ll know that they prefer to lend money to people with permanent roles. Unless they reassess their lending criteria, they’ll soon find that they won’t have enough clients as permanent roles become a thing of the past.”

Individuals, on the other hand, can prepare themselves for the gig economy by examining which of their skills could be put to use across multiple businesses, honing their expertise in those areas and becoming a member of a multi-disciplinary and multi-forming teams that move from one project to the next once they have achieved their outcomes and completed their deliverables.

Digital transformation – getting stakeholders on board

Rahman’s experience in driving digital transformation has led her to pick up essential change-management and implementation skills. “Getting people on board with a technological or process transformation is always one of the biggest challenges”, she says. “The most effective means of persuasion is to show them the efficiency in terms of speed and cost benefits. We live in a culture that expects extreme responsiveness and near-instant results, so simply highlighting speed gains will always be more effective than going into detail about improved workflows and processes.” Similarly, organisation want to find cost savings by digitising manual processes.

Another effective way to win stakeholders over to your transformation improvement is to find some common language on the benefits of the change. “Look for a benefit that everyone can relate to. A digital transformation, for example, will almost always lead to the automation of administrative tasks, which will free people up to do more creative and meaningful work. Reskilling and retraining will also be critical to this gig-economy.   Education and training will also have to change in form and shape of delivery with consumers demanding the option to shape a course and its mode of delivery and study at their own time and pace to fit it around paid work and personal commitments”.

Networking with women in procurement

One of the reasons Rahman is attending Women in Procurement 2017 is out of curiosity. “Before last year I didn’t know there was a separate forum for women in the profession. I’m interested in seeing who’s going to be there, who’s participating, and who are the female leaders in the field. Additionally, the procurement profession, just when it has started to be recognised as a profession, is also being reshaped by the gig-economy. What will procurement look like in the future and what are the skill set that young women will need to participate in this profession in the future”.

The networking opportunity is also crucial. “Historically, women have had a lack of access to networks. Events like this can connect you with a pool of expertise – peers who you can ring up and share ideas with and problem solve.”

Kishwar Rahman and other leaders in the profession will be speaking at Quest’s Women in Procurement 2017 event in Melbourne on 26-27 April. Visit Quest Events to download a brochure and find out more. 

Attention Roosters: Don’t Cock Things Up In 2017

HELP! 2017 is going to be an unlucky year for me – the Chinese Zodiac says I’m going to cock things up. 

As a rooster, I’m in deep trouble for 2017. It’s taken me almost 36 years to grasp the fact that in popular Chinese belief your birth sign year is considered unlucky, rather than lucky. Looking back on my last two Rooster years, this makes a sad kind of sense.

If I could, I’d go back in time to visit the pubescent, socially awkward 12-year-old blundering from one disaster to another in 1993. “It’s not your fault!” I’d yell. “It’s all due to the ancient Chinese Zodiac – events are way beyond your ability to control!” I don’t even want to talk about 2005, where I was essentially the same socially-awkward child in a 24-year-old’s body. Again – not the best year for me, but now that I’m aware of it, I can happily lay the blame at the feet of long-dead Han-era astrologers.

Looking into the characteristics of Roosters, and the wider Chinese Zodiac, has been enlightening – firstly because it’s all way more complex than I thought, and secondly because I’m now aware of my own cultural ignorance in this area – but more on that later. First, let’s look at the attributes of a Rooster.

Rooster characteristics

I was hoping to find a quick list of characteristics for Roosters, but the real story is much more complicated than I assumed. It depends not only on your zodiac sign, but the element associated with your year. Here’s a handy guide from www.chinahights.com:

Type of Rooster Year of Birth Characteristics
Wood Rooster 1945, 2005 Energetic, overconfident, tender, and unstable
Fire Rooster 1957, 2017 Trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work
Earth Rooster 1909, 1969 Lovely, generous, trustworthy, and popular with their friends
Gold Rooster 1921, 1981 Determined, brave, persevering, and hardworking
Water Rooster 1933, 1993 Smart, quick-witted, tender-hearted, and compassionate

I was born in ’81, which means I’m a Gold Rooster – determined (kind-of), brave (sometimes), persevering (I’m finishing this article, aren’t I?), hardworking (yes boss), and good-looking (I may have slipped that one in). Interestingly, only Wood Roosters have the characteristic I’d most associate with actual roosters, which is (pardon the pun) “cockiness”.

To complicate things further, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals). Which means that as well as being a Gold Rooster, I’m also a Rat internally, a Goat truly, and a Tiger secretly. Confused? Blame the astrologers.

Should Roosters ask for a promotion in 2017?

Well, at a macro level, it’s an unlucky year for you overall, but perhaps if you get the details right using the list below, you’ll be fine. In short, when you meet your boss to have that all-important career discussion, make sure you pick the month and day carefully with reference to the Chinese lunar calendar. Ensure you’re wearing gold, brown or yellow (NOT red!), pin a gladiola to your top before the meeting, and try to manoeuvre yourself so you face south or southeast during the conversation.

Lucky stuff for Roosters

  • Lucky numbers: 5, 7, and 8
  • Lucky days: the 4th and 26th of any Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky colours: gold, brown, and yellow
  • Lucky flowers: gladiola, cockscomb
  • Lucky directions: south, southeast
  • Lucky months: the 2nd, 5th, and 11th Chinese lunar months.

Stuff Roosters should avoid

  • Unlucky colour: red
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 3, and 9
  • Unlucky direction: east
  • Unlucky months: the 3rd, 9th, and 12th Chinese lunar months

On a serious note – I’m culturally ignorant

How did it take me this long to find out that Chinese birth-sign years are unlucky rather than lucky? I’m ashamed to admit it, but what I’ve displayed is a lack of cultural curiosity. According to Cultural Synergist Dr Tom Verghese, curiosity is one of the attributes that makes for a culturally intelligent leader. Leaders without this attribute lack the motivation to find out more about the cultures they’re working with by asking lots of questions to develop their CQ, or cultural intelligence.

Dr Tom writes, “I believe curiosity should drive each of us in our own inter-cultural explorations. Understanding the values of other cultures and what their celebrations represent is certainly an important step we can all take towards representing and appreciating diversity and inclusion in our communities.”

Lesson learned. This year I’m going to do two things:

  • Make an effort to display more curiosity as I seek to improve my cultural intelligence, and
  • Tread carefully in what may be an unlucky year.

In short, I’ll try not to make a cock of myself in 2017.

Following the eISM Yellow Brick Road – A Guide to Guided Learning

We’re at the beginning of the yellow brick road, folks. This course is the foundation of all ISM’s educational offerings.

yellow brick road

Time zones can make things difficult. When I first signed up for ISM’s Fundamentals of Purchasing Guided Learning, I was resigned to the fact that I’d probably need to get up in the middle of the night here in Australia to join a series of four live webinars, broadcast from ISM’s head office in Arizona.

Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way at all. ISM ran their webinars after work hours in the US, which meant I could join them at the very civilised time of 9.30am. So, with headphones in and a cup of coffee within reach, I started my first foray into guided eLearning.

The Yellow Brick Road

When Dr. Wade C. Ferguson, (President, Erv Lewis Associates, LLC) compared the course to the beginning of the yellow brick road, he was referring to ISM’s comprehensive Mastery Model, a set of competency-based standards for the profession.

At first glance, the model is dauntingly large, with 16 main competencies and over 70 sub-competencies to choose from. However, once you break it down to essentials that are relevant to you, and chart out the competencies you wish to specialise in, it all begins to make sense.

Every competency in the Mastery Model is linked to one or more ISM Training (or eLearning) offerings. In addition, this particular course sits across a whole suite of introductory-level sub-competencies.

Access Anywhere, Any Time

Essentially, Guided Learning is self-paced eLearning with an instructor. The course ran over four weeks, with 16 modules, four of which were live webinars facilitated by the procurement and supply management veteran, Dr Ferguson.

The remaining 12 modules were homework, to be completed between the webinars. Each of the “homework” modules delivered information in an engaging mixture of multimedia, including ISM’s micro-learning videos, voice recordings or plain reading. The modules then always ended with a quiz to check knowledge and comprehension.

The main benefit of guided learning would have to be that you can take the course without leaving your home or office. This is vital for professionals who don’t have the time, or travel budget, necessary to attend training in-person. It also means that people like me can join from over 13,000 kilometres away.

The flexibility this offers is fantastic. One of the four live webinars caused a clash in my schedule, but this wasn’t a problem at all. I simply accessed the recording from the learning portal to watch later in the day.

The Guided Experience

Dr Ferguson drew upon his 40 years of industry experience to pepper his instruction with illustrations from his own career in supply management and education. The course covered, as expected: fundamentals of supply management; legal considerations; category management; contract formation and management; and finally, negotiation skills.

Here are some gems from Dr Ferguson’s webinar commentary:

  • Future-oriented procurement: “We have to be proactive, anticipatory, and not just react to a buy signal. It’s about the identification of what is needed, both now and in the future.”
  • Changing business priorities: “You know, flexibility has got to part of what we do every day. At some point you’re going to have a new CEO coming and totally upsetting the apple cart. What are you going to do?”
  • Vision statements: “When organisations express their cultural aspirations, they typically flow down through the organisation and find a home in the supply function.”
  • Social responsibility: “Find some small areas where your function can really make a difference”.
  • Strategy: “A roadmap without a destination isn’t very useful – it’s just spinning your wheels.”

The only thing I felt I was missing out on in the eLearning experience was getting to know my classmates. It’s like sitting in a movie theatre full of invisible people all watching the same thing. You know they’re there, but there’s no way to see them, or talk to them.

The instructor had a great deal to get through, but I would have appreciated him pausing for a moment to talk about who was online, where they’re from, what they do and the companies they represent. That being said, there was a discussion board available in the learning portal where you could introduce yourself.

On My Way

To circle back to Dr Ferguson’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ analogy, I feel I’ve taken some significant steps along the Yellow Brick Road of ISM Mastery over the past four weeks. There was a huge amount of information compressed into the course’s 16 modules, but the self-paced aspect made the workload feel very manageable.

Find out more about eISM here. Registrations are also now open for ISM2017 – click here for more information.