Category Archives: Life & Style

Procurement Across Borders – Understanding CQ

In the first of a series of articles, Tom Verghese introduces Cultural Intelligence (CQ), what it means and why it is so important in business today.

By StepanPopov / Shutterstock

Last year, one of my clients returned from a holiday to India. She expressed to me her dismay at the different entrance prices at various monuments and tourist site sites that she had visited. She believed that the different pricing structures for locals and tourists was unfair. and that there should be one price for all entrants, regardless of their status.

I reminded her that she was a visitor and that what she considered to be fair pricing was reflective of what she was familiar with. For example, in countries like the US and UK the pricing structure tends to objective, and having one price for all is considered to be fair and equitable. However, in many parts of the world pricing is subjective with many variables influencing price such as how well I know you, the relationship we have, the company that you represent, the links and connections that you have, and even what time of day it is.

This example serves to demonstrate how ‘culture’ can play a part in even the simplest everyday situations at both a personal and professional level. In this story, the conflict of one set of cultural norms over another highlights how cultural differences can create conflict and misunderstandings.

Let’s take a look at some of the defining features of culture so as to better understand how we interact with culture. Culture is the lens through which we view the world.

  • Culture is subjective. That means we use our own culture as a reference point. The practices in our culture are what we use as norms and we use these to compare other cultures
  • Culture is deep. Culture is mostly transmitted through stories, which provide a history of that culture. When we look at tensions or animosity and hatred that passes from one generation to another, it’s because those stories are passed on and perpetuate a view that may no longer be accurate
  • Culture is biased. This means that each one of us interprets and makes judgements by the standards inherent to our own culture
  • Culture is tacit. That is we never really consider or think about our culture until we are outside of it. Culture is important because it essentially impacts the way we think and behave and impacts our worldview.

Most people believe that they have some degree of cultural awareness. This may mean they can identify the languages, foods or traditional dress of certain countries, or other defining characteristics.

However, in our increasingly interconnected and globalised world, as organisations are being required to source talent and conduct business across multiple countries with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, a broader understanding of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is necessary. Having an understanding of what CQ is and how to practically apply it can make it easier to navigate different cultures. For specialists in procurement, the ability to use CQ is particularly relevant. One of the biggest challenges when working across cultures is that we have expectations that people are similar to us and operate according to the same rules. This is a grave error.

What is CQ?

CQ is the capability to work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It goes beyond existing notions of cultural sensitivity and awareness to highlight a theoretically-based set of capabilities needed to successfully and respectfully accomplish your objectives in culturally diverse settings either locally or globally.

CQ can be broken into four components. These components can be both inherent and developed. These four components are:

  1. CQ Drive – The interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic (i.e. meaningful work) and extrinsic interests (i.e. financial rewards) and the drive to learn and understand cultures, their norms and behaviours
  2. CQ Knowledge – Understanding cultural similarities and differences. This includes knowledge of the values, norms and practices in different cultural settings
  3. CQ Strategy – Awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions. It incorporates how we apply our CQ Knowledge insights
  4. CQ Action – The ability to appropriately adapt verbal and non-verbal communication in cross cultural situations, including how well we can adapt when things don’t go according to plan

Over the next 12 months we will be discussing each of these components, what they are and the ways in which you can further develop your own CQ and make improvements on your performance when interacting in cross cultural situations to obtain better outcomes.

Forget New Year’s Resolutions! Do These 3 Things Instead

Giving up on New Year’s resolutions? For a fresh perspective, try these three suggestions to start 2019 in the best possible way.

I gave up New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. More importantly, I have never looked back. This wasn’t a decision made in defeat because I couldn’t achieve my resolutions. After all, I followed the guidance on setting SMART goals and remembered to acknowledge the small wins that add up to cumulative success as we are often reminded to do.

It was simply that on reflection, my view was that these types of resolutions come with the expectation of a new year bringing with it a personal remodel. Nothing wrong with that of course. Self improvement is what we are all striving for;  or trying to find the time to get to if we aren’t quite there. It’s just that I realised the concept of resolutions and I were not well aligned in two fundamental ways.

Firstly, the focus of resolutions we all tend to make seems to be addressing what we see as our personal shortcomings or deficiencies. Many of us start resolutions with This year I will ( be better at, get around to)…..or This year I will not……Does not quite apply to you? You would be one of the very few of us who has not resolved to; go to the gym, improve diet, work less, be more purposeful.

Secondly, implicit in the timing of new year’s resolutions is that individual transformation can or should only take place annually.  With U.S News reporting that 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, it seems making it through January is it’s own win.  That does not however, set us up well for the rest of the year.  Unfortunately all it does really seem to do is give us a bit over 10 months to berate what we see as a personal failure, even though the majority of the population is right there with us.


With the odds being so heavily stacked against resolutions, and for those of us not quite ready to give up yet,  what is left to do instead? It is important to note that I believe the new year is an important milestone because it creates a space for us to think about what has gone before and what we would like to realise from what is ahead. So if you, like me, were never that inspired by resolutions, these strategies may be helpful in setting up and navigating the year ahead:

Identify and cultivate moments that inspire you; then make more

Instead of thinking about what you have not done well or enough of, reflect on what you achieved in the last year both personally and professionally. Remember accomplishments, moments, and experiences where you were at your best. Some call this flow, others the zone. Irrespective of what we call it, we understand the importance of those moments. They may be very small or incidental. For me, the memory of hospitality at a little trattoria in Rome which had me sharing grappa early in the morning on an empty stomach, is just as inspiring as a large project delivered successfully. Or it may not have been the achievement of something, simply the attempt and perhaps, the surprise, of doing better than we thought. (I rode my first bicycle in 20 years in Myanmar in December and my sense of achievement was in simply staying on. This may not be a moment I will rush to replicate) Think about what you have done and consider (in whatever way works for you), how to foster the circumstances or relationships that enable you to surprise yourself. And don’t forget to provide some self-acknowledgement on the way through.

Explore self-renewal

While the start of the new year is a great time to reflect on changes we may want to make, or those we feel we need to, we know from transformation efforts in our work lives that there is never just ‘one thing”.  Any significant achievement is the culmination of detailed planning and execution and good practices, consistency, hard work, and yes, sometimes luck, all play a key part.

The strategy of self-renewal is critical here; taking inventory of experiences and finding the motivation to come back from disappointments and set backs. Understanding the importance of self-renewal gives us permission to accept that peaks and troughs are inevitable. It’s how we deal with them that matters. Consistency, mindset, and resilience matter and help us navigate the challenges. John Gardner has a brilliantly inspiring perspective on this. “ You don’t need to run down like an unwound clock. And if your clock is unwound, you can wind it up again”. He reminds us that although some challenges may seem insurmountable, we can always control how we respond. For me, simply going for a run is one of my go-tos. The distance and pace will vary depending on how I am feeling at that point in time. You can define and choose your own way to self renew that works for you.

Experiment with Curiosity

My nephews are constantly asking me questions. Although this continues to surprise me, those with children may just be glad that someone else is being subjected to the inquisitive mind of the young. Topics range from my preference for the DC versus Marvel Universe, anything sports related ( I fail miserably here), to how I ended up in Myanmar last year (I’m yet to explain that to their satisfaction).  

Instead of making a resolution for a specific intention, consider a mindset around curiosity. Experimenting with curiosity enables you to simply say you will ask questions, be open to new ideas, try new things.  Always asking why? Change your mindset and ask why not? It allows you to frame a world of possibilities and opens up opportunities that you may not otherwise be privy to or would have considered. That’s a big part of how I actually did end up in Myanmar. More importantly, curiosity sets a framework for continuous learning. That in itself facilitates new skills, different perspectives and as noted above, self-renewal. If you aren’t up to seeking something new to explore, that’s ok. A good way to start is simply to not dismiss the next idea someone shares with you. Want to simplify even more than that? Try a new food, read a book on a topic you don’t know much about, or listen to music in a new genre. Take the learning that comes with it, even if it that you won’t be doing that again!

There is no doubting that we know what we should be doing and that the challenge is always in making it a reality.  So with the start of the new year, it is a great time to remember that this year will be about continuing on the successes of last year, and the combination of small moments count just as much as the big ones.

Article by Alice Sidhu.

Advocating For Inclusion Is The Best Way To Get It

Advocacy increases inclusion. Being an advocate makes a difference and you can increase inclusion by using your voice within your network… 

Small acts of advocacy are all it takes to make a social movement. The #metoo movement was for the 12 years prior to last year’s Harvey Weinstein scandal a very small force for change. It wasn’t one single event that caused the social explosion. But it was when sufficient people acted in concert that it became a social movement.

And it certainly isn’t just about hashtags. With the current US President’s finger firmly on the Twitter trigger, you might think It is. There are so many more voices advocating publicly for their position. That makes it even more important to make your advocacy effective, not just noisy. I’m not ruling out social media as a tool for advocating, but it’s a means, not a message.  I’m going to rely instead on a Gandhian approach –  ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

Advocacy increases inclusion. You can increase inclusion by using your voice within your network. By speaking out more about the importance of inclusion, you can create more inclusion.  More people will feel included and more people will join you to advocate for inclusion. If you raise your voice with confidence you will be a social force for change. People will feel included and experience a greater sense of belonging.

Being an advocate makes a difference, yet many leaders don’t feel comfortable advocating.

Some people don’t advocate because they think that saying it once is enough. If you say it once, everyone will get it. If you’ve got or work with kids, you’ll see through that one straight away! It’s not that different if you work with adults.

Another reason we don’t advocate is because we believe others are advocating, their efforts will be enough for the message to get through. It won’t make any difference whether or not I do.

Still others don’t advocate because they don’t think their single voice has much weight; it doesn’t seem worth it.

The harder thing that stops people advocating is that they don’t believe they can be powerful enough to make change: a social movement seems to take a lot of effort to organise without a guaranteed outcome; it all seems too much.

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is an example of using your own story to advocate for change. Not all advocacy needs this degree of personal disclosure to be effective.

Advocacy that resonates with those around you is like a swarm of starlings, a murmuration. When the individual birds come together they create a powerful and amazing sight. The magic of it is that this happens because each bird pays attention to just seven of their neighbours. Starlings are ordinary birds, all it takes is for seven of them to pay attention to each other, to get in sync, and they create something extraordinary.

Just like the starlings don’t have to influence the whole flock, don’t try to influence a crowd. Focus on seven key people around you, and magically, you too will influence a social movement.

Conference Season Is Upon Us!

Turn on the auto-reply, pack your suitcase and strap yourselves in – it’s #procurement conference season.

Why are so many great conferences packed into the same few weeks of the year? Yes, the weather is usually reliable, but having successive (or even overlapping) conferences forces procurement pros to pick and choose carefully. And your conference budget isn’t the only issue here – simply finding the time to step out of the office for more than one multi-day event (plus travel) can be very challenging.

Let’s have a look at some of the big events in your region.

EUROPE

SAP Ariba Live

Amsterdam, 23-25 April

SAP Ariba’s biggest event in Europe will be packed with interactive presentations and workshops, and offers the chance to meet some of the real thought-leaders and technical wizards from SAP Ariba itself (not just salespeople!). The agenda reflects SAP Ariba’s ongoing theme for the year, Procure with Purpose.

Procurious will be there! Don’t miss the Diversity and Leadership panel session featuring Procurious Founder Tania Seary talking about how procurement professionals can leverage our uniquely human qualities in the world of Industry 4.0, and the critical importance of supplier diversity for the future of procurement.

Related articles on #ProcurewithPurpose:

How Your Network Can Turbocharge Procurement – SAP Ariba President Barry Padgett

Exploding the 4 Social Enterprise Myths

Supplier Diversity? I Don’t Have Time For That!

… and be sure to sign up for our upcoming #ProcurewithPurpose webinar on Modern Slavery.

 

Procurious Big Ideas Summit

London, 26 April

You didn’t think we would forget to mention our very own flagship event? The Big Ideas Summit is an innovative, digitally led event with a small audience of 50 or so procurement influencers in the room, and hundreds of Digital Delegates interacting online. So, while you might not get a chance to attend in person, be sure to click the link above and register as a Digital Delegate to receive a treasure-trove of content and videos from the Summit.

Speakers include legendary IBM CPO Bob Murphy, ISM CEO Tom Derry, risk-taking and decision-making expert Caspar Berry, futurist and business-builder Sophie Hackford, futurist and urbanist Greg Lindsay, security expert Justin Crump and a whole host of procurement gurus from some of the biggest brands in the profession.

Related articles on #BigIdeas2018:

How to Prepare For Post-Brexit Procurement In The Dark

Why Diligence Is Due

6 Critical Skills You Need If You Want To Succeed In A Digital World

IBM CPO: You’re Finished If You Think You’ve Finished!

How to Turn Your Procurement Team into a Cracking Intelligence-Gathering Organisation

4 Ways to Engineer Serendipity in Your Workplace

Don’t forget to register! https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-digital-delegates

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

The 11th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum

Melbourne, 1-2 May

The Faculty CPO Forum attracts the top CPOs from all across the region, but funnily enough, this event isn’t all that focused on procurement. Instead, the agenda is packed with big-picture thinking, with futurists, experts on disruption, sports stars, diplomacy and trade experts, and others all contributing to a thought-leadership extravaganza that has delighted delegates for over 10 years now. Includes the announcement of the 2018 Asia-Pacific CPO of the Year.

Procurious will be there! Be sure to keep an eye on the Twitter hashtag #CPOForum18 for blog articles and a running update from the 2-day event.

Related articles on #CPOForum18:

4 Things Supply Managers Need To Know About China’s Belt And Road

Leadership Under Fire

4 Things CFOs Really Want From Procurement

 

USA

ISM2018

Nashville, 6-9 May

If you haven’t been to ISM’s massive annual conference before, we can’t stress enough how BIG this event is. 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.

Don’t miss out on seeing Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington on stage, along with two giants of the U.S. Intelligence Community, General Keith Alexander and John Brennan. Keynotes aside, ISM2018 offers fascinating Signature Sessions, Learning Tracks, an Emerging Professionals Experience (featuring the inspirational 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars), and more.

Articles related to #ISM2018:

Navigating the World’s Largest Procurement Conference

30 Under 30 Stars Prove This Enduring Stigma Is Disappearing From the Profession

 

Other major events on the procurement conference calendar:

ProcureCon Indirect

Copenhagen, 16-18 April

REV2018 Jaggaer Conference

Las Vegas, 24-26 April

Featuring a keynote from Stephen J. Dubner, award-winner co-author of Freakonomics.

 Coupa Inspire

San Francisco, 6-9 May

Interestingly, Coupa Inspire is going head-to-head with ISM2018 this year with their event being held on 6-9 May in San Francisco. It’s another big one, with 100+ sessions and 8 keynotes including the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Ivalua Now

New York, 17-18 May

Know of any other major conferences (in April or May) that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments! You might also want to check out Spend Matters’ conference recommendations.

3 Ways To Win The Internet (You Don’t Have To Be Justin Bieber…)

The social media world is a scary place and unfortunately it’s scaring away the professionals and organisations who need it the most. How do you embrace today’s internet culture and use it to your advantage? 

The Procurious London CPO Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined YouTube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for YouTube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs.

A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms, connecting with huge audiences across the globe and finding fame.

Perhaps the most successful YouTuber in this space was Justin Bieber, who’s YouTube performances were discovered  by chance by record label manager, Scooter Braun.

Others, to this day, rack up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in, or had the chance to be!

Take 7-year-old Ryan as an example of this in action. His YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview” where he (you guessed it!) reviews the latest and greatest in children’s toys has seen him become one of the richest YouTubers ever and a multimillionaire.

Or there’s Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, and composer…

Youtube ultimately offers us the opportunity to be heard, and some people have seized the opportunity with both hands.

Building trust on the internet

Elizabeth Linder is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust.

Clearly  “The People” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out.

The problem is that so many of the worlds experts; that is the professionals, the politicians, the press, have really struggled to figure out exactly where they fit in. And that’s why so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust.

All too often, as Elizabeth points out, we focus on the sinister corners of the internet, only promoting the negative effects social media is having on our society.

When governments, the press and businesses perpetuate this idea they fail to acknowledge the value and importance that online conversations can bring, and the huge impact they can have.

The public’s use of social media is way more sophisticated than what we see in most professional bodies and businesses across the globe.

That means, as professionals, we’re on the back foot.

And it’s time to change!

At last month’s Procurious roundtable, sponsored by Basware, Elizabeth Linder provided three key pieces of advice to procurement pros who want to start, and win, conversations online.

1. Go at your own pace

Leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture.

You don’t.

Elizabeth stressed that it’s crucial to take things at your own pace as long as you let people into your thought processes.

A politician in the throws of a disaster situation can’t be expected to have all the answers or all the solutions. But what they can do is keep the public posted on the events as they unfold, maintain a constant dialogue and reassure people that they are doing everything they can.

As a business leader, it’s ok to communicate that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!

You don’t have to speed up because the internet is speedy. It’s just a different kind of dialogue.

When United Airlines hit the headlines for forcibly dragging a passenger off one of their planes, it took them so long to figure out their communications strategy, that they made things a whole lot worse.

They didn’t need a strategy.

They just needed to say something!

2. Believe in the power of primary

We need to believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do.

Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication.

If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say. And that’s because you don’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!

The opportunity to speak directly to your audience is an amazing opportunity for leaders and professionals but it’s taken, particularly western, leaders a long time to grab this space and run with it. Perhaps this is because it demands a greater bravery and vulnerability compared with hiding behind a newspaper column or official statements from your organisation. But the pay off is worth it.

The 2011 London riots  were a big wake up moment for the London Police force, who had to figure out how to communicate directly, and effectively with the general public.

And in the UK county of Staffordshire, the police have invested in real authenticity and conversation on social media, building a strong community relationship.

3. Embrace the hacker culture

Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key.

EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making.

Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter, and create as they go.

In the early days of Facebook your profile photo was meant to be one photo of yourself.  The idea was that you uploaded it and you kept it.

But Facebook engineers watched a trend emerging of members rapidly changing their profile picture; every time they went to a party, every time they went on holiday. They realised that users wanted to ability to share their photo albums on Facebook and so built in the functionality to do that. Simply by following the patterns of behaviour.

travel business is struggling with this right now – they used to be able to invite critics to review a hotel/ stay somewhere and write up a review – now all it takes is one guest to write a terrible review about crappy plumbing and it can go around the world- feeling of being out of control is prevalent in leadership circles.

Top tips for getting started online

  • Involve people, whether it’s colleagues, clients, customers or the wider community  in the early building stages of your online presence.  What do they want to hear from you? What’s useful and what’s not?
  • Keep a consistency and truthful tone to anything you post online. Post things that represent you or you organisation because it’s so much better to be yourself rather than a contrived version of yourself. If you’re not funny don’t try to be. If you’re earnest be earnest!
  • Don’t let your voice become part of the PR machinery. The UK lost count of the number of times they heard  Theresa May’s Brexit was going to be Strong and Stable – it was a meaningless consultant’s phrase.
  • Be honest! If you don’t know, say you don’t know! It’s much easier to do this online than it is live on TV.

Pick the right people to communicate with your audience. Your business might have a clear hierarchy but it’s important to consider who should be the spokesperson vs who will be the best spokesperson. The Estonian parliament Facebook page asked their maintenance man to run the page, and he’s become a local celebrity, and great PR for the government.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

Procurious are hosting CPO roundtables on 30th May, 19th September and 14th November. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation.

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.

ZoneCreative/Shutterstock.com

“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!

Welcome to the Most Miserable Day of the Year

Feeling down? You’re not alone! Today is Blue Monday, a date widely claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.

Andrey Kozachenko/Shutterstock.com

The concept of the most miserable day of the year was first publicised back in 2005, dreamt up by a public relations agency on behalf of holiday company Sky Travel.

Put simply, the “equation” used to calculate when Blue Monday falls is nonsensical pseudoscience (i.e. absolute baloney), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. 

W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our new year’s resolutions, M= motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action.

In other words, the horrible weather (in the northern hemisphere), the realisation that you’ve overspent in December and that your salary isn’t going to cover it, and failing your new year’s resolutions outweighs your flagging motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action to start the year with a bang.

 

Two factors missing from the equation

  1. Keeping up with the online Joneses!

For those of us who spend a lot of time on social media, there’s another theory emerging about why this time of the year can be so painful: social media envy. How many posts have you seen on LinkedIn along the lines of… “I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT 2018! I’ve already secured 15 new clients, I’ve met my future spouse, and I’m running a half-marathon every morning before a super-healthy breakfast! Go ME!”

If you’re exposed to enough of this, it really can make you feel inadequate. “Why aren’t I feeling this motivated?” “Why do I just want to crawl back into bed?” “Where’s MY future spouse?”

  1. Are people really brimming with joy about being back at their desk?

Yes, there is a chance that some of your co-workers are genuinely chuffed to be back at the grindstone, and best of luck to them. But for the rest of us, the end of long, pleasant holiday is really no reason to celebrate. It’s hard to get back into the swing of things and regain your work-week mojo – and until then, it’s easy to fall into a bit of a slump. After all, have you ever seen your kids’ reaction when a “back to school” ad comes on the telly?

Take heart, though, from the likelihood that many of your (apparently) highly-motivated, back-to-work-loving colleagues on social media are in fact putting on a front. Whether it’s for the benefit of their bosses, their co-workers or their clients, the super-positive post may not reflect the mood of the person glumly typing it out.

So – wishing you a miserable Blue Monday. Try not to eat too much chocolate.


In Procurement and Supply Chain News This Week:

Fiat Chrysler Reshoring Production

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is investing $1 billion to move production of Ram Heavy Duty pickup trucks from Mexico to Michigan.
  • The move will lower the automaker’s exposure to potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • Approximately 2500 jobs will be moved to the company’s factory in Warren, Michigan.

Read more: http://fortune.com/2018/01/12/fiat-chrysler-michigan-mexico-nafta/

 Iranian and Chinese Tankers Collide

  • Thirty-two sailors are presumed dead after Iranian tanker “Sanchi” collided with Chinese freighter “CF Crystal” 257 km off the coast of Shanghai. The casualties are from the Iranian vessel, while the 21-member crew of CF Crystal have all been reported safe.
  • The Sanchi was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of ultra-light oil, bound for South Korea. After listing for nearly a week, a large explosion sank the vessel on Sunday.
  • The cause of the collision is unknown. Thirteen ships were employed in the rescue effort, which has been hampered by poor weather.

Read more: http://time.com/5102663/iranian-tanker-collision/

 Maccas Is Finally Ditching Foam Cups

  • McDonald’s has announced a plan to use recycled and certified sources for its fibre-based packaging by 2020, while foam packaging will be eliminated by the end of 2018.
  • Polystyrene drink containers are known to be eco-unfriendly and very difficult to recycle. The restaurant chain eliminated polystyrene packaging for hamburgers nearly 27 years ago.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/13/mcdonalds-will-get-rid-foam-packaging-2019-7226373/

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.”

Christmas Supply Chains and Fist Fights in the Toy Aisles

Do you remember the Tickle-Me-Elmo War of 1996? What about the Cabbage Patch Kid Riots of 1983? No amount of long-term forecasting can prepare manufacturers and retailers for the moment a product becomes the “must-have” toy of the season.

Robert Waller, a clerk at a Canadian Wal-Mart, told a harrowing tale about toy-mania in an interview with People after the Christmas rush of 1996. He was unpacking the latest shipment of Tickle Me Elmo (a vibrating, giggling plush toy based on a character from Sesame Street), when he became uncomfortably aware of a crowd of about 300 people watching him carefully. He opened a box, pulled out an Elmo – and the crowd stampeded.

““I was pulled under, trampled—the crotch was yanked out of my brand-new jeans,” Waller told People. “I remember being kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious.” Waller also suffered a pulled hamstring, injuries to his back, jaw and knee, a broken rib and concussion.

Tyco, the toy company behind the craze, saw its sales surge to an astonishing $350 million that year as every one of the million Elmo toys was snapped up.  Meanwhile, scalpers were buying the US$29.99 toy by the dozen and asking up to $10,000 on eBay by the end of the year.

The “hot-toy” phenomenon tends to happen  every year, with fist-fights breaking out in toy aisles over prizes such as Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Teletubbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Elsa from Frozen (who had been stripped from shelves by November of 2014) and – most recently – Hatchimals. Retailers respond by refusing to accept pre-orders and limiting purchases to one per customer.

Avoiding a Christmas disaster

Unless you’re a parent who missed out on getting the must-have toy of the season, none of the examples above are really “disasters” for the manufacturers and retailers involved. If a toy sells out in November, there’s certainly a missed opportunity if you are unable to get another shipment onto shelves before Christmas, but it’s still a success story.

The real disasters, these days, are taking place in online ordering and fulfilment. Customers are extremely unforgiving when it comes to a Christmas order not being delivered, as was demonstrated when Toys “R” Us first tried to take advantage of the online shopping craze in 1999. The company promised customers that any orders made on or before December 10 would arrive by Christmas, but as an unexpected number of orders rolled in, warehouses managers realised it would be impossible to keep this promise. Toys “R” Us sent an email to customers two days before Christmas, which led to the media making the toy retailer the focus for stories about shipping delays and tarnishing the brand for years. After this disaster, Toys “R” Us (which recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S.) handed over its logistics management to Amazon.

A similar story played out in Australia in 2015 where some customers who pre-ordered their Christmas hams online with Australia’s two largest supermarkets were told at the last minute their orders were not going to be fulfilled. While a missed delivery at any other time in the year may be forgiven, emotive customer backlash at Christmas time is particularly fierce.

In other news this week:

J. Shipman Gold Medal – ISM Calls For Nominations (U.S.)

  • The J. Shipman Gold Medal Award recognises leaders in the profession who have worked diligently to promote the advancement of procurement and supply management. Now in its 87th year, the award is the highest honour conferred by ISM.
  • Nominees are considered role models, mentors and community leaders who have helped others excel in their careers. They have had innovative ideas, and their persistent efforts have helped improve the profession.
  • View a list of previous J. Shipman Gold Medal Award winners here.

Download a nomination form . Nominations must be submitted by February 1st 2018.

Meet the James Bond of Procurement

Looking for some holiday reading? We review Christopher Hepworth’s “The Last Oracle”, a fast-paced thriller starring Sam Jardine, the world’s greatest negotiator – and a procurement professional!

As a series of bizarre climate-related events occur across our planet, it seems the world is edging towards a catastrophic tipping point.

Rex Daingerfield is the owner of a giant fracking company that seeks to exploit a rich seam of gas in the environmentally sensitive Greenland ice shelf. But Daingerfield has a nemesis – his daughter. Born to an Egyptian mother, she is inducted as the Oracle of the Temple of Sekhmet. Her role is to protect the earth from the likes of her father.

The Oracle recruits the world’s greatest negotiator, Sam Jardine, to convince her father to change his destructive business model. But a secret society of the rich and powerful stands to profit from the chaos that has gripped the world. Led by an errant priest from the Temple of Sekhmet, they will do anything to stop Jardine.

As the planet edges closer to disaster, Jardine is confronted by politicians, lobbyists, vested interests – even his own radicalised half-brother – all of whom stand to gain from the mayhem about to be unleashed.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Here’s what we enjoyed about this book.

A procurement hero

Sam Jardine is a procurement professional who is sent all over the world on special projects when his incredible powers of negotiation are required.

He is described in some of the advertising around The Last Oracle as “the new James Bond”. There are certainly some similarities – he keeps his cool in the novel’s many action scenes, he loves fast (solar-powered) cars, and he wins the heart of at least two female characters. But in many ways, his character has more depth than Bond. Jardine isn’t always sure of himself, and one of the strongest themes running through the book is his internal conflict between loyalty (and fear of) his oil-industry employer, his own conscience and his knowledge of impending climate catastrophe. He’s also very fallible – he makes mistakes, he gets severely injured on more than one occasion, and he doesn’t always “get the girl” despite his good looks and charm.

Jardine is also described as the world’s greatest negotiator – and this holds true, with arguably the best scenes in the novel being negotiations. Jardine leverages his cultural intelligence when negotiating with an African tribal chief, thinks fast to save his job in an interview with his furious CEO, negotiates for his life before a vengeful Egyptian goddess, locks horns with Washington lobbyists and politicians, and even extracts a multi-million dollar family secret from a drunken uncle in an English pub for the price of two pints of ale and a packet of crisps. The back-and-forth dialogue in these scenes is spot-on, and Jardine frequently wins the day by taking a risk that his opponents (and the reader) doesn’t expect.

The characters

Although there are some characters in the novel who have more scope for development, such as the ruthless fracking tycoon Rex Daingerfield, the bullish oilman Chuck Crawford, and even some radicalised Islamic terrorists, there are a handful of characters that are gratifyingly complex. We’ve already mentioned the hero Jardine’s internal struggles. Daingerfield’s mysterious daughter, Sienna, is one of three strong, intelligent female characters that Jardine interacts with, and faces a schizophrenic struggle between her identity as a holy oracle of an ancient Egyptian goddess, her filial duty to her father, and her mission to prevent an environmental holocaust. This conflict eventually lands her in psychiatric care. The theme of mental health is also present in Jardine’s younger brother Jack, whose internal demons and severe lack of judgement makes him an easy recruit for the aforementioned terrorists. 

The author is a CPO!

To let you in on a secret, “Christopher Hepworth” is actually a pseudonym. The author is head of procurement in their country for one of the world’s leading insurers, and therefore knows a thing or two about negotiation.

The world needs more procurement heroes, including fictional ones, to help raise the profile of the profession. Five stars!

The Last Oracle is the third Sam Jardine Thriller from author Christopher Hepworth. Read more reviews and purchase your copy on Amazon.