Category Archives: Life & Style

Easter Procurement – How Do They Make Yours?

They have been a staple in the Easter diet for many children (and adults too!) for decades. But just how do Cadbury make the Creme Eggs we enjoy so much?


As hard as it might be to believe but the humble Cadbury’s Creme Egg has been an Easter staple since its launch nearly half a century ago. Global sales of the eggs are over 500 million per year, with the UK alone accounting for approximately 200 million per year (that’s around 3 each per year in the UK), with the majority of these manufactured in Birmingham, UK.

The Creme Egg brand has a value in itself of £55 million, which certainly isn’t bad for a confectionary item that’s only available between January and Easter each year.

Like them or loathe them, Easter just wouldn’t be the same without the instantly recognisable purple, red and yellow packaging (or green, blue, red and yellow if you happen to live in the USA). It’s no small feat to produce the volume of eggs to satisfy global demand, at such a specific time of year to take full advantage of the condensed sales period.

Before we delve into the supply chain and production process, some facts about this famous egg…

All Gone a Bit Egg Shaped – Fun Facts!

In fact, all Cadbury-manufactured chocolate is banned in the USA, Creme Eggs amongst them. The Hershey Company has the rights to manufacture all Cadbury chocolate in the USA and the move was to limit competition with imported items.

This is down to the recipes being altered slightly to adjust to different tastes, as well as to account for some ingredients that are banned in certain countries.

More on this below, but let’s just say that it did not go well…

Not only are the Eggs themselves shrinking thanks to ‘shrinkflation’, but in 2015 the multipacks dropped from six to five eggs. But that probably helps with the next fact…

  • They are really unhealthy (but you knew that and it doesn’t really matter anyway).

Each egg contains around the same volume of sugar as two bowls of really sugary cereal. And at around 6 teaspoons of sugar, it’s what the American Heart Association considers to be a full day’s worth of sugar.

Raw Materials

The Creme Egg that we buy and eat today has been in production since its introduction in 1963. It’s recipe has been the same since this time, using the same key ingredients. There was a brief period in 2015 when Mondelez, who currently own Cadbury, and Kraft, their parent company, changed the recipe. This involved changing the use of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate for the egg’s shell to a cheaper, cocoa-based shell.

And much like the ill-fated New Coke recipe, the outcry was much the same. After much protest the recipe was changed back, but not before the organisation had seen a loss in sales estimated at £6 million in 2015. FYI, for those of you outside the UK, don’t get a Brit started on what their feelings are on Cadbury’s chocolate in general since the firm was taken over by Schweppes and then Mondelez!

The key ingredients we’re looking at here are, of course, cocoa and, in Cadbury’s own words, “a glass and a half of milk in each bar”. The majority of the milk in the UK, over 50%, is supplied by dairy farm co-operative, Selkley Vale farmers, from Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The cocoa is a bit more complicated and, in the past, a lot more controversial. As with most chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury sources its chocolate from countries with high volumes of cocoa production – Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil. Previously fully affiliated with Fairtrade, Cadbury drew criticism  of practices and its supply chain when it dropped this in 2016 in favour of a new scheme, Cocoa Life.

The scheme, which is, as of 2019 working in close partnership with Fairtrade, aims to use over $400 million to aid 200,000 cocoa farmers worldwide. Not only will this mean that more Cadbury chocolate is made from sustainably sourced cocoa, but farmers will still have benefits in line with Fairtrade goals, such as improved income, competitive pricing and tailored investment suited to their needs.

Cadbury has been able to leverage its supply chain well in recent years to provide a solid and stable foundation for its production in the UK, Canada and the USA. How do they go from that to the magic end product?

The Production

Ever wondered how Cadbury manages to get the very unhealthy, yet absolutely delicious, fondant filling into Creme Eggs? Had discussions over whether it’s an injection mould for the outer shells and then the fillings? Then wonder no more!

It’s actually quite simple really. The two halves of the shell are made separately and then filled with the fondant to create that ‘fresh egg’ look inside. The halves are then shut in a book mould to create the final product, that is then wrapped for sale. If you want to see everything in action, there’s a great video on YouTube (and below…) from Bloomberg on the full UK production process.

Probably the most bizzare thing in the whole production process, apart from the fact that there’s someone working for Cadbury whose job title is ‘Easter Shift Manager’, is that all of this happens in winter. Supply chains are year-round anyway, but production processes need to be done in such a way that the hundreds of millions of eggs are ready for shipping for the 1st of January.

There you have it – a brief history of, and the not-so-secrets behind manufacturing one of the pillars of Easter. Now, I don’t know about you, but we’re off to the shops for a few Creme Eggs before they disappear for another year…!

Working From Home? WFH Is More A Case Of Warring Family Hell

What are the perils of working from home?


Many of us have dreamt of this moment. No commuting. You can work in your PJs. Watch daytime TV. Do a spot of gardening. Eat your lunch on the sofa. And still get all your work done. Yes… it should be heaven.

Instead, your internet speed is something out of the dark ages – remember the days of dial-up modems?

With everyone online, all-the-time, forget video conferencing with the office… buffering is back!

This is just one of the stresses and strains of self-isolation, which are compounding the crippling anxiety of financial fears and job insecurity.

With millions of people worldwide being forced to WFH, many are also being locked up 24/7 with their partners/families… and the two are just not compatible.

WFH is fine, when it’s just you. Trying to do it whilst also looking after children, foraging for those elusive items such as toilet rolls, while remaining well and healthy, checking in on loved ones, and keeping the boss happy, is virtually impossible.

Aside from slow internet speeds, there are just too many distractions.

Space invaders: keep them out

Even if you don’t have children fighting over food or bellowing into their headsets (why do they have to shout as they game?), there will be plenty of your neighbours whose offspring are going stir crazy.

A kick around in the garden sounds like they are playing a real-life game of Fortnight rather than football particularly when it is magnified a dozen times (who knew there were so many children living so close?).

Along with the continuous squeals from trampolines and parents shouting in frustration ‘stop fighting’, you will need more than noise-cancelling headphones.

Finally, there are the space squabbles.

You like working from the dining table or breakfast bar? It’s close to the coffee machine and normally quite peaceful. However, every inch seems to be covered with unfinished homework, half-built Lego sets and crayons and paints. It’s great that the kids want to be creative, but you need peace and quiet. You certainly don’t want someone to scribble a picture of a rainbow over your end-of-year report.

You need boundaries

So, it’s time for some rules. The sooner you set these the better – before everyone else has got set in the new routine.

  • Set your own ‘office hours’: Tell everyone “I’m going to work”.  This will put you in the right mindset – and also give you some demarcation. When you finish for the day, you want to be able to “leave” the office, shut down your laptop, and put work out of sight, and out of mind. Also, it should signal to your partner that just because you are at home, now is not the time to mow the lawn, put up a shelf, or chat endlessly.
  • Limit screen time: Keep the rest of the household’s use of the internet to a minimum during your critical working hours. It will be good for them!
  • Ask for some quiet time during the day: Even if you’ve shut the office door, you will probably find the household noise a distraction. If you need to concentrate or make calls, you cannot have a blaring TV or toddler tantrums in the background, so try to set a few hours a day when the house is quieter.
  • Claim some space:  In my household there is a current battle over the best office chair – and who gets the biggest desk. So, claim your own home office space (even if it is in the corner of the bedroom) and make it as work-friendly as possible: this might be your workplace for several months.
  • Find a lockable cupboard: Your printer paper will vanish, the family will use up all your printer ink, you will find someone “gaming” on your office laptop – or worse spilling a soda into your computer. Keep work tech for work only.
  • Invest in some protection: Make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date and all of your online devices are secure. Working from home might be designed to protect you from the coronavirus – but what about computer viruses.

But remember, it’s not forever

At some point people will return to work, schools, colleges and universities will open their doors and your home will no longer be for work, rest and play.

So try not to stress too much about poor internet speeds, a lack of space (both headspace and physical space) and too many competing demands.

You may never get an opportunity to spend so much time with the ones you love – even if, right now, you are hating being with them day and night. So try to enjoy WFH.

Need crowdsourced confidence during this crisis? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid 19 group and get access to expert advice, news, views and the ability to intimately connect with procurement professionals worldwide. 

Will They Still Want You, When You’re 64?

How can you make sure you’re not overlooked for jobs and other opportunities if you want to keep working in your 60s and 70s?


When Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a teenager, he probably thought he would be retired in his mid-to-late 60s.

Instead he has continued to work well into his 70s and will be 78 when he takes to the stage at Glastonbury 2020.

McCartney is not alone: things have changed since 1967 when the Beatles released the hit on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band.

Today more than 1 in 10 of those aged 65 is still working and the number is set to soar.

The scrapping of the default retirement age (which makes it harder to put us out to pasture) and an increase in the state pension age (which is set to rise to 67, and then 68), means growing numbers will be working until they are nearly 70.

There is only one problem: who will employ us?

Employment drops off from the age of 50, making the lyric ‘Will you still need me?’ take on a whole new meaning.

We all need to mind the age gap

While a lucky few might have quit the ‘rat race’ because they can afford to retire comfortably, many of the 3 in 10 in the 50-64 age group who are not in employment are not out of work through choice – the majority might not be able to work due to ill health, disability or caring commitments while others may struggle to find work because of their age.

Even among those still in employment, many are working part-time or in jobs that do not reflect their expertise and experience.

So how can you remain relevant in a world of work that still does not always value the wisdom of age?

De-age – from an early age

Age discrimination is illegal. But it happens – even if it is not deliberate but a case of unconscious bias.

So it is important to appear younger than you are if you do not want to be written off.

As it is easy to search for information about you online (yes – nearly every employer now checks out candidates before inviting them for interview), start thinking about what information is being posted about you or that you are posting yourself well before you hit 50.

  • Never, ever put your age or date of birth on any job applications, CVs or social media profiles. Employers cannot ask your age, so don’t let them find out.
  • Get rid of anything on your CV and online professional profiles that screams ‘ancient’. Change your qualifications from O Levels to GCSEs. Change your polytechnic to its new university name. Delete jobs from the 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Clean up your social media profile and change your settings to private. A series of postings of you at your 55th or 60th birthday might inadvertently lead to a recruiter thinking you are ‘past it’.
  • Also change your mindset. If you ‘think’ you are no longer able to go for that new job or that promotion, other people will think the same, too. One in 4 professionals over the age of 55 believe it’s too late to change things according to research from Think Forward Consulting – they are wrong. You just need to overcome the fear of rejection that often comes with age.

Get your words right

Job adverts often specify that candidates need to be ‘hungry’, ‘ambitious’, ‘energetic’, ‘driven’, ‘innovative’, ‘dynamic’ or other words automatically associated with youth. Include a few of these in your job applications and your personal statement to reflect the fact that you still have the passion to succeed.

At the same time avoid descriptions that sound ‘ageing’. Stating that you have ‘decades’ of experience is unnecessary. It is far better to detail what you have achieved not how long it took you!

Emphasise your adaptability

In a world of constant change, adaptability is a key skill yet one that is not always associated with more mature members of the workforce.

So, make a point of highlighting ways in which you have adapted to – or perhaps anticipated – change. Managing a transformation project, changing career path to reflect a change in the market or demonstrating how you have been innovative, will all prove to potential employers that you can ‘move with the times’ and remain relevant.

Show you can learn new skills

Forget the saying that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and prove that you can learn new skills. Make a habit of doing courses in the latest technology, remain inquisitive about new developments in your sector and demonstrate that you have a curiosity about the future – it will show the enthusiasm that employers are looking for (and associate with younger members of staff).

Have a Plan B (for business) . . .

One of the most popular ways to remain in employment later in your career is to employ yourself.

In fact, the number of self-employed people aged 65 years and older more than doubled between 2009 and 2017.

You can start with a sideline (provided it does not conflict with your day job), grow your venture and then do it full-time if it’s a success – or enjoy it as a part-time role if you plan to flexi-retire.

. . . Or be a master of your own destiny

While employers are often reluctant to hire more mature staff as full-time permanent employees, the same does not apply to consultants, contractors, freelance project managers, interim managers and non-executive directors: they are hired for their expertise, so the longer they have been being doing the job the better. In fact, 2 in 3 interims are aged 50–70+.

While you will have to give up the day job to start in one of these roles, the pay can often more than compensate for the lack of job security. Interims, for example, earn £500 to £1,500 a day. See the Institute of Interim Managers for more information: https://www.iim.org.uk/knowledge/.

So if you’re planning to carry on working well past when you’re 64 and into your 70s, like Paul, follow these tips to get your plans in order and make your profile attractive.

What Do Women – And Men – Really Think Of Valentine’s Day?

We offer a woman’s and a man’s-eye view of the Feast of Saint Valentine …

You want how much for those flowers?! Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day has become part of the global calendar and good luck ignoring it. 

Shopfronts are dining out on the day, while emails advertising spray tans with headlines like ‘Fake it for Valentine’s Day’ are sliding into your inbox. 

But we want to pop a different spin on it. A woman’s perspective on the day up against a man’s perspective. And while Emily and Dave don’t speak for everyone, you may see yourself in some of their thoughts.

Woman’s-eye view: A day of celebration and (very) high hopes

I secretly love this day and if I ever pretend I don’t or that I’m ignoring it, it’s only out of self-preservation. 

You see, unlike Dave below, I am not married. I am single. Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder that you’re not with anyone and the only flowers you’re buying are ones ‘to you from you’.

I am a die-hard romantic. The Notebook to me is still the best movie of all time (forget the fact she cheats on her fiancé). And Titanic will never sink in my heart.

So it only follows that I have high hopes for this one day of the year.

Last year I was given the loveliest bunch of flowers by a guy I was seeing with a note in French (yes, he was French). I doubt that will be bettered this year.

But I live in perpetual – unrealistic! – hope that the guy I went on a few dates with recently . . . whom I’m not overly into . . . will suddenly have a moment and think, yes I want to spend $90 on roses for Emily and get in touch with her colleagues (whom he does not know at all) to find out where she works and at what desk. So the flowers can be delivered to her right there.  

Okay, in reality the chances of that are slim.

So I thought why not take matters into my own hands and be the ‘giver’. I mean, who said that was just a man’s job?

Women as the givers

I got ahead of myself recently and went out with a guy a couple of times, decided we were certainly going to end up together and proceeded to order his Valentine’s Day gift from Amazon a whopping four weeks ago. 

Yes, I did that. 

He was a doctor working with heart surgeons. So I found a lunch bag with ‘Live organ for transplant’ on it. The idea was to have it delivered to him with a six-pack of beers in it with ice on top. 

I would have him come to reception at his work to collect it and when he opens it and sees ice on top (like a real organ would have) he would freak out . . . and then suddenly find the beers and think it was literally the best (and most memorable) Valentine’s Day gift ever.

But after date four recently I decided it wasn’t meant to be – and now my colleagues have to open the work fridge to see a ‘Live organ for transplant’ lunch in there every day.

As I said, I’m a die-hard romantic. Here’s hoping for the flowers and even if that doesn’t come about I still have my ‘live organ lunch bag’.

Love, Emily x

The man’s-eye view: The day of the year on which more people break up than any other 

I don’t wish to throw a wet blanket on what has become a global celebration of love and romance, but Valentine’s Day – otherwise known as the Feast of Saint Valentine – does nothing to whet my appetite, or make my heart flutter.

My friend Kev has a restaurant in New York, and he maintains that Valentine’s is every restauranteur’s nightmare. A sea of two-top tables waiting for couples who barely speak to each other at the best of times but feel obliged to have that special night out together. 

Kev says that the sight of couples holding hands across the table and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes is as rare as hen’s teeth in his gaff. Comparatively very little food or booze is ordered and invariably one person is left to pick up the bill or storm out without paying.

Apparently, more people split up on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year.

The best thing about Valentine’s Day for me was the birth of my youngest daughter, Saskia. I love her to bits. 

The downside of her joining us on 14 February is that she insists on being taken out for dinner on that night. 

I have tried to persuade her to have two birthdays (a bit like the Queen) just to avoid the misery meal. Not a chance.

Romantic meals – no thanks

So we’ll be in TGI Fridays (certainly not my choice) in Guildford, Surrey, UK – witnessing young people with soon to be arthritic thumbs communicating with friends who are not in the room rather than enjoying the company of the person they are about to split up with. What fun!

I do enter into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, however, and remember to buy a card and some flowers for my wife – who has a heart of stone and always forgets. 

No, please, I am not craving sympathy. The end of 14 February for me will be spent in the company of talkSPORT Radio and a bottle of 12-year-old Macallan!

So, in the words of the song from The King and I, ‘good luck young lovers wherever you are’ – or something like that!

Love, Dave x  

So where do you fit in? Do you agree with Emily or Dave? And what are your plans?

Whatever you do today, enjoy it. And remember that love in any form is something to be celebrated.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Ask what drives you

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

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

Use the free resource Career Drivers Assessment by Crowe Associates.

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

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

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

2. Know your values

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

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

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

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

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

3. Stick to what you can control

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

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

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

4. Nurture a growth mindset

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

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

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

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

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

5. Follow productivity 2.0

In 2019 I wrote an article on productivity hacks

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

How can you be effective with your time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding a Cultural Festive Faux-Pas

How can you avoid making a cultural faux-pas when it comes to this holiday season and others throughout the year?

cultural diversity

With the end of year and festive season rapidly approaching I am always mindful of the significance of religious holidays to different cultures.

Continuing our discussion around cultural intelligence and working across cultures, I thought it might be apt to discuss acknowledging religious holidays in the workplace and how best to navigate this topic in a respectful and inclusive way.

Agile and Aware Approach

Religion is a key component of how people and societies make sense of their existence and provide meaning to their lives. Religion can also act as a moral and ethical guide for behaviour and is a defining element of many cultures. It is only natural then that some of the practices and beliefs people have as part of their religion intersect with the workplace.

As many workplaces exist within a cultural setting dominated by one particular group, it is increasingly necessary for businesses and leaders to adopt an agile and aware approach so they can be inclusive and supportive of their staff.

A situation I encountered with an organisation in Australia a few years ago demonstrates how contentious and uncomfortable it can be when awareness around the importance of religious holidays is not in place. The organiser of an event to be held in Melbourne for an Asia-Pacific team could not understand the response he received when the event dates were released. Members of the team in Asia Pacific were upset and distressed at the timing of the event and there was a lot of push back.

As it happened, the event was scheduled to take place during the Chinese New Year celebrations. These are, of course, a significant time in a number of Asian countries.

We discussed this issue further in light of the reaction. I mentioned that it would be the same as scheduling this event during the Christmas/New year period in Australia. He then realised his error and made changes to the event dates to avoid causing further offense.

Acknowledging Diversity in the Workplace

This example highlights the importance of using Cultural Intelligence (CQ). If we apply it in terms of the components of CQ- Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action, we have a complete and practical guide to unpacking and evaluating the best way to manage situations like this in the workplace.

So if we take into consideration the theoretical steps that can be taken when acknowledging religious holidays in the workplace, what are some of the tangible actions we can take to navigate this type of challenge in the workplace?

Be Ahead of the game

Use a diversity calendar that notes the important dates from many religions. This way you are able to be aware of timing and scheduling for meetings, busy periods, etc. There are numerous available on the internet.

Be Inclusive

Find the shared values within religious holidays that can be used to unite and connect people regardless of individual religions.

Be Flexible

Allow staff time off during important celebrations. Be aware of when they occur during the year so major conflicts can be avoided.

Be Aware and Respectful

When organising parties ensure that non-alcoholic beverages and religious dietary requirements are considered.

Be Mindful

As with all of the above, be aware that there will be cultural diversity in your workplace. Take time to understand the overall impact and bring everyone on board with your activities.

Recognise and Educate

Use the opportunities of religious celebrations and holidays to highlight the benefits of diversity. Allow people to appreciate cultures beyond their own and perhaps encourage an education session on the particular event.

Through the use of CQ we are able to better understand both people and culture whilst also creating a space where diversity and inclusion is valued, and the benefits realised. As globalisation and its impacts continue to change the way we work, it is vital that we take conscious steps to be more inclusive and accommodating in our approach to different cultures.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy festive season and a wonderful year ahead in 2020!

Procurement Across Borders – Managing Situations In Which Culture Can Influence The Outcomes

Differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour…

By Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock

In the previous articles, we began looking at CQ Knowledge which relates to your personal knowledge and understanding of other cultures. We introduced the idea that differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour and provided a cultural mirror which plots Nine Dimensions of Culture.

Having already discussed the first six dimensions, this month we will move onto the seventh, eighth and ninth dimensions, explore their application and give some tips and ideas on how to navigate these dimensions in cross cultural situations.

Dimension Seven: Polychronic- Monochronic.

Polychronic and monochronic are the terms used to describe the time orientation in cultures. The terms were coined by Edward Hall. People coming from Polychronic cultures view time as being very loose compared to monochronic cultures who view time as needing to be managed very tightly.

In monochronic cultures, people believe that time is money and it should not be wasted. Meetings tend to start on time and there is an orderly sense to the way people do things such as queueing and traffic movements. There is a methodical logic in how things work. Countries that are monochronic include the UK, Taiwan and Switzerland.

In polychronic cultures, people believe that time is life – there is plenty of time and you need to be in the present. A meeting set to begin at 9am may in fact start later than that or once everyone has arrived. In these cultures, people don’t generally queue for things and traffic can be chaotic and arbitrary. Cultures with a polychronic approach have a different sense of time which can be one of the most challenging aspects to working across culture. Countries that are Polychronic include Indonesia, Chile and Portugal.

Tips for those coming from a Monochronic Culture when working with Polychronic cultures:

1) Be fluid with timelines

2) Ensure flexibility in setting up appointments and meetings

Tips for those coming from a Polychronic Culture when working with Monochronic cultures:

1) Be punctual

2) Establish timelines for projects and ensure you deliver on them

Dimension Eight: High-Low Context Communication

High and Low context refers to the way in which cultures communicate. People coming from high context communication cultures understand that communication is multi-dimensional. In low context communication cultures, you say what you mean and mean what you say. In these cultures, “yes” means yes and “no” means no. Countries that have low context communication styles include the USA, Germany and Finland.

In high context cultures, “yes” may mean yes, it may mean no or even maybe depending on how the yes is articulated. It is not just about the spoken word, it is also about the facial expression, tone of voice, pitch and body language. Countries that have high context communication include China, Greece and Algeria.

Tips for those coming from a Low context culture and working with a High context culture:

1) Be patient and listen carefully to what is the message being communicated

2) Use metaphors and analogies to describe situations and outcomes

Tips for those coming from a High context culture and working with a Low context culture:

1) Be direct and straightforward in your communication

2) Do not be offended by the directness of responses.

Dimension Nine: Femininity – Masculinity

In feminine cultures, there tends to be more of an appreciation of values around cooperation, communication, teamwork, and collaboration. In feminine cultures, males and females will often do all sorts of similar jobs and gender roles are less clearly defined.

When discussing Femininity – Masculinity in terms of the cultural mirror continuum, we refer to the attributes that are most prevalent and valued within a culture.

Some examples of countries with feminine cultures are Denmark and Sweden.

In masculine cultures, there’s a far greater emphasis on competition, being assertive and ambitious and having a strong point of view. In masculine cultures gender roles are highly differentiated. Some examples of countries with masculine culture are Japan, Venezuela and Hungary.

Tips for people coming from feminine cultures when working with Masculine cultures:

1) Be assertive and convey your point of view

2) Be concise and rational in your discussions

Tips for people coming from Masculine cultures working with Feminine cultures:

1) Avoid being overly aggressive

2) Be willing to compromise

In order to be more effective when working across culture we need to be culturally intelligent and develop a repertoire to be able to manage situations in which culture can influence the outcomes. Regardless of where you sit on each element of the continuum it is essential to have the agility to adapt yourself.

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.