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Buyers Meeting Point is home to two blogs: The Point is written by BMP's Kelly Barner and a diverse group of guest contributors. MyPurchasingCenter was acquired by BMP in 2020 we now showcase their content archive on BMP.

Can Appreciative Inquiry Work for Purchasing?

Most purchasing professionals have never heard of appreciative inquiry. It is a systematic discovery process to search for what is best or positive in an organization or its strengths. These strengths are then improved upon to create an even stronger and more dynamic organization. Implementing change remains positive and thus springs from an organization’s strengths, not its weaknesses, or deficiencies.

Author: Dr. Tom DePaoliAuthor & CEO at Apollo Solutions

Editor’s note: This article is part of the MyPurchasingCenter content archive. It was originally published in 2015 and appears here without revision.

All too often in my purchasing career, I have experienced a new purchasing leader or consultant, who comes from an outside company, then sweeps into a purchasing department and castigates purchasing professionals for, “doing everything wrong, unlike their former company, that did everything right.” This negative reactive approach to change often results in people becoming even more resistant to change. Traditional reactive methods to implementing change emphasize fixing what is broken or weak in an organization. This approach almost never works and causes even more fear.

One of the tools of appreciative inquiry is the sharing of stories about an organization. Employees are asked to describe a time when they were really engaged and excited about their work. Employees are asked to list what was great or memorable about the time. The themes or actions that the organization used are carefully studied and grouped. Common themes of these stories may evolve or confirm a major strength of an organization. These strengths then become skill springboards from which the organization needs to use and embellish.

I previously discussed the storytelling techniques in a Buyers Meeting Point blog.

As a review, here are some of the advantages of storytelling:

  • The brain stores information by stories.
  • Stories are humanizing and stimulate creativity.
  • Storytelling improves listening skills.
  • Storytelling builds a team culture.
  • It encourages collaboration.

Appreciative inquiry takes storytelling to the next level. The memorable stories and positive results become the dynamic building blocks of an organization’s competitive edge. It makes the vision or mission become actualized or reach their full potential!

Here is an example: One of the strengths of a purchasing organization that I led was sourcing and the use of cross-functional teams. The vast majority of the team members felt good about the sourcing decision and the transition plan to the selected supplier. A systematic methodology was used and modified as needed. Team members were well equipped to defend the selection and present the reasoning to other non-team members. Most members could defend and justify the selection and did it consistently and with enthusiasm. To my surprise the non-purchasing team members were even better at justifying the selection. The metrics almost always supported the supplier selection.

I, like many purchasing professionals, was initially very skeptical of the appreciative inquiry approach. Who has the time for it? Purchasing spends an inordinate amount of time fixing what is broken like expediting orders, handling bad quality parts, fixing bad suppliers, chasing down supply chain interruptions and overall upsets. These are all in the realm of fixing what is broke. The fact is that purchasing spends too much time as a firefighters putting out fires. Living in this type of hectic atmosphere or culture does not encourage a different positive approach to change. In fact, it encourages skepticism and the avoiding of risk.

In conclusion, appreciative inquiry can be a useful approach for positive change in purchasing. The challenge to purchasing is to make the time to discover the strengths of the purchasing organization.  It requires patience and the gathering of memorable stories. Purchasing should build on its strengths rather than tear down its image by constantly fixing what is “broke.” In purchasing you are what you are perceived. Too often purchasing is viewed, as the harried firefighter who can never put out all the fires. Appreciative inquiry is a good approach to start to change this negative traditional image.

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Bad Buying – Organizational Competence is Key to Avoiding It

Since I stepped back from running Spend Matters Europe at the end of 2018, I have had more time for cycling and my bass guitar (although if you heard me, you might not be convinced that I’ve improved …) But I have been busy with more business-like activities too, and on October 8th, one of the results will become obvious when Penguin Business publishes “Bad Buying – how organizations waste billions through failures, frauds and f*ck-ups” (available to pre-order), 

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Guest — Dr. Tom DePaoli
Cross-functional team sourcing does help. https://drtombooks.com/my-blog-posts/sourcing-cross-functional-teams-challenges-leadersh... Read More
Thursday, 10 September 2020 09:39
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Recommended Webinars December 2-6: The Business of Trust and the Psychology of Change

Procurement isn’t leaving anything on the table as we wind down the year. I added 8 new webinars to the calendar this week and all of them take place between now and the third week of December. If you’re planning your webinar schedule a little further out, I recommend “5 Key Procurement Trends to Embrace in 2020” on December 11th at 5am ET (10am GMT) from riskmethods and Sievo.

BTW: If you haven’t already, sign up for our mailing list to be sure you get my weekly recommendations in your Inbox each Monday.

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Recommended Webinars Oct 29 – Nov 2: Digital Transformation, Disruptive Innovation, ‘Steady Flow’ Risk Management

As we close the book on October, ProcureCon MRO is taking place in Fort Worth, TX this week on Monday and Tuesday. I’d also like to invite everyone to join me on Wednesday at 11am ET for a webinar I am presenting on a new way to approach talent development: a 3-Part Framework for Procurement Talent Transformation: Vision, Realism, and Accountability.

If you’re planning your webinar schedule beyond this week, I recommend "Understanding the Digital Procurement Transformation Journey" from SpendHQ and Bain & Co on November 15th at 2pm ET.

BTW: If you haven’t already, sign up for our mailing list to be sure you get my weekly recommendations in your Inbox each Monday.

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Book Review: A Guide to Positive Disruption

A Guide to Positive Disruption: How to Thrive and Make an Impact in the Churn of Today’s Corporate World by Joanna Martinez delivers a striking combination of advice, tough love, and hope. With this one included, I have reviewed 87 business books in my time at Buyers Meeting Point, but I have never reviewed a book where I already knew the author so well. It is ironic, because this book is intensely personal – not in the biographical sense, but in the way that Joanna lays her professional experiences open for examination, and invites the reader to do the same with their own.

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The Secret of the Procurement Director

It had been a particularly hard week for the whole team. Factory audits had been going on with the accuracy of a Swiss watch (plane, factory, hotel, plane, factory, hotel...). That Friday night we were isolated by a storm that had canceled our flight home and left us stuck in an airport hotel, not knowing what day it was or when we would get back. Our ‘batteries’ were very low.

Only Avi, our expert sales agent, strengthened by a thousand negotiations, seemed to be fresh as a lettuce.

Around the crackling of the chimney, while the storm whipped outside, we all tried to shelter ourselves in hot cups of coffee, seeking the strength to recover our spirits.

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The Importance of Vision, Messaging, and Alignment

Editor’s note: Scott Jancy is a multi-faceted professional, with experience as a historian, an architect, a Naval Officer, a planner, and a consultant. He blogs often on innovation, leadership, and design thinking. In his first guest post for Buyers Meeting Point, Scott takes on the topic of leadership through times of change. For procurement teams this might mean greater contact with procurement, a new organizational mandate, or the role out of different technology. Regardless of the source of the change, procurement must have a vision for the desired outcome and the messaging to build support and spread understanding.

Change of state is the physical process where matter moves from one state to another. Examples of such changes are melting, freezing, evaporation/boiling, condensation, sublimation, and deposition. Shifting temperatures and increased pressure are the usual causes of this kind of phase change in matter.

People and organizations can also change their state when subjected to stress. Typical causes include, but are not limited to, poor leadership, low employee morale, an ineffective or excessive office management, and possible job uncertainty. A team of people can either break apart or fuse together depending on how they react to the stress.

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Displacing Incumbent Suppliers

You’ve invested a lot of time and money. You may even have staked your reputation on backing a supplier. So when is it time to replace them?

At a recent executive meeting, the subject of incumbent suppliers arose. The conversation reflected on both the personal and business investment that can occur when a supplier is selected, from a business stakeholder and a procurement perspective.

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Obstacles to adoption of esourcing tools and how to overcome them

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. This is a very common phrase often used to describe a ‘change management’ situation. You can give someone all the resources but you can’t make them use them.

 

In procurement, we often have processes and technology to help complete our tasks effectively and efficiently. However, some of the staff may not be utilizing it as best they could to get the most out of it.

With new technology, people fall into four buckets. There are early adopters who wait in line for hours for the next generation of the iPhone. Then there are the early majority who probably get the new phone within the first month or two, the late majority and the laggards who may not even have a smart phone yet. As a procurement professional, your goal is to get your team through this curve quickly and have the organization reaping the benefits of the esourcing technology.

In the Tejari Blog, With best practice tools comes best practice use, they review the reasons that some are lagging behind in adopting the technology and give suggestions on ways to overcome it.

The first one has to do with change management. In many organizations, the staff is quite content doing their work the same way it always has been done. The author recommends gaining some internal ‘experts’ to help all the others understand the benefits and value. Offer a great deal of support so that over time, the new system becomes the ‘comfort zone’.

Another difficulty is when the staff waits until the last minute to load the Rfx into the tool. There is frustration and they give up. The recommendation is to create drafts a week or two before and put them in. Then you can always modify it as the time gets closer.

What have you experienced for obstacles and how did you resolve them? Do you have your 'team of horses' feeling refreshed after having reached the oasis and utilizing the new technology?

Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint

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Webinar Notes: Become a Procurement Change Agent

This week’s webinar notes are based on a May 13th webinar presented by IASTA and Efficio, their European consulting partner. The event was recorded, and the on demand version is available on Slideshare. You can also download the presentation itself, which included quite a bit of data, directly from IASTA’s website.

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Webinar Notes: Change Management Done Right

This week’s webinar notes are from a Sourcing Interests Group webinar on Change Management Done Right. In this webinar, two speakers from Jones Lang Lasalle (Michael Jordan, Leila Lance) and the Former Head Sustainability for KeyBank (Jessica White) will discuss how KeyBank used change management practices to develop and implement a robust sustainability program.

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Book Review: The Moment of Clarity

The Moment of Clarity was a joint effort by ReD Associates founding partners Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen. Their careers have focused on studying human behavior, problem solving, and innovation. In this book, they apply what they have learned and observed to the challenges faced by businesses today. It is apparent to the reader that they are avid readers in their own right, and their bookshelves clearly hold titles representing a wide array of fiction and non-fiction topics.

 

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Book Review: Supplier Relationship Management in the Supply Chain

Supplier Relationship Management in the Supply Chain by Stuart Emmett is accurately titled – it is in fact a book about the importance and execution of supplier relationship in the supply chain. But because so many organizations do not have SRM programs (or would benefit from being more supplier-centric) it is more importantly a book about change. In order to get different results, we must think and act differently. This is a simple enough idea, but bringing about such changes in an organization is complex enough that few of us have reached our desired level of SRM maturity.

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