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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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Book Review: Leadership by Storytelling

Leadership by Storytelling: The Best Way to Learn Good Leadership Skills, by Dr. Tom DePaoli, is the latest in a long line of books that are firmly based in reality and provide advice that is easy to put into practice. I’ve read and reviewed many of Dr. Toms’ books and you won’t find the same kind of time-tested, easy to read books from many other authors in our field. If you find yourself thinking that most procurement books seem too academic, he may just be your new favorite author.

In this latest book, Dr. Tom focuses on the importance of developing leadership skills by leveraging storytelling, a practice he employs in the book. He shares many of the best leadership experiences from his career and clearly points out the lesson to be learned from each one.

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Recommended Procurement Webinars Oct 28-Nov 1: Digital Readiness, Ideas for the C-suite and Supplier Management in a Turbulent Economy

In addition to this week’s webinar recommendations, ProcureCon MRO is taking place in Atlanta, GA on the 28th and 29th.

If you are looking for a longer term webinar recommendation, check out “Mission Critical for 2020: Touchless Supplier Management” from Spend Matters and APEX Analytix and featuring a case study on JetBlue, November 12th at 11am 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: Soft Skills for Hard Business

“…we need to be prepared to think the unthinkable, even if we subsequently have no plan to deal with it now, as we may have in the future.” (p. 62)

Soft Skills for Hard Business by David Loseby (FCMI, FCIPS Chartered, FRSA) calls to mind the difference between movies that are based on books and those that are based on original screenplays. Movies based on books have a depth and complexity that you can not fake, while those based on screenplays alone have a hollowness to them (although they often include more car chases and explosions to make up for it). Loseby clearly did not just decide a book would be a good idea before setting out to fill the pages. Instead, he gathered a large pool of information and made it unexpectedly accessible for the reader.

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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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Book Review: Fundamentals of Risk Management (5th Ed.)

“When considering any contribution that risk management can make to the organization, it is important to decide whether the contribution will relate to strategy, projects and/or operations. The decision will enable the risk management activities within the organization to be aligned with the other business operations activities and imperatives.” P. 292

 

Fundamentals of Risk Management: Understanding, Evaluating and Implementing Effective Risk Management (5th Ed.) by Paul Hopkin (Kogan Page, July 2018) provides a thorough and instructive foundation for anyone looking to increase their enterprise’s rigor around risk. By acknowledging and discussing critical contextual issues such as global finance, international regulations, corporate culture, and natural human responses to risk, this book sets the reader up for success - and empowers them to proactively and positively navigate the inevitable uncertainty we all work in the midst of.

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What would you do? Increasing the alignment of multi-functional negotiations

Picture this: your organization needs to create a multi-year contract covering critical components for its manufacturing process. Because of the technical nature of those components, management requests that the team creating the contract be led by procurement but also include engineering, R&D, and finance. Each of the people involved will have different priorities, even though all agree on what they want the end result to be. How do you present a united front at the negotiation table?

What would you do?

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Book Review: Expensive Sentences

“We can spot an Expensive Sentence by its impact. Expensive Sentences limit information. They end conversations. They create urgency and isolation. They reduce options. They steal choice.” (p. xviii)

Expensive Sentences: Debunking the Common Myths that Derail Decisions and Sabotage Success by Jack Quarles (Ideapress, 2017) accomplishes two amazing things in one highly readable book:

  1. It provides procurement with an approach to managing ‘creep-in’ costs that has the potential to become viral on its own, as long as procurement is ready to lead the way, and
  2. It serves as a benchmark (in my opinion) that procurement’s brand image has made huge strides – and that we are being rewarded with a book that is both savvy and cool.

Expensive Sentences is about the power of spoken language. You may not be aware of it, but some of the most common sentences aired in your company on a daily basis are costing you money.

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The True Cost of Noncompliance

Have you ever wondered why your savings projections supersede the realized savings? Have you ever been challenged by your finance department to validate the projected cost savings one year into an agreement? Has your C-suite ever complained that procurement’s estimates and projections go unrealized? If you have faced any of these or similar situations, you are not alone. Savings projections often fall short of reality, but why? For many procurement organizations, their sourcing efforts aren’t felt due to noncompliance.

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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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Book Review: Mastering High Stakes Negotiations

I cannot guarantee whether you will be successful after a well-prepared negotiation, but I can 100 percent guarantee failure or finding yourself outsmarted and in a concessionary position if you choose not to do a thorough prep prior to a negotiation.” (p. 38)

 

Mastering High Stakes Negotiations: Both Sides of the Table by Mark M. Bilgin, Ph. D. (BookLocker.com, 2017) is true to its title in that it lays out all of the considerations associated with the most critical, highest dollar value negotiations conducted. In an odd way, however, even meeting that high bar is still selling the book short.

If you are a people watcher, or a student of human behavior, you will absolutely love this book. I was immediately drawn in by the author’s use of case studies, both his own and the ‘outside’ experiences of others to illustrate in colorful but honest fashion the incentives and pitfalls associated with negotiation prep. Negotiation is, at its simplest level, the use of leverage, exchange, and (somewhat) predictable human behavior to bring parties together for their perceived benefit. As a result, you can not be a master negotiator without being aware of and interested in what people say and do. That may come as a great relief to anyone that still thinks negotiation is about aggressively dominating ‘them’ to get what is best for yourself at any cost.

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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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The Great North/South Divide

The principle of a North/South divide has been around for as long as mankind has organized itself into societies. It is a term often used within politics to define the ‘North of the country from the South’. It doesn’t matter if you are referening to the USA, UK, or India, the statement is still applicable. It works on the principle things may be considered different between two groups, thereby creating a barrier to collaboration.

The key to the model is achieving the right perspective. For example, we may embrace a North/South divide within our countries yet still passionate about being part of the same country. Overcoming the divide requires a common agenda, one that everyone can get behind regardless of which side of the divide they are from.

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Would You Buy From You?

If you were to review your own procurement team’s achievements and capabilities from the perspective of a customer, would you buy from you?

The principle of using an internal business function which is currently a cost centre, and turning it into an revenue generating business proposition, is not new. Examples can be found in most areas ranging from IT through to Finance. The principle is based on creating such a leading business function others will pay to use.

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Book Review: Avoiding a Supply Chain Apocalypse

Dr. Tom DePaoli recently released Avoiding a Supply Chain Apocalypse. It is a collection of the best advice he has to give on topics ranging from relationships to negotiation to Kaizens and storytelling. Since I’ve read all of Dr. Tom’s books, I consider it something of a personal challenge to uncover the material he has added – either because the focus of the book is different or because professional priorities continue to change over time.

 

Like Dr. Tom’s other books, this is for professionals that don’t have the time (or desire) to lose themselves in a 300-400 page book of polished academic theory. His sections are short and to the point and draw in material from third party sites as well as his other writing. You can read one or two sections as time allows and not have any trouble picking up in a different place the next time you sit down.

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How to Successfully Break-Up With Your Incumbent Supplier

Anyone who has ever completed a Request for Proposal (RFP) has had the unfortunate experience of informing all but one or two suppliers they have not been awarded the business.  It may be difficult and at times uncomfortable, but when the unchosen supplier is the incumbent, there is more to manage than just this conversation.  How this transition process is handled can either help or hinder the success of moving to a new supplier relationship. There are a few steps you can take to smooth the transition and ensure all parties are as satisfied as possible.

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Guest — Alun@marketdojo
Great article. We have found that far too many eAuction negotiations end up with the incumbent even though they dont end up in fir... Read More
Thursday, 10 December 2015 04:32
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Three Things ‘Rock Star’ CPOs Know About Procurement Influence

Last month I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Bowen, Xchanging’s US Country Manager and CEO of MM4. Xchanging has now released two parts of the research they conducted into procurement and supply chain. You can read my coverage of the first two parts here and here.

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Procurement Perspectives Podcast: Panel Discussion on The Politics of Procurement

This week's guest audio comes from a panel discussion moderated by Code for America. They create open source solutions and facilitate a collaborative community around their use. Code for America also hosts an annual summit that brings together public sector innovators and the organizations that collaborate with them – and that is where this particular recording was made: at a 2014 summit panel on public sector procurement.

In this exchange, the panel responds to an audience question about the politics of procurement and facilitating cross-functional communication for the sake of gaining buy in.

The full video – Procurement for the 21st Century - is available on their YouTube channel. You can listen to the podcast on Blog Talk Radio or on our Sound Cloud page.

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Webinar Notes: The Digital Disconnect

These notes are from an event that originally ran on July 28th. If you are interested in viewing the entire webinar on demand, it is available on the Proxima Group’s site here. The panelists were Mark Simester, Marketing Director at Warburtons, Charles Ping, Chief Executive at Fuel, and John Butcher, Marketing Specialist at Proxima and the moderator was Jonathan Cooper-Bagnall, Proxima’s Commercial Director.

While the focus of this event was how procurement can play a role in better managing digital marketing spend, the insights shared during the panel discussion provided plenty of insight about how procurement can improve our dealings with marketing in general. Since marketing is often one of the last hold out functions, we can use all the advice we can get.

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Keeping Procurement Moving at the Speed of Modern Communications

Many thanks to the Market Dojo team for their cooperation and collaboration on this post - proof that they have attention spans longer than goldfish. 

 

Everywhere you look, there is evidence that the pace of the world is picking up. We share our status instantly in 140 characters or less. Meetings are routinely scheduled for 30 minutes rather than an hour. We check email, make phone calls, catch up on the news, etc. while walking from one place to another so we are fully informed when we arrive. Saying, “Oh, I hadn’t seen that yet...” is likely to be received with skeptical looks and rolled eyes.

 

As an active part of this constantly updating, clipped environment, procurement professionals need to be aware of the general pace of interaction between people and organizations. We have to be both purposeful and accurate if we are going to hold people’s attention long enough to get from them what we need.

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