Thursday, 15 February 2018

Low Hanging Fruit

Yesterday, over on my Purchasing Coach Blog, I launched a letter. 

It was a letter that started

Dear Organisation

and concluded

With Love From Procurement xx 

It was a plea for organisations not to underestimate procurement's worth, nor make assumptions and judgements about who we are.

Whilst not directly related to the work I do here on Landscaping Your Life the letter did include a metaphor. It's a metaphor that many in organisations associate with procurement/purchasing activities, and so I share it today as another example of how we can get great insight from exploring the metaphors hidden within our language.

In this instance the words were low hanging fruit.

Here's what the letter had to say on the matter.

"Look, it’s easy to say. And we often get told to focus on low hanging fruit.

But low hanging fruit is picked quickly, and only once.

So, if you’ll let me expand the metaphor - to keep doing well together, we need to: 
  • look for the harder-to-reach fruit;
  • find ways to increase the yield;
  • reduce waste;
  • get more revenue for the fruit we pick;
  • reduce costs, and risks;
  • expand the amount of fruit we grow;
  • change the variety we plant;
  • buy fruit from others;
  • elongate the harvest season;
  • plan next year’s harvest better;
  • move to better soil, or less climate-affected areas; or
  • use fruit from other areas.
Growing and harvesting the fruit is a lot of work, and planning. And there are two ways of doing it: with, or without a full time gardener. That is, with or without a full time ‘me.’

If we think about the fruit, doing it yourself risks an overgrown garden, dead or dying plants, weeds that throttle the useful plants or trees that block the light, leaves everywhere, tree roots damaging neighbouring property, smelly compost, and invasions by plant-eating insects.

Having a full time gardener means the plants are laid out as you need them, you think carefully about growing your own plants from seed, plants that need it get time in the greenhouse, everything is weeded and trimmed in time, there aren’t any weeds or insects, the technology is current, and the tool shed has everything you need when you need it.

A gardener is useful when you’re growing and picking fruit. And I’m useful for you."

I've used gardening as a metaphor for supplier management in organisations for over 20 years. There's even a Pinterest board with lots of ideas of how to apply this metaphor.

I use the metaphor because managers and leaders in these organisations often know more about gardening than they do procurement (in the UK anyway). Which means it's much easier to talk about weeding, feeding, and pruning suppliers than it is contract, performance or relationship managing them!

As ever always happy to discuss how I may support you or your team to break out of their comfort zones, and really amaze themselves and the organisation about what's possible when we do that.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life 
Using unconventional tools to support others to break out of their comfort zones

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Going around in circles

Going around in circles, or even a vicious circle, has come up a lot in recent coaching sessions.

Perhaps not this type of circle

More like a circle or cycle of inevitability - that just keeps going around and around without end - just like the earth circles the sun, or moon circles the earth etc.

A circle that has a certain amount of stress attached to it, and an accompanying inability to know what to do.

The circle/cycle might be related to too much work, no sense of direction, repeated unhelpful outcomes, being at the receiving end of the same unwanted behaviours, or even stuck in a rut of 'this' always means 'that'. (Although if you resonate with being stuck in a rut in the current situation rather than going around in circles you may find that post helpful too.)

When faced with this statement, beyond exploring the end goal of what we'd like to be doing instead of circling, we have a number of options about where to focus our attention to find a solution. The main two are:

  • Discuss how we got here, and how it feels, and get drawn into all the whys, and wherefores, and reasons and excuses of how we've ended up where we are, and why we're stuck and can't do anything about it, and in so doing often put up barriers to seeing the situation from a different perspective (ie Stick with our left, more logical, side of brain in the hope of finding a solution)

Sorry if that's a little strong - but you get my meaning - we use logic to justify why are right to be stuck, and there's nothing, or very little, we can do about it.

  • Explore the metaphor contained within our language and allow our non conscious mind, and more creative right side of our brain, to help us find a solution. Doing this keeps the barriers down, and enables us to view the situation from numerous perspectives, each with the potential to provide resolution.

Exploring the metaphor in this instance would mean exploring 'going around in circles'.

Bear with me on this, I know it sounds a little weird.

The hypothesis is - if you can describe the situation as going around in circles, then your mind understands why, and will also be able to describe the size, shape and speed of the circle! Otherwise why would you be using that saying, rather than another saying such as for example juggling ball or spinning plates

If you can describe the circle, then I would suggest, you can also develop strategies for not going around in the circle, and can then apply these strategies to your real life situation you're current stuck in. 

Which means when one client mentioned a vicious circle I asked them to draw the circle in the sand, and to then explore how to stop it:

The solution in this case involved making the circle an infinity sign, with a sense of yin and yang - nothing staying around for any time, no right, no wrong, just what is, and allowing more of a flow to life rather than a frantic circling.

This does not need to make sense to you. It's why metaphors are so personal and why they work - it just has to make sense to the person wanting a solution, and provide their mind with some options of how to experience the current situation differently. 

Once the mind has seen and experienced these different perspectives, its as if the box of solutions has been unlocked.

On a workshop recently one group drew the image below, and as they did moved from blaming others for the constant circling, to understanding what they could do differently to change the situation. Interesting that the infinity sign featured there too.

Other examples can be found here on my Facebook live in the snow!! and a post I wrote a few years ago where circles became squares, and that made all the difference (Going around in circles).

There's no right or wrong - just tangents your mind takes you in the hope of finding a different perspective to view the current situation from.

If you were previously feeling like you were going around in circles you may already notice solutions have appeared? Or perhaps you need to try drawing your circle to understand more about it.

Or any of the following images may help shift your current thinking from stuck to back on track, and headed towards your goals rather than going around and around.

Or perhaps it's about making a collage to represent the circle - either the current sense of the circle, or how you'd like it to be.

If you've been going around in circles in an area of your life what will you do to stop and take action to go in a different direction, and when will you take that step?

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Unlocking your potential using unconventional means!