Most Popular Blogposts on georgevrakas.com for 2014

Thanks to all those who read, commented, joined, queried, challenged and enjoyed my blog in 2014.

This year, apart from the themes of Procurement, Team Development and Organisational Design, I also focused more on the multiplicity of use of philosophy and innovation within the procurement and contract management profession and beyond.

Moreover, the blog hosted its first interview in an effort to spread the word of the developing nature of the Procurement profession. 

Recapping the year, below are the top 5 blogposts that readers found most useful for 2014.

I hope they do to you too! Read it now, or pin for later.

The top 5 blog posts for 2014 were:

1) Procurement and a Differentiator

“In 2020, company leadership will likely look at procurement not as a group that focuses on sourcing raw materials, goods and services, but rather as one that sources ideas. Creativity will involve engaging stakeholders in new, innovative ways” -Deloitte, Charting the Course, Why Procurement must transform itself by 2020
Over the recent years, the procurement profession has started going through a….read more
Innovation Anna betts

Image courtesy of Anna Betts/ www.flickr.com

2) Procurious – Behind the scenes – An interview with Chantelle Genovezos

5 months ago Chantelle Genovezos announced to the Australian Procurement community (click here to see full article) that she and her team were working on establishing an “innovative online community called Procurious” by May 2014.

Following the successful launch of the Procurious web community site, I caught up with Chantelle to find out more about this project and the value this aims to deliver to the Procurement community….read on

Procurious logo

Image courtesy of Procurious

3) How to perform a mid-year Procurement review

Constant reviews are part of every effective system. As Peter Drucker mentioned, every so often, it is crucial to do the “Feedback Analysis” in three steps:

1. Whenever you take a key decision or action, write down what you expect to happen.
2. Review results at regular intervals and compare them with expectations.
3. Use this feedback as a guide and goad to reinforce strengths and eliminate weaknesses.

                                                                                                                         Peter Drucker

The end of the Financial year (in Australia) and reaching the mid-calendar year point in other parts of the world, makes for a great opportunity to review the progress made so far…..read on

Alexander Knight

Image courtesy of Alexander Kaiser, pooliestudios.com / www.flickr.com

4) 6 Additional Pitfalls to Avoid during a Negotiation – Cognitive Biases

It was Richard Feynman who gave the most profound warning: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Following my post which highlighted the importance of identifying Logical Fallacies and showcased the 6 most prevalent ones with practical examples, I feel that it is time to also  touch upon another significant field that can become a pitfall in a negotiation, that of “cognitive bias”.

Read on if you want to find out and become conscious of 6 prevalent tendencies to self-deceive yourself by restricting into thinking in a particular way i.e. fall a victim of cognitive biases. 

Gaining consciousness of this “bad reasoning” will assist to…read on

250px-Kaninchen_und_Ente

5) What Aristotle and Plato have to say about Team Development?

This post focuses on two basic principles that assist us to conceptualize Team Engagement (analyzed before herehere and here) starting from an interpretation of Ancient Philosophy that seems more contemporary than ever. 

Read on if you also want to get some tips on how to go about to achieve this within your teams…..read on

Aristotle and Plato

Plato and Aristotle

CLICK HERE FOR A FULL CATALOGUE OF ALL PUBLISHED BLOG POSTS SORTED BY THEME

Cheers to a wonderful holiday season and a joyous and prosperous 2015.

Kindest Regards,

George Vrakas

8 must know question types for Effective Leaders

“The key difference between leaders and managers is that leaders focus on getting to the right questions where as managers focus on finding solutions to those questions”. Michael Marquardt

How many times have you found yourself wondering over a well placed question?

How challenging and stimulating is it to ponder over or doubt established beliefs and guided by a thoughtful question reach new lands previously unexplored?

You can think of the art of questioning as your compass towards a meaningful and productive answer and result.

Michael Marquardt in the insightful book, Leading With Questions How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, explores this very theme. He posits that leadership is all about asking the right questions.

Let’s look at some basic points he makes that will enable us to become better “questioners” and thus, better leaders.

 

question

 

TAXONOMY OF QUESTIONS  – OPEN ENDED VERSUS CLOSED ENDED QUESTIONS

In general, open ended questions stimulate thought and the overall discussion. Closed ended questions do the opposite.

In Procurement terms you can think of open ended questions closer to what an RFI or an RFP is aiming at and a closed ended questions closer to an RFQ.

Let’s look at an example:

Close Ended: “Did you meet your KPIs?”

Open Ended: “How has our KPI performance been going?”

It is evident that in the close ended version the answer is “Yes” or “No”.

The open ended version allows and welcomes commentary and frees up the dialogue towards constructive and productive interchange of ideas.The use of “why”, “how” or “what do you think about…” aims to structure open ended questions.

We have now moved on from a black and white world (if ever we were living in one).

Currently working on complex concoctions of all shades and colours means that we need to embrace tools that stimulate discussion, employee engagement (see here and here for more on this topic) and allow innovation to thrive (other tools for innovation can be found here and here).

 

WHAT TO DO: TAXONOMY OF OPEN ENDED QUESTION

  • what to do

There are various types of open ended questions for us to choose from. The basic ones are listed below:

1) Explorative questions open up new avenues and insights:

Example: Have you explored or thought of………..?

2) Affective questions invite members to share feelings about an issue:

Example: How do you feel about ………?

3) Reflective questions encourage more exploration and elaboration:

Example: You said there are difficulties with your project; what do you think causes these difficulties?

4) Probing questions invite the person or group to go more deeply into a particular issue. Words such as describe, explain, clarify, elaborate or expand aim to do just that.

5) Fresh questions challenge basic assumptions:

Example: Has this ever been tried?

6) Questions that create connections establish a systems perspective:

Example: What are the consequences of these actions?

7) Analytical questions examine causes and not just symptoms:

Example: Why has this happened?

8) Clarifying questions help free us from ambiguity:

Example: What specifically do you mean by that?

 

WHAT NOT TO DO: CLOSED and OTHER DISEMPOWERING QUESTIONS

what not to do

1) Closed Questions call for a specific answer, either yes or no, or calls for the respondent to select an answer from a limited range of choices. Closed questions often begin with what, when, or how many, or ask the respondent to agree or disagree with a statement.

Example: Do you like black or white?

2) Leading questions are those that force or encourage the person or group to respond in the way intended by the questioner.

Example: Were you at the meeting with Bob last night?

A non-Leading example would have been: Where were you last night?

 

SUMMARY

Continuous improvement and radical change relies on good and bold questions been asked.

Coming back to Procurement and Contract Management, results in a recent IACCM study,show that 88% of Contract Management professionals believe that improvement of the quality of the Requirements specifications was the number one factor to improve contract performance in their organisations (see here).

Imagine if the above tool of well placed and well thought of questions was used to clarify and specify Requirements Specifications for our RFx. 

How much better the Procurement and Contract Management process would then be?

 

 

In pursuit of Best Practice – Intrapreneurship

This article first appeared on Procurious.com as a guest blog contribution. You can find the original blog post here.

 

At its simplest, Best Practice means we are doing our job better than others. …that might translate to closing deals faster, achieving consistently good negotiated results, establishing terms and change processes that support high-performance relationships or realizing results that regularly exceed expectations. So we want to be better, faster, contributing greater value, making fewer mistakes” Notes on “What do we mean by Best Practice” by IACCM

As already elaborated here, an essential aspect for becoming successful in the future, is Creativity.

The term, Creativity, most probably conjures up images of successful Entrepreneurs that have a vision and the courage to pursue their dreams.

Outstanding Entrepreneurship is a well-defined quality behind every successful organisation.

Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson are followed and their ideas celebrated in the public domain.

However, it would most likely be better for an organisation to not only try to maintain its competitive edge on the ideas of one or even a handful of forward thinking individuals, but also find ways to tamper into the creativity and ideas of every one of its employees.

Hence, organisations should also look into the promotion and support of Intrapreneusrship.

Read on if you want to find out more about this idea, as well as, get to learn about one way to harvest the concept of Intrapreneurship as a means to pursue Best Practice within your own organisation.

Outside the box

Intrapreneurship

Jeroen de Jong and Sander Wennekers explored the concept here.According to them:

“Intrapreneurship refers to employee initiatives in organizations to undertake something new, without being asked to do so.”

There are a few companies that actively promote intrapreneurial behaviour e.g. Google  allows its employees to spend up to 20% of their time to pursue projects of their choice.3M and Intel appear to have programs towards similar promotions (see here).

However, intrapreneurship is not only about the pursuit of new products and revenue streams.

Intrapreneurship contains an element of innovation. Innovation refers to the production and implementation of useful ideas, including the adaptation of products or processes from outside an organization. As Antoncic and Hisrich highlights (here)

“Intrapreneurship is about “emergent behavioural intentions and behaviours that are related to departures from the customary ways of doing business in existing organizations”

In other terms Intrapreneurship is about the pursuit of Best Practice.

In parallel, it is also important to note that the support of the practice of Intrapreneurship also helps maintain engaged teams that always challenge themselves and evolve the organisational practices, processes and results (read more about team engagement here and here).

Ideas Charter (a simple and practical way to pursue Best Practice)

As part of an effort to promote employee engagement and Intrapreneurial behaviours, I developed the Ideas Charter.

This is a simple process which ensures that all new ideas are captured, evaluated, and then through a process that promotes and supports undertaking innovative projects, implemented.

The Ideas Charter Process works like this.

i) A champion is assigned to capture all ideas that can enhance processes or contribute to efficiency and effectiveness in a simple spreadsheet called the Ideas Charter (see template here). This is done on a non judgmental way to the perceived value of the ideas i.e. following Edward De Bono’s six hat definition – by wearing a green hat.

ii) The ideas are then evaluated and validated by a selected committee and approved or not approved for further development.

iii) If an idea is approved, then that idea is made available as a potential candidate for a future side project to be done by a team member or a team.

iv) Every two months the team is asked to select a side project to work on. Each team member is encouraged to pick one of the Ideas in the Ideas Charter and work on it. A due date is allocated.

v) At the end of the allocated period each member presents his/her side project along with a benefits analysis.

vi) The side project outcome is placed into production. This outcome  could be a change in process, a development of a business case i.e.  it could be anything that promotes efficiency or effectiveness.

vii) After 3 side projects are completed and presented, the team is given the opportunity to vote for the best one. The winner is celebrated.

This is a simple but effective way to work towards Best Practice in small teams. From personal experience this concept has the power to engage the team and also to elevate the level of efficiency and effectiveness as delivered by its outputs.

Finally, it works towards Yves Morieux’s vision elaborated in his presentation about “How to Develop a Winning organisation” – see here . Yves eloquently summarised his position as below:

“The real battle is not against competitors. The real battle is against ourselves. Against our bureaucracy, against our complicatedness” – Yves Morieux

What systems do you have in place to promote and support the pursuit of Best Practice?

 

 

 

Image courtesy of glendale inquiry

 

David Allen – GTD system – Practical Personal Productivity

“Use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them. You want to be adding value as you think about projects and people, not simply reminding yourself they exist.”David Allen

We live in a world that is full of demands, requirements, deadlines and disruptions.

How can someone overcome the challenges this posits and enjoy the benefits?

One way is by developing a sound system of personal productivity (so-called,Action Management) that allows for macro-planning but at the same time for getting the everyday tasks done towards achieving our goals in life.

A great system that be-frees our potential can be found in David Allen’s – Getting Things done (GTD).

The system cannot be explained in one blog post so, I will try to provide an introduction here.

Keep on reading if you want to find out the basic tenets and thinking about this system as well as a presentation that goes through and additional resources for putting a concrete Action Management system in your life.

David Allen

David Allen

 

INTRODUCTION

Action Management can be defined as the process of creating a system in your life that helps you stay on top of your tasks, projects, aims and maintain an excellent work effort.

 

GTD system’s basic tenets

“You can do anything, not everything” David Allen. 

 

David Allen GTD system is formed around two basic axes:

1) Capture your thoughts.

The idea is that we are burdened by the constant flow of thoughts and actions that come to our minds.

As you may have noticed these may be in irrelevant random order or in sequence.

Worrying about forgetting something to be done, relying purely on memory alone is quite a stress in itself.

Tests have provided strong indications that the average person can retain around the 7 items in a list. Check this out when you test your memory when going to the supermarket. Some details can be found here.

In modern Western societies especially when we are constantly dealing with conflicting demands the magical number 7 is really low when compared to the amount of tasks one needs to retain to accomplish his /her goals.

Moreover, when the focus and stress is on retaining the menial tasks that need to be done to get by, one may lose the opportunity to create the necessary “mindspace” to think about the grander picture.

So, capturing your thoughts is very handy and be-freeing.

2) Focus on the Next Action

David’s system does not subscribe to the ABC rule (see here) but breaks down the projects in individual tasks (a task may be defined as something that can be accomplished in 20 minutes or less) and then urges us to focus only on the next step – next action towards achieving our goal.

As Master Yoda might say “do, or do not” – there is no priority C.  🙂

Of course, the system can be modified to use e.g. the Pomodoro technique for focus management (considering accomplishment of individual tasks) and the ABC method  to plan your projects and what comes first during your weekly/ monthly / yearly reviews. You can use SCAMPER for this (see here and here)

Working in small chunks is aligned with the idea elaborated before in the blog post “how to eat an elephant” and is used extensively by successful professionals.

Whatever productivity system you choose to work with, focusing on the next action in an invaluable tool.

 

PRESENTATION

The below presentation is elaborating on the GTD system and its main tenets.

 

 

 

Special thanks to Beth Wilton for collaborating in the development of the presentation.

 

If you are interested some further reading have a look at multitasking and ways to approach it (here).

 

 

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Image courtesy of http://www.thelegacyproject.co.za