Is purchasing a game or war?

28 June 2012
Alison Smith, the Purchasing CoachTo ensure we achieve our outcome from any communication, we need to be aware of the underlying meaning of the words we choose to use – for both us and those in receipt of it. In a recent SM blog, Mike Haslin mentioned “rogue spend” and “deviant purchasing”. I reflected in my response that detention and corporal punishment were images that came to mind for me when I read these words – what about you? The meaning we, and those hearing our communication, give to a word was discussed in a previous blog where I used the example of ‘chocolate’ having potential meanings such as yummy, disgusting or even a dog! Another aspect is the underlying metaphor the words point us towards. Because if a picture paints a thousand words, then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures and therefore a million words. We had therefore best ensure any metaphor we’re unconsciously using  – with the million words contained within it - is one that supports our intended outcome. Why? Because if all the words I use reflect an internal metaphor for our relationship as a war it will impact how I act and your reaction. War might be a useful metaphor if I’m happy that the ‘losing’ side may set up their own resistance, go underground or roll over and die. Otherwise, I may want to amend my metaphor and accompanying language. Some metaphors we might have for our life/work or purchasing (which may be the same or different from each other) are listed below, along with some of the behaviour and words we might use to support it. ●  War: life and death, defence, winning at all costs, troops, obedience ●  Race: start and finish, winning and losing, competitors ●  Family: support, nurture, family members, roles and responsibilities ●  Gardening: nurturing, seeds, growth, harvest, gardener, weeds ●  Game: players, rules, wining, losing, breaks, practise ●  Journey: hero, destination, steps, adventure ●  Machine: components, specification, output, efficiency, down time, faulty Do you see purchasing as a game or war? And is the opposition just your suppliers or are your stakeholders included too? My own internal metaphor for life is gardening and that’s why I choose to use it to sow the seeds for effective purchasing with our stakeholders and business managers. That is, all managers in the business are potential gardeners. Procurement just has the keys to the tool shed, built the greenhouse and understands the plans. Further reading: My interest in metaphors started with my NLP practitioner and continued when I heard Charles Faulkner speak on operating metaphors, and when I attended a workshop delivered by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins on ‘Metaphors in Mind’ based on the work of David Grove.
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