Stop, Look, Listen and Think: A framework for communication

How communication can help you stay front-of-mind in your organisation

Communication in this age is key. We do it naturally in our social life, but may not be so good at work. So my framework for communication is to ‘Stop, Look, Listen and Think’.

This is something to work on – don’t assume it will take a natural course. So ‘stop’ what you are doing and assess how you have approached communication in the past. Then ‘look’ around you and ensure you have the language, tools and skills to have meaningful conversations with your audience. ‘Listen’ to what they have to say; priceless information can be gained by saying nothing but listening. ‘Think’ about how your communication will target what you need to achieve and influence people who can help you achieve it.

I realised how important this was early in my career as a category manager. The role is about influencing, hence communication is an enabler of success.

Liaising with stakeholders or business partners is something we talk about regularly but do we do it methodically? Whether talking on a regular basis to your line manager or business partners, do we have meaningful conversations about the business overall, or do we stick to the problems of the day and only speak about issues from a procurement angle?

What we need to communicate about is twofold:

• Business matters (in the eyes of stakeholders)
• 
How procurement aligns and delivers against those, expressed in the language of the business partner, not procurement jargon.

At Britvic, I have been given a large degree of autonomy. This has allowed me to tackle critical business issues on commodity pricing with my team. We found solutions and delivered what the business expected. I kept my head down and got on with the task, but had neglected to explain the ‘how’ to the business. The results were there but success bred a need to educate the wider business. I realised I had to strike a balance between revealing all (confidential contracts and company IP) and helping people understand the strategy. Underpinning this was a communication strategy with several components.

Internal communication

• Write articles in the company magazine targeting overall commercial issues
• Use regular e-updates. A small paragraph on a good news story starts to build a profile.

External communication

• Identify external bodies where you can raise the function’s profile by writing articles and contributing to think-tanks
• Benchmark your work by entering industry awards – understand what others are doing to help you internally support your strategy.

Team education

• Map out business partners and review quarterly to understand your business impact and use for elevation
• 
Ensure your function is represented at relevant business partner meetings
• 
Link broad issues to the function’s activity.

Being bold

• Take every opportunity to present at the executive team meeting
• Don’t be afraid of constructive feedback – use it to become stronger.

☛ Fabiene Lesbros is CPO Britvic Soft Drinks and 2014 CIPS Procurement and Supply Chain Professional of the Year

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