Albert Einstein is reported as saying “if I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it.”
19 days to gather the data, to define a common language, to understand the assumptions being made and prejudices, and to understand the resistance and motivators.
A day to solve it, and then time thereafter to implement it.
When you last developed a category strategy how much time did you allocate to defining the current situation?
It's so easy to jump straight to “the answer is to tender for the service”, and it certainly meets organisational expectations if our actions align with that statement. Much harder to push back, and to ask for time to understand the problem we’re trying to solve.
The challenge is that without understanding the problem fully we may end up asking the wrong suppliers, for the wrong service, and having no understanding of the negotiation variables. Or even worse - contracting with a supplier who increases commercial, supply, or reputational risks for the organisation.
Which might be ok if we’re happy with doing what we’ve always done. If we have value improvement targets, however, or are seeking innovation, and/or want to mitigate risks, we need to fully understand the problem. By doing that we can start to understand where the solution can be found, and where value can be released or developed.
In the terminology of a category strategy the 19 days would involve understanding historic and forecast spend from every angle (there's nothing like a good pivot table don't you think :-)), cost and price analysis (yep more excel), supplier and supply market analysis, and supply chain and risk analysis. Business requirements criteria and weightings will be informed by, and developed as this analysis is undertaken.
This analysis can't be done over night, however, and is likely to require the input of others in the organisation.
It's only once we’ve undertaken the ’19 days defining the problem’ that we can ask ourselves the question “so what?”. What conclusions can we draw from all this data, and as a result of those conclusions what are the options, and arising recommendation(s).
Are you spending enough time to understand the problem?
For more help to define the problem for any categories please do contact Allison Ford-Langstaff . If you're wanting training for category or supplier management please contact Anna Delmar . I look forward to helping develop some lovely excel spreadsheets, or facilitating meaningful learning interventions via training, coaching or clinics.
by Alison Smith