Actions Speak Louder than Words or Do They?

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We’ve been hearing nothing but words over the last 18 months in the political arena but did you realize that your decision may have been based more on “how” something was said vs. “what” was said.  Teenie Matlock in the American Scientist has some great insight as to how to use the concept of “framing” to influence decisions and sell recommendations.

Here is an example from the article.  Think about how each of these statements, which are both saying the same thing, may invoke different reactions – “Last year, Mark was having an affair with his assistant . . . .”   and “Mark had an affair last year . . . . .”  Matlock concluded that information framed in past progressive (verb + ing) is thought of as ongoing,  whereas the information framed in simple past (verb + ed) is thought of as a completed event.   Hearing the former, people had a much more negative reaction than the latter.   This simple concept can be used for both positive messages and negative ones depending on what you are trying to sell.   Think about the power of grammatical framing!!!

Framing, particularly for decision making is not a new concept and we have many, many examples to illustrate the concept of framing.  Framing can be used to help drive decisions and “sell” what we want others to buy, whether it is a new car, a supplier recommendation from a Sourcing event.  Let me give you one simple example from the book:

Situation A:

You are in a store about to buy a sweater which will cost $70.  Suddenly you see and ad in the paper offering the same sweater in a store two blocks away for $40.  Would you travel the two blocks to buy the sweater?

Situation B:

You are in a store about to buy a computer which will cost $2,000.  Suddenly you see and ad in the paper offering the same exact computer in a store two blocks away for $1,970.  Would you travel the two blocks to buy the computer?

If you look at these two situations, the decision options and the impact are exactly the same, it is just presented using a different yardstick – and people are used to thinking of one savings in terms of percentages not absolute dollars.  So what?   These two situations have been given to two different teams (hundreds of times) with the same results.  In Situation A, 90% on average would walk the two block whereas in Situation B. only 50% on average will make the trip.  This choice is driven primarily by framing.  This is a huge difference, which clearly illustrates that words do matter!!!  We have many, many more illustrations of the critical nature of framing  . . . . . .  

How decisions are made and how value is positioned and sold within an organization can be the difference between success and failure.  In many cases, lots of attention is paid to process – do we have the best sourcing process (aren’t they all the same) as opposed to how we get our business partners engaged, sold and adopting our solutions.  How we frame our contribution and value proposition within our organization can have a significant effect on our impact.  

Over the last several years, TMG has been researching, writing about and working with clients to focus on value and adoption.    We have learned that the frames we use when we communicate are critical to our success.   Sourcing and Supply Chain professionals require competency in decision making, communication, change leadership, selling, collaboration to be able to use framing to their advantage – none of which have anything to do with having the best Sourcing process?

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . 

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
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