“The funny thing about truth is you cannot change it. When something is true, it is true.”
- Dan Andrew, p. 20
Since I stepped back from running Spend Matters Europe at the end of 2018, I have had more time for cycling and my bass guitar (although if you heard me, you might not be convinced that I’ve improved …) But I have been busy with more business-like activities too, and on October 8th, one of the results will become obvious when Penguin Business publishes “Bad Buying – how organizations waste billions through failures, frauds and f*ck-ups” (available to pre-order),
“Naturally, Industry 4.0 requires a new procurement. The factors driving the change are the hyper-competition, globalization, supply chain risks, resource scarcity and many more. But the most important one is the technology - big data, digital processes, and automation.”
- Sergii Dovgalenko., p. 4
“Customers are the key to any business, the prime reason for a company to exist! In the current digital era, customers are no longer passive buyers of products at the end of the value chain, but active partners throughout the lifecycle of the products and associated services.” - Amit Sinha, p. 205
“The advent of new technologies – most notably blockchain – has the potential to radically transform how transactions are recorded, stored and used throughout supply networks. The result: a transparent supply chain that, if the hype holds true, will usher in unprecedented levels of visibility, accountability, efficiencies, collaboration and trust.
- Remko Van Hoek et. al., p. 1
Leadership by Storytelling: The Best Way to Learn Good Leadership Skills, by Dr. Tom DePaoli, is the latest in a long line of books that are firmly based in reality and provide advice that is easy to put into practice. I’ve read and reviewed many of Dr. Toms’ books and you won’t find the same kind of time-tested, easy to read books from many other authors in our field. If you find yourself thinking that most procurement books seem too academic, he may just be your new favorite author.
In this latest book, Dr. Tom focuses on the importance of developing leadership skills by leveraging storytelling, a practice he employs in the book. He shares many of the best leadership experiences from his career and clearly points out the lesson to be learned from each one.
“Because however brilliant our category strategies or engagement roadmaps, relationships still do matter, and nowhere more so than in how we interact with our critical internal stakeholders.”
Reading “A Procurement Compendium: Advice, analysis and humour for buyers (and those who sell to buyers) everywhere” by Peter Smith, former Managing Editor of Spend Matters UK/Europe, is more like having a conversation with a friend than it is absorbing a career’s worth of insights by yourself. I know Peter is fond of meeting up with colleagues at the pub to discuss procurement – or at least he did before he retired, now he probably wants to discuss anything but procurement. That said, the tone and content of this book might have been lifted right out of those conversations.
“Managing others is not for the faint-hearted or the inattentive.” (P. 147)
The Self Determined Manager: A Manifesto for Exceptional People Managers by David Deacon is exactly the kind of book busy fellow professionals tell me they like to read. It is straightforward, actionable, clear on a key central philosophy, and it is not so long that it can double as a door stop.
I come from a family of teachers, a profession that I would be very poorly suited for, and there was a connection between teachers and managers that came to mind as I read this book. Both roles are much harder than they look, require a certain kind of personality or demeanor in addition to training and experience, and there are far too many people in both roles that are lousy at them. I believe it is safe to say that anyone who has been in the workplace for more than a couple of years has had a bad manager, but very few of us can say we’ve had exceptional ones.
“…we need to be prepared to think the unthinkable, even if we subsequently have no plan to deal with it now, as we may have in the future.” (p. 62)
Soft Skills for Hard Business by David Loseby (FCMI, FCIPS Chartered, FRSA) calls to mind the difference between movies that are based on books and those that are based on original screenplays. Movies based on books have a depth and complexity that you can not fake, while those based on screenplays alone have a hollowness to them (although they often include more car chases and explosions to make up for it). Loseby clearly did not just decide a book would be a good idea before setting out to fill the pages. Instead, he gathered a large pool of information and made it unexpectedly accessible for the reader.
A Guide to Positive Disruption: How to Thrive and Make an Impact in the Churn of Today’s Corporate World by Joanna Martinez delivers a striking combination of advice, tough love, and hope. With this one included, I have reviewed 87 business books in my time at Buyers Meeting Point, but I have never reviewed a book where I already knew the author so well. It is ironic, because this book is intensely personal – not in the biographical sense, but in the way that Joanna lays her professional experiences open for examination, and invites the reader to do the same with their own.
“The only time they don’t say ‘Drop your pants’ now is at the Christmas party.” (p. 10, Epstein on sales' common interations with procurement))
The Ultimate Showdown Sales vs Procurement: The Secrets Unveiled at the Negotiation Table by Elliot Epstein and Paul Rogers (2018) is an absolutely fantastic book. In addition to getting two open and unapologetic perspectives on business, I was also left with the feeling that I had made two new friends.
The format of this book is unique, written entirely like a play (one paragraph at a time with the ‘speaker’ identified in the left margin), but it is fitting for the message and experience the authors want to deliver. We don’t need another buttoned-up, polite analysis of how sales and procurement have different approaches, challenges, and incentives – and the authors haven’t given us that. Instead, we get sales (represented by Epstein) and procurement (Rogers) having a debate. If the angel on your shoulder could have a sarcastic exchange with the devil on your other, I imagine it would read much like this. I won’t suggest which function (sales or procurement) is on which shoulder.
“Efficient, effective, risk-centric, and risk-adjusted third party lifecycle and risk management is a new and distinct way of doing business. How your company approaches any major change like this one is up to senior leadership.” (p. 162)
Third Party Risk Management: Driving Enterprise Value by Linda Tuck Chapman (The Risk Management Association, 2018) tackles one of the topics that procurement organizations discuss most – how to prepare for, handle, and mitigate the risks that result from our company working with third parties. Although it is not declared on the cover, the book is largely focused on the financial services industry. That said, the vast majority of the information will apply to your company regardless of industry or sector.
“When considering any contribution that risk management can make to the organization, it is important to decide whether the contribution will relate to strategy, projects and/or operations. The decision will enable the risk management activities within the organization to be aligned with the other business operations activities and imperatives.” P. 292
Fundamentals of Risk Management: Understanding, Evaluating and Implementing Effective Risk Management (5th Ed.) by Paul Hopkin (Kogan Page, July 2018) provides a thorough and instructive foundation for anyone looking to increase their enterprise’s rigor around risk. By acknowledging and discussing critical contextual issues such as global finance, international regulations, corporate culture, and natural human responses to risk, this book sets the reader up for success - and empowers them to proactively and positively navigate the inevitable uncertainty we all work in the midst of.
“We can spot an Expensive Sentence by its impact. Expensive Sentences limit information. They end conversations. They create urgency and isolation. They reduce options. They steal choice.” (p. xviii)
Expensive Sentences: Debunking the Common Myths that Derail Decisions and Sabotage Success by Jack Quarles (Ideapress, 2017) accomplishes two amazing things in one highly readable book:
Expensive Sentences is about the power of spoken language. You may not be aware of it, but some of the most common sentences aired in your company on a daily basis are costing you money.
“In the new global era, speed and velocity are more important than everything else!” (p. 12)
The LIVING Supply Chain: The Evolving Imperative of Operating in Real Time by Rob Handfield and Tom Linton (Wiley, 2017) takes everything you know about ecosystems and Darwinian principles and applies it to supply chain management.
One of the most telling sections in the book is in the Preface where Handfield shares three major shifts affecting the digital economy (paraphrased here by me):
To me, these points are significant because they are NOT followed by something along the lines of “… and here is what all this means for supply chain.” Like the authors, we need to stop thinking of the supply chain as somehow separate or downstream from economic/digital trends. The supply chain is a fully integrated piece of the ecosystem – or should be – and must be managed as such. Every time we feel compelled to translate trends, priorities, forces into a supply chain-centric version, we obscure their meaning and slow the movement of information.
“I cannot guarantee whether you will be successful after a well-prepared negotiation, but I can 100 percent guarantee failure or finding yourself outsmarted and in a concessionary position if you choose not to do a thorough prep prior to a negotiation.” (p. 38)
Mastering High Stakes Negotiations: Both Sides of the Table by Mark M. Bilgin, Ph. D. (BookLocker.com, 2017) is true to its title in that it lays out all of the considerations associated with the most critical, highest dollar value negotiations conducted. In an odd way, however, even meeting that high bar is still selling the book short.
If you are a people watcher, or a student of human behavior, you will absolutely love this book. I was immediately drawn in by the author’s use of case studies, both his own and the ‘outside’ experiences of others to illustrate in colorful but honest fashion the incentives and pitfalls associated with negotiation prep. Negotiation is, at its simplest level, the use of leverage, exchange, and (somewhat) predictable human behavior to bring parties together for their perceived benefit. As a result, you can not be a master negotiator without being aware of and interested in what people say and do. That may come as a great relief to anyone that still thinks negotiation is about aggressively dominating ‘them’ to get what is best for yourself at any cost.
“This supply chain is the bridge between the customer needs of a market segment and the value-added of a product. If we can’t connect the two, then we have a show stopper.” (p. 4)
Supply Chain Construction: The Basics for Networking the Flow of Material, Information, and Cash by William Walker (CRC Press, 2016) is an impressive work that combines exhaustive supply chain planning considerations, processes, and figures with a narrative that keeps all of the information provided firmly rooted in reality.
I met the author in person at the February 2017 ISM Economic Forum in NYC where he participated in a panel discussion I moderated. Although Bill is an adjunct professor of supply chain engineering at NYU, the book is far from academic. It illustrates critical business principles through plausible real life examples that make their lessons easy to understand and recall long after reading them.
“This should be a very sobering thought for anyone in business. The company that you toil and work so hard to make succeed is statistically unlikely to exist in a decade.” (p. 5)
Building Digital Culture: A Practical Guide to Successful Digital Transformation by Daniel Rowles (@DanielRowles) and Thomas Brown (@ThinkStuff) (Kogan Page, 2017) is the reason I review books. While I was reading this book, I was interrupting everyone I know to share ideas and quotes. If you are looking for an engaging, readable text that moves at the same speed as the digital world it describes, buy this book.
“Companies that dominated the national market for decades are suddenly confronted with new competitors that are redefining entire industries and hence restricting the incumbents’ strategic freedom to shape their future.” (p. 6)
Radical Business Model Transformation: Gaining the competitive edge in a disruptive world by Carsten Linz, Günter Müller-Stewens, and Alexander Zimmermann (Kogan Page, 2017) presents readers with the same challenge question the authors asked each other during the writing process: ‘Are we being radical enough?’