Dr. Tom DePaoli recently released Avoiding a Supply Chain Apocalypse. It is a collection of the best advice he has to give on topics ranging from relationships to negotiation to Kaizens and storytelling. Since I’ve read all of Dr. Tom’s books, I consider it something of a personal challenge to uncover the material he has added – either because the focus of the book is different or because professional priorities continue to change over time.
Like Dr. Tom’s other books, this is for professionals that don’t have the time (or desire) to lose themselves in a 300-400 page book of polished academic theory. His sections are short and to the point and draw in material from third party sites as well as his other writing. You can read one or two sections as time allows and not have any trouble picking up in a different place the next time you sit down.
My favorite new idea from the book is ‘appreciative inquiry’ defined by Dr. Tom as “a systematic discovery process to search for what is best in an organization or its strengths.” (p. 27) The value of this to procurement and supply chain professionals is in the alteration is can lead to in how we are perceived and the expanded scope of what we can accomplish.
Procurement often goes out into the organization to understand the inner workings of a category or process. We have as our goal the desire to improve how spend is managed or how execution takes place. With appreciative inquiry, we still evaluate categories and processes, but with a focus on finding what is good about them and emphasizing that. The difference is subtle; we still identify opportunities for improvement, but the focus is on positive change. The end result is that the people participating in such evaluations feel like they are being recognized for their accomplishments rather than audited for their errors.
Dovetailing with the concept of appreciative inquiry is the notion that procurement and supply chain organizations need to invest in internal marketing and communications. We joke, but squirrels really do benefit from having that fluffy tail. (See: A squirrel is just a rat with a PR agent.) Procurement can discount marketing efforts as ‘soft’ all we like, but they work – and not just externally. A little bit of investment in purposeful communication can go a long way towards improving cooperation.
Two other topics where Dr. Tom is worth reading:
Kaizens make a re-appearance in this book (read Kaizen Kreativity (Oops!) for more from Dr. Tom on that topic). Although Kaizens are just systems emphasizing efficiency and continuous process improvement, they haven’t really caught on outside of manufacturing. In this book, Dr. Tom applies the concept to less traditional areas of business, such as marketing, employee orientation, and data collection.
A personal favorite for me, Dr. Tom is a master at applying the art of storytelling in a business context. People focus longer, retain more information, and come away with a more positive impression when they are given information in a more artful way. Just like applying marketing internally, storytelling requires advance planning and creative energy, but the additional effort is worthwhile.
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