Scaling Supply Chains with Maria
“If you are going to talk business, you need to talk numbers. Avoiding this, it is like coming here to the U.S., as I did over two decades ago and not learning English.”
- Scaling Supply Chains with Maria, p. 28
There are a few books in procurement and supply chain that use a narrative structure to hold the teachings together. And while I don’t recommend all authors try it, it can certainly make them more readable.
Scaling Supply Chains with Maria: Financial and Operational Frameworks and Analytics for Massive Profitable Growth by Marcia D. Williams is a great example of this. Maria is a fictional supply chain consultant called in to help Alex’s Snacks, an equally fictional tortilla and potato chip manufacturer in Pennsylvania.
Although the characters are fictional, their challenges are all too real. The book opens with 10 supply chain challenges. I won’t list them all here, but they include tightening margins, warehousing issues, material shortages, and rising transportation costs. These are challenges that apply regardless of industry or company maturity.
There are a few things I really appreciate about the structure of this book. It uses color copy for headers, key graphics, and callout boxes for major takeaways. Who knew colored font would make such a difference? It actually gives the book a “For Dummies” type of reading experience – a comment that is intended as a compliment rather than an insult! Each chapter includes a list of what will be covered up front, links to source material at the end, and “Chips for Thought” discussion questions throughout. In reality, this book is a semester-long business school case study.
The section on financial metrics and ratios at the beginning of the book is particularly valuable. Fortunately, some of the members of the Alex’s Snacks team are new to what Maria is teaching them. They keep the pace of progress slow enough for the learnings to be real and lasting. And because you’re applying the metrics to ongoing operational challenges as you learn them, they are introduced in context, paired with the business problem each is able to illuminate or solve.
This is not a supply chain book intended to put you in your place, or make you feel less prepared than more experienced or more learned colleagues. It is accessible, actionable, and extraordinarily reader-friendly… especially for procurement and supply chain professionals with scarce reading or professional development time.
If I had a team who needed to brush up on their skills, I would make a weekly book club and discussion group out of this book!
For more from Marcia, you can also read my recent interview with her on The Sourcing Hero podcast.
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