BMP Book Reviews

The End of Competitive Advantage by Columbia Business School Professor Rita Gunther McGrath provides a perspective on the way businesses should develop and maintain their strategy to remain competitive. Gone are the days when companies could achieve a leadership position in a market and then continue to dominate for decades without significant changes. Innovative companies develop products across traditional sector lines, making the industry-based model of competition assessment obsolete. McGrath advises defining competitive strategies based on arenas, which she defines as smaller market segments defined by consumer behavior and geography as well as the product or service being sold.

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I’ve reviewed quite a few books – most of which are on spend management or negotiation. Some have made me laugh, like Negotiation Mastery and Profitable Buying Strategies. A few have made me cry, and those will remain unnamed here. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt compelled to review a single chapter from a book until now.

 

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Two years ago, we posted our review of ‘Common Sense Purchasing’ by Dr. Tom DePaoli. In September 2012 he published a new book that reflects a broader perspective on his experience and our profession. By taking a step up – or back – however you chose to see the difference between purchasing and supply management, Dr. Tom takes a new look at the challenges and opportunities in supply management and presents them by sharing many of his own experiences as an independent management consultant in 'Common Sense Supply Management'.

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Earlier this year, we reviewed ‘Vested Outsourcing’, the first book in what has become a series of publications by Kate Vitasek and her colleagues on the evolving potential of mutually beneficial relationships between companies and their suppliers. ‘Vested Outsourcing’ was followed by ‘The Vested Way’, and ‘The Vested Outsourcing Manual’. Kate’s latest publication is ‘Vested: How P&G, McDonald's, and Microsoft are Redefining Winning in Business Relationships.’ I’ll include some background as well as an overview of the Vested philosophy at the end of this review. I encourage you to read my review of ‘Vested Outsourcing’ and to purchase one or all of the books in the series.

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One idea plus one idea equals three ideas or more. You have a cow, I have a bull, together we have a business. When the output is greater than the sum of the inputs, this is value creation and it is this that has driven the whole progress of the human species.

-- Simon Horton, Negotiation Mastery

Negotiation Mastery by Simon Horton, an experienced negotiation teacher and consultant, is a practical and highly entertaining read whether you are a career negotiator or just wish your skills were a little stronger. In his decade-long career, he has helped hostage negotiators, law firms, financial institutions, and students from the graduate level through the boardroom improve their confidence and outcomes as they enter negotiations.

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A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.

– Stephen Covey (1932 – 2012)

On July 16th, the world lost one of its most recognized self-improvement writers and speakers in Stephen Covey. His books, speeches and projects were aimed at improving and empowering individuals and the organizations and networks they belong to. His most well-known publication is ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, written in 1989, which has sold 15 million copies and been translated into 32 languages[1].

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I can tell you that windsurfing is very easy – except for the wind. The wind makes it tricky, of course. It’s not particularly difficult to find and rent great equipment, and the techniques are fairly straightforward. What messes the whole plan up is that the wind is unpredictable. It’ll change exactly when you don’t want it to. The same thing is true about customer service (it would be a lot easier if it weren’t for the customers). In fact, every single function of an organization has a wind problem.

– Seth Godin, The Dip

thedip

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We often talk about how procurement and supply management professionals need to focus less on negotiating savings and more on creating value. But the actually process we are supposed to follow to accomplish that can be unclear. The first challenge is how to go about creating value, and the second is how to make sure the value created is recognized by other departments in the organization – like finance or operations. ‘Lean TCO’, written by Tim O’Meara, presents an approach to facing both.

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The preface to The Procurement Game Plan by Charles Dominick and Soheila Lunney starts with the question, “Why another procurement/supply management book?”

Good question.

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Written by the co-chairmen of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, an organization that helps senior executives make sense of and profit from emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology.  John Hagel the third, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison authored ‘The Power of Pull’ to talk about a shift in dynamics based on accurate forecasting and predictable market dynamics to transforming corporations from a leadership position on the edge.

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At Buyers Meeting Point, we often have opportunities to recommend the publications we have read, reviewed and endorsed to our supply management colleagues. Vested Outsourcing by Kate Vitasek is one of the easiest books to recommend, not because it is excellently written – although it is, but because questions constantly arise in discussion groups and forums around strategic outsourcing relationships with suppliers and how to make them work.

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“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  – Seneca (Roman Philosopher, 5 B.C.)

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I spent the last couple of weeks reading The Contract Negotiation Handbook by Stephen R. Guth Esq., and despite how it may initially sound, I came away with one critical realization: I am a pop tart.

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Recent disasters, whether earthquakes, tsunamis, or tornadoes, have threatened business continuity for many industries. As has been pointed out in many recent procurement webinars, this presents an opportunity for us to step up and prove our strategic value to the organization. We cannot, however, rely solely upon the stories in the news.  We need to educate ourselves and be prepared with suggestions.

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When I am reading the books that may end up on the Buyers Meeting Point Endorsed Publications list (in the Procurement Library), I often find that they are missing a certain… something? Now I know what it is – cartoon illustrations! All joking aside, I am now in a position to recommend a book that contains solid procurement advice and pictures. Read all the way to the end of this interview to see my favorite from the book.

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Mike Buchanan, author of Profitable Buying Strategies (as well as Two Men in a Car, Guitar Gods in Bed, and The Marriage Delusion), agreed to participate in a Q&A session with Buyers Meeting Point about his book. Profitable Buying Strategies is an excellent resource for any procurement professional.  Those new to the discipline will benefit from a clear outline of key concepts, strategies, and tactics.  More experienced buyers will appreciate the case studies and a thorough review of how to take their current approach to the next level.

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Any BMP member involved with an outsourcing initiative, whether it involves offshoring or not, will find this book an indispensable resource. Authors Brown and Wilson include a multitude of quotable statistics that can be used in executive presentations as well as practical tools for completing the day to day work in outsourcing projects.

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