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Who’s Who of Procurement and Supply Chain Literature in 2015: Setting the Bar High
Another year done, another 11 book reviews added to the Buyers Meeting Point cache. When I reflect back on this year’s new titles it is the authors rather than the books themselves that really stand out. This is particularly important as procurement is well into a time of significant evolution. In that context, the authors we read are more important than just the content they share. Their experiences and their qualifications set the bar for the rest of us – and the higher that bar is, the better.
Sure, procurement is in the midst of a change that may render the function unrecognizable over the next few years. If we can continue to attract the minds and engage the imagination of people as bright and visionary as the ones spotlighted here, we’re going to be okay on the other side – no matter what.
Gerard Chick and Dr. Rob Handfield
I have to start with these two authors because they were recently awarded the Grand Prix ACA-Bruel in Paris for their book The Procurement Value Proposition. Even without that, it would be hard to deny that their work has influenced the field as much as (if not more than) any other title since its publication. You can’t have a conversation with a well-read professional without their work being mentioned. And yet, the fact that their names are so often shared in combination should not suggest a homogeneous perspective. Chick is in the procurement outsourcing business and Handfield is up to his neck in supply chain academia. The fact that their two very different starting points were able to come together in such a thought-provoking way validates the trends that are being observed all over the field of procurement. If you’d like to hear more, check out my recent interview on BMP Radio.
If I could meet face to face with one new author (other than Shakespeare – but that wasn’t going to happen anyway) it would be Magnus Carlsson, author of Strategic Sourcing and Category Management: Lessons Learned at IKEA. I prepared for my conversation with him like I do all interviews; I revisited my review, pulled back out the title, and did a bit of background research. Despite my list of carefully prepared topics and questions, I found myself being completely swept up in the IKEA story and Carlsson’s perspective on the field of procurement. It was the most engaging conversation I’ve ever had with a relative stranger. Without the conversation, I might have been left with my conclusion that IKEA has achieved supply chain success because they are a boundary-pushing company. While this is absolutely true, even more important is the attitude of the people who work there and what they make of the experience. I have no doubt that we will hear more from Carlsson in the future, and hopefully that will include more writing on supply chain. Click here to listen to our exchange of ideas on BMP Radio.
While preparing for my interview with Jonathan O’Brien, author of Category Management in Purchasing, Negotiating for Purchasing Professionals, and Supplier Relationship Management, I found myself in a good news/bad news situation. The good news was that I was able to confirm he had not been locked in a closet for ten years in order to write an astounding volume of valuable content. The bad news was that I was intimidated. You’d have to experience so many things in order to write as much as he has. What on earth could I ask that would not feel like a painful rehashing of old news? What I found out is that knowing everything is not the key to filling volumes. The secret is that you have to genuinely enjoy the topic you are covering. As you can hear on BMP Radio, O’Brien is as at ease discussing procurement conversationally as he is writing about it.
Robert Mason and Barry Evans
Getting a personal look at the working relationship of Robert Mason and Barry Evans, the authors of The Lean Supply Chain: Managing the Challenge at Tesco, was something of a happy accident. I spoke to them via Skype thinking it would be an easy alternative to an international phone call. And while the recording didn’t work (look for ‘take 2’ later this week) I learned a lot from the video feed in the Skype call. Their book managed to achieve and maintain an amazing balance of critical view and compassion. Tesco has not had an easy time of it over the last few years, and their ability to be objective but proud of what they and the rest of the Tesco team accomplished was impressive. That give and take was literally visible in the video feed – I learned to read their body language very quickly. Not only did this allow me to avoid interrupting them (I could always see who was about to jump in and add a point…) but it showed the back and forth you would have to have in order to accomplish unique feats in a competitive and stressful environment. Click here to read my notes.
Let me start by saying that I really like Lora Cecere. Of course, I have to follow that up with the truth that I don’t know her – we’ve never met. I have however, watched a number of her presentations, attended her webinars, and read her book Supply Chain Metrics that Matter. It is the only book I know of other than The CPO written about procurement/supply chain in a narrative style, and maybe that’s why I feel like I actually know her. Aside from the first person narrative, the effort was clearly so personal that it would be hard not to think you’ve met. The book is an interesting combination – a detailed metric-driven strategy shared in a completely approachable way. And the combination works, although I feel quite sure that the effort required to make it work would put most of us to shame.
Kate Vitasek's new book, Strategic Sourcing in the New Economy, only came out last month, so most people haven't had a chance to read it yet. That being said, it's not much of a stretch to say that it will be as influential as her other work - including the Vested Outsourcing series of books. I selfishly take great satisfaction in the fact that while most of her other writing is 'function agnostic,' this title is tailored for a procurement audience. Clearly we've responded to her ideas and strategies well to deserve such investment. I haven't published my review yet (it's coming...) but I did have a chance to interview her last week on BMP Radio.