Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Relationships First: The new relationship paradigm in contracting - Book review/critique

This a very strange book or is it a manifesto? It argues that something new has been developed and applied, yet I see little new from what was discussed in the mid-1990s. Does it justify the subtitle 'The New Relationship Paradigm in Contracting'? Sorry, it doesn't.

It is printed double-spaced, why? The appearance creates the assumption that this was a MBA project re-shaped as a self-published book. If it is a repackaged MBA project the potential reader should have been warned prior to purchase.

Five chapters of the author talking about his experience before you get to an explanation of what the 'new' model is about - actually I can't see what the new model is.

Business school models are drawn on, for example, 5 Forces and 7 S's. Yes, this definitely has the feel of an MBA project. Now why was Peter Kraljic's seminal 1983 paper was missed - didn't it have the same message that strategic contracts need to focus on relationships?

The wordcount game seems to be played too, for example, what other benefit comes from this sentence: "Gleicher's Formula for Change, was created by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher".

Case studies are used as illustrations even though some are 'work in progress'. Blogs are drawn upon but given greater credence than you would expect. Self endorsement comes from the author telling us what they've said in interviews and responses to media questions - yes, a very strange book. Academic references are scant, poorly referenced, and often tedious, for example, if you were at a loss to understand what a team is, you are informed:
A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to  a common purpose, performance goal and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. John Katzenbach and Smith (1993). [NB Note the referencing style]
The disjointed narrative would have benefited from reshaping so that the journey through the book has a clearer flow. Then we have to cope with the frustration of some weak paragraph formatting - you are left puzzled at the end of a paragraph, then find it wasn't the end at all and the continuation of the sentence is in, what appears to be, the next paragraph.

You then wonder is this promotional material for the author's consultancy? Their workshops are referred to and acronyms are registered as IP! If that's the case why is the book sold as opposed to published free of charge on the consultant's website as a whitepaper/eBook?

So at the end of the day what's this 'new paradigm'? Well, and I could be wrong, to distill the whole book into a very slim abstract: If you're concerned with complex procurements and outsourcing, you need to shift from traditional adversarial approaches to building relationships.

I did wrestle with whether or not I should publish this review as I hate coming across as so negative. I considered how pointed, and in some respects barbed, the author is in some of his criticism. Then reflected that others should be better informed than I was before making a decision to purchase.

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