Monday, 2 November 2015

My 10 Desert Island Books on procurement

A number of blogs (for example Stephen Ashcroft's) have appeared on favourite procurement reads. Often the books which have really influenced my thinking aren't mentioned. So, I thought I would take a slightly different line and list the 10 books I would take with me to a Desert Island to read again based on the assumption that I plan to return and be better at procurement - something I've been working at since 1973.

When I started to think what the Desert Island list would look like I realised that it to a certain extent it reflected my own journey too. Don't be surprised that this spans a long period and that some of the books are probably out of print as I have included my 'golden oldies' too'. Here's my choice and why:
  1. Purchasing Principles and Management
  2. It's a Deal
  3. Beyond Partnership
  4. Strategic Procurement Management in the 1990s
  5. Revolution in Purchasing
  6. Profitable Purchasing Strategies
  7. Business Success
  8. Transform your Supply Chain
  9. Strategic Procurement in Construction, and 
  10. Complex Contracting.

  1. Purchasing Principles and Management - Bailey, Farmer, Jessop and Jones (many editions dating back to 1968). You need to get the basics right and no better place to start than remembering the '5 Rights'. There have been many editions of this 'classic' and there are others (for example, van Weele's 'Purchasing Management' and Dobler and Burt's 'Purchasing and Supply Management') which could claim equal status but sometimes the one which got there first justifies the slot. The more I think about it the first 20 years of my procurement career were probably best described as 'purchasing and stores' - perhaps I was a slow learner but I'd prefer to see it as a very long apprenticeship! Nevertheless, prior to the 1990s purchasing was a very clerical function.
  2. It's a Deal - Steele, Murphy and Russell (1989). Absorbed in clerical/operational purchasing with my main 'gold stars'  coming from the 'stores management' portion of the 'Purchasing & Stores Office' function, I started to understand that one of the differentiators between good and great purchasing managers appeared to be their negotiating ability. While O'Brien's 'Negotiating for Purchasing Professionals' (2013) for many may have become the preferred choice, I still hanker back to my first love of Steele et al where I learnt about differing approaches to negotiation and the games played.  On my Desert Island I would concentrate on refreshing the basics which are just as useful in a domestic life as in the commercial world.
  3. Beyond Partnership - Lamming. 1993 this time and, to me, this fundamentally shifted my thinking as I became a devotee of 'Lean Supply'.  This book became the foundation for my MSc thesis where I explored how the manufacturing approaches could be applied in local government. The big message to me was that you can have a spectrum of potential supply relationships and need to be think about which were the most appropriate as the traditional 'one size fits all' adversarial/competitive relationships just don't deliver. I particularly liked Lamming's model of relationships and felt it was possible to plot against the various parts of the matrix and define an 'As-Is' and 'To-be' strategy. I'm sure that 'plan-on-a-page' could be used by many organisations as a basic procurement strategy.
  4. Strategic Procurement Management in the 1990s: Concepts and Cases - edited by Lamming and Cox (1995). It was here I first started to realised that procurement needed to become 'external resource management' - isn't that the start of understanding how we can harvest the innovation potential of suppliers! Great real-life case studies of transferring theory to practice. However, with the benefit of hindsight these case studies justify a review of 'what happened next'? To me a number shout out that there was an individual procurement professional who drove change and the application of leading edge thinking, however, the change wasn't sufficiantly embedded and now, 30 years later, a number of those case study organisations would do well to apply their own lessons.
  5. Revolution in Purchasing - van Weele and Rozemeijer (1996). I suspect this book is almost unobtainable and thankfully,  at this stage in my reading, I had stopped using those destructive floursescent yellow highlighters!  I was given my copy at IPSERA 1996 during a visit to Philips Electronics in Eindhoven - the book is a case study of procurement transformation at Philips. What I really gained from this book was the hard core/soft core organisational model for the procurement function - a structure which I still believe as best fit for most organisational contexts.
  6. Profitable Purchasing Strategies - Steele and Court (1996) In here you will learn about the CLAN model of procurement structure (similar to hard core/soft core) and the 'supplier preferences' - both of which I still make use of today. However, for me this book was a workbook in how to develop a Purchasing Strategy - plenty of tools which are transferable to most organisations. 
  7. Business Success -  Cox (1997). Cox started to straddle to business/procurement with this book. His central philosophy on power relations was set out and I began to think about relative power. Easier to read and absorb than his recent book 'Supplier Portfolio Analysis'  which is really putting the flesh on the bones set out in 'Business Success'. 
  8. Transform your supply chain - Hughes, Ralf and Michels (1998). This remains one of my primary 'go to' books for tools and techniques, yet I rarely hear it referred to. While most of the books discussed above have become embedded in how we do it, this one has the really clever thinking and practical tools, particularly to those interested in procurement transformation or strategic procurement.  
  9. Strategic Procurement in Construction - Townsend and Cox (1998). Gaining influence over construction spend had been a major challenge to me, even though I led the supplier appraisal, had led the shift away from 'lowest price wins' to a weighting and scoring approach, and had to sign-off the actual awards. This book, along with producing guidance on the appointment of construction consultants, helped reposition the relationship with the 'professionals'. I recall being particularly impressed by the McDonalds approach outlined and how replication was feasible. Since the organisation I was working in had a reasonable number of common construction needs this was exactly what I needed to hear and using the ideas was able to develop and sell internally a completely different 'portfolio approach' to construction procurement. No longer was construction procurement a 'closed' 'black box' as it now had a strategic approach with leadership from Procurement.
  10. Complex ContractingBrown, Potocki and van Slyke (2013). On my Desert Island I don't want to merely read theory, I quite like the mix of a procurement 'who dunit'. Brown et al book dissects a major procurement disaster, in an easy readable format, and provides useful lessons learnt. They are concerned with procurement in 'the fog of uncertainty' - not only fitting for my Desert Island predicament but also in corralling all the other reading. If there's one single challenge where procurement professionals can really add value, it has to be in the sphere of complex contracting, in all its forms. Anyway, it is well worth a second read.
Some of you may be surprised by omissions, for example, were I writing a review of Procurement literature milestones I would probably have included Farmer and Taylor's (1975) 'Corporate Planning and Procurement', the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants (1963) 'Central Purchasing', and O'Brien's 'Category Management in Purchasing' (2009), and even 'The Environment and Purchasing - Problem or Opportunity' (1996) but maybe that's for another day. Of course, commissions may be quite simply down to the reality that I haven't read every book on procurement.

Nevertheless, that's my 10 Desert Island books on procurement. Sometime soon I may take a wider view and discuss the non-procurement books which have shaped my outlook on procurement.

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