Book review: ‘Sweet Stakeholder Love’ by Sigi Osagie

A practical guide, based on experience, to overcoming the business obstacles that stakeholders can create.

It was the great American statesman Benjamin Franklin who said that in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes. Of course, he wrote that at the end of the 18th century. Had he been considering the position today, and had he been in possession of Sigi Osagie’s latest book, he may well have extended his list of certainties to include stakeholders. This is because, as Osagie says in the thoroughly engaging ‘Sweet Stakeholder Love’ (EPG Solutions, £11.97, ISBN 9781838489205), this is a category of management challenge that faces you, whichever way you turn.

Stakeholders are everywhere, everyone has them, and if you don’t know how to deal with them you won’t realise your full potential as a manager. Osagie, who is a leading expert on effectiveness in procurement and supply-chain management, has seen this recurrent problem from the bottom to the top and knows whereof he speaks. It was a 14-year journey from stepping off a plane at Heathrow as a penniless African immigrant to becoming a FTSE250 director at a blue-chip multinational. From mopping floors in Soho restaurants to becoming a ‘black belt in Six Sigma’, the common thread in his career has been change – “going in to turn around performance or creating new functions from scratch” – a condition Osagie describes as ‘always being about people’. In ‘Sweet Stakeholder Love’ he shares his experiences with people and how you can engage them to boost workplace effectiveness.

Don’t let Osagie’s genial mix of good-natured anecdote and seemingly folksy wisdom lure you into thinking that this is a typical self-help management manual. As he says early in the piece, ‘Sweet Stakeholder Love’ is not “a textbook or academic treatise filled with technical mumbo-jumbo, copious research findings or theoretical concepts.” Rather, it reads more like a ‘school of hard knocks’ narrative of overcoming obstacles – not the adversity of his having to deliver pizzas to support his MBA, but the drag of other people’s negativity hampering your progress. Meanwhile, says Osagie, you’re never truly powerless in the face of obstinate stakeholders if you know how to deal with corporate egos: this from an executive who once wrangled a dozen divisions in a conglomerate to form a single PSCM operational structure.

As the almost Zen-like vocabulary of the book’s title implies, Osagie is firmly of the opinion that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and holds no faith in corporate machismo. His book is relentlessly positive, while retaining a realistic level of common sense in his approach to organisational effectiveness. You really shouldn’t view stakeholder management as an inconvenient bolt-on to your ‘real’ job, he says, because ‘relationship building will be one of the best investments you’ll make in your career growth.’ While ultimately ‘Sweet Stakeholder Love’ doesn’t follow the template of most management books today, its core message is refreshingly inspirational.

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