My favorite books on how to get outsourcing right

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an international authority for my award-winning research on the Vested® business model for highly collaborative relationships. I began my research in 2003 by studying what makes the difference in successful strategic business deals. My day job is the lead faculty and researcher for the University of Tennessee’s Certified Deal Architect program; my passion is helping organizations and individuals learn the art, science, and practice of crafting highly collaborative win-win strategic business relationships. My work has led to seven books and three Harvard Business Review articles and I’ve shared my advice on CNN International, Bloomberg, NPR, and Fox Business News.


I wrote...

Vested Outsourcing: Five Rules That Will Transform Outsourcing

By Kate Vitasek, Mike Ledyard, Karl Manrodt

Book cover of Vested Outsourcing: Five Rules That Will Transform Outsourcing

What is my book about?

Is there a better way to outsource? That is the question University of Tennessee researchers asked when they created a research team to study outsourcing practices. The results? The research team unlocked five simple “rules” for creating highly collaborative win-win outsourcing relationships. Vested Outsourcing codifies UT’s award-winning research into a practical step-by-step guide for helping organizations take their outsourcing relationships to a higher level. Readers will appreciate how the book artfully combines the science and practice of Vested outsourcing, using real-world examples of Vested in practice including an entire chapter dedicated to how Dell and FedEx turned a ho-hum outsourcing effort into an award-winning relationship achieving record results and a 50% reduction in the total cost of operations.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization

Kate Vitasek Why did I love this book?

The way power plays out in an age of globalization has important lessons for outsourcing relationships. This is because, as Friedman says, globalization is not a trend, but an “international system.” This system is complex and has “its own rules and logic that today directly or indirectly influence the politics, environment, geopolitics, and economics of virtually every country in the world.” Companies looking to outsource should study the evolving, globalized world order as described in this book and then seek to explore the rules they need to outsource in today’s new economy.

By Thomas L. Friedman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Lexus and the Olive Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant investigation of globalization, the most significant socioeconomic trend in the world today, and how it is affecting everything we do-economically, politically, and culturally-abroad and at home.

As foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman crisscrosses the globe talking with the world's economic and political leaders, and reporting, as only he can, on what he sees. Now he has used his years of experience as a reporter and columnist to produce a pithy, trenchant, riveting look at the worldwide market forces that are driving today's economies and how they are playing out both internationally and…


Book cover of Nine Keys to World-Class Business Process Outsourcing

Kate Vitasek Why did I love this book?

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is a $300 billion-plus industry with many deals running into the multiple millions of dollars. With so much at stake, it is important to get outsourcing right. I am a fan of this book because it complements the work we are doing at the University of Tennessee on Vested outsourcing. Lacity and Willcocks share a series of best practices (“Nine Keys”) that can help organizations succeed in outsourcing. Tips include assigning great leadership pairs; focusing on business and strategic benefits beyond cost efficiencies; and resolving issues together while prioritizing and incentivizing innovation. The overriding themes of these tips are collaboration, alignment, and flexible governance frameworks—all music to my ears for creating a successful outsourcing relationship.

By Mary Lacity, Leslie Willcocks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nine Keys to World-Class Business Process Outsourcing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)-the sourcing of business services through external third parties-is a global phenomenon, which generated nearly $300 billion worldwide in 2012. BPO is highly IT-enabled, and on a growth trajectory that impacts across functions of major, medium and small enterprises, including procurement, human resources, accounting and finance, sales, marketing, legal, asset management and key administrative processes.
Despite this size and spread, BPO services and the ability of clients to manage their providers, are still evolving and have a mixed record. In the course of their research, the authors have found only 20% of outsourcing arrangements are world-class performers.…


Book cover of The Servant as Leader

Kate Vitasek Why did I love this book?

The Servant as Leader may be one of the most influential business books ever published! But how does it apply to outsourcing? Creating a servant/leader mindset is essential to prevent what I call the outsourcing paradox—where you outsource the expert and then tell them how to do the work. It also prevents another common outsourcing ailment I call the Junkyard Dog Factor where a company outsourcing keeps a shadow organization that creates redundancies and limits the cost saving a company can get through outsourcing. Greenleaf’s basic message is simple: manage the business with the supplier as opposed to managing the supplier. Organizations that follow Greenleaf’s advice will most certainly benefit with healthier outsourcing relationships. 

By Robert K. Greenleaf,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Servant as Leader as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the essay that started it all. Powerful, poetic and practical. The Servant as Leader describes some of the characteristics and activities of servant-leaders, providing examples which show that individual efforts, inspired by vision and a servant ethic, can make a substantial difference in the quality of society. Greenleaf discusses the skills necessary to be a servant-leader; the importance of awareness, foresight and listening; and the contrasts between coercive, manipulative, and persuasive power. A must-read.


Book cover of Who Moved My Cheese? An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Kate Vitasek Why did I love this book?

When an organization chooses to outsource it almost always creates massive change within a company. Business processes are now performed by the supplier and often a company's employees shift to work for the supplier, move to another department, or are let go as part of downsizing. All of this can create fear and resistance and result in a failing outsourcing effort. In this classic book Spencer Johnson underscores the importance of change management and looking at change from the perspective of those who are getting their cheese moved. Who Moved My Cheese will help equip you with how to think about the necessary change management you will need to succeed in your outsourcing initiative. 

By Spencer Johnson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Who Moved My Cheese? An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable that reveals profound truths. It is the amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a maze and look for cheese to nourish them and make them happy. Cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life, for example a good job, a loving relationship, money or possessions, health or spiritual peace of mind. The maze is where you look for what you want, perhaps the organisation you work in, or the family or community you live in. The problem is that the cheese keeps moving.

In…


Book cover of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Kate Vitasek Why did I love this book?

Levitt and Dubner’s entertaining bestseller explores hidden and perverse incentives that color our personal and business lives. They share real examples of how perverse incentives can affect (and taint) our decisions. My research at the University of Tennessee has identified 12 perverse incentives of outsourcing (Ailments of Outsourcing) that can plague and derail an outsourcing relationship. I like this book because it helps make the concept of perverse incentives very real and puts empirical evidence around the craziness that can happen if you don’t overlook inherent perverse incentivizes. Simply put, this book will not only make you laugh, it will help you be more aware of perverse incentives. 

By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Freakonomics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The legendary bestseller that made millions look at the world in a radically different way returns in a new edition, now including an exclusive discussion between the authors and bestselling professor of psychology Angela Duckworth.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Which should be feared more: snakes or french fries? Why do sumo wrestlers cheat? In this groundbreaking book, leading economist Steven Levitt—Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark medal for the economist under 40 who has made the greatest contribution to the discipline—reveals that…


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I Am Taurus

By Stephen Palmer,

Book cover of I Am Taurus

Stephen Palmer

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Philosopher Scholar Liberal Reader Musician

Stephen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The constellation we know as Taurus goes all the way back to cave paintings of aurochs at Lascaux. This book traces the story of the bull in the sky, a journey through the history of what has become known as the sacred bull.

Each of the sections is written from the perspective of the mythical Taurus, from the beginning at Lascaux to Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, and elsewhere. This is not just a history of the bull but also a view of ourselves through the eyes of the bull, illustrating our pre-literate use of myth, how the advent of writing and the urban revolution changed our view of ourselves, and how even bullfighting in Spain is a variation on the ancient sacrifice of the sacred bull.

I Am Taurus

By Stephen Palmer,

What is this book about?

The constellation we know as Taurus goes all the way back to cave paintings of aurochs at Lascaux. In I Am Taurus, author Stephen Palmer traces the story of the bull in the sky, starting from that point 19,000 years ago - a journey through the history of what has become known as the sacred bull. Each of the eleven sections is written from the perspective of the mythical Taurus, from the beginning at Lascaux to Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Greece, Spain and elsewhere. This is not just a history of the bull but also an attempt to see ourselves through…


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