My previous blog post addressed the connection between fútbol and supply chain from an execution standpoint, but that really only covers the middle part of the chain and leaves a lot of questions around the before and after. How do you get the best team on the field in the first place? How do you build a fanbase that will support the team through ups and downs? These questions are equally critical and are also relatable to supply chains.
Before stepping onto the pitch, it’s important to ensure you have the right team at the ready for a variety of scenarios – unexpected overtime, unplanned injuries, and more. Having a team created with a balanced set of players with different skills, strengths, weaknesses, experience, etc. will provide for the most flexibility in handling an unplanned scenario. While a team has 10 field players, they are not all the same. Generally, the field players are broken up into three basic categories: defense, midfield and forwards. Teams can set up a variety of formations which means you might want 5 defenders in one formation and you might want 3 defenders in another formation. Playing in the center of the field versus the outside is also different. And that’s just defenders! There are additional flexibilities within the midfield and forward positions too…as long as the field positions add up to 10, there are a myriad of different possibilities so making sure you have ideas around how each player can contribute in various formations is important. But, for example, having a team full of the best players that have spent careers training solely as defenders is not ideal as they are used to preventing goals not scoring them! Diversity is key!
In supply chain, similar concepts apply when staffing up your organization. Designing and developing an organizational structure (formation) along with recruiting the right talent for each position is critical to ensuring you can achieve your organization’s objectives… and not just the objectives within the supply chain. Different skills and experience will be required for a transportation manager, a demand planning manager, a procurement manager, etc. And, as organizations evolve and leverage technology or new ways of working, people will need to adapt by completing training and practicing new skills, same as the needs of a fútbol team.
Supply chains have some advantages compared to the fútbol world because organization’s have the ability to leverage outsourcing for certain skill or competencies that are not deemed core competencies internally. In fútbol, outside of the field and the bench, there is no one else that can step up. On the flip side, fútbol has an advantage of being able to very quickly change formations (mid-game) whereas organizational changes take time, especially with the “right first time” mentality. Everything is about balance and understanding how to create a team is a critical step to ensuring that team can deliver the desired results.
Once your team is in place, roles and responsibilities are well defined, the three elements I mentioned in my last blog become most relevant: working as a team, developing fit-for-purpose solutions and sufficient planning all help to achieve the end game of winning. But, after you win, is the work over? In supply chain, after you sell a product for example, is your work over? Hopefully everyone’s answer is a resounding no!
When it comes to fútbol, the post-game/off-the-field efforts are still important as there is always another game on the horizon, especially in tournaments such as the World Cup. No matter the outcome of that match – win, loss, or draw – the team needs to begin preparing for the next match and ensure their fans are still there for support. Individuals need to rest, address any body aches/pains, and begin learning about the next opponent (watch previous matches, determine formations, etc.). Further, they should conduct themselves off-the-field with appropriate behavior to maintain their position as role models for all ages and continue securing that support from fans. When fans see commitment to training and positive off-the-field behavior, they are more likely to continue supporting a team no matter if the team loses every game.
A loyal fanbase is similar to the customer service loop in supply chains. The actions an organization takes or has in place after a sale can be equally as important as the sale itself. These feedback loops and the way companies address issues are what brings customers back for repeat purchases and allows customers to recommend products to others. This critical voice of the customer provides opportunities for organizations to understand key issues customers are facing and develop appropriate solutions. Customers can provide information relevant to supply chain issues such as shipping/delivery issues, product availability issues, and more. Further, some organizations offer seemingly simple perks such as free return shipping which can build trust with customers, but has implications on a supply chain (cost, logistics, warehousing needs, etc.). Yet again, balance is important when trying to create a positive customer experience that will lead to more sales without generating unsustainable logistical and supply chain challenges.
Always remember supply chains are truly circular now, and while every link in the chain is equally important, focusing on getting it right the first time, laying the right foundations first, will always ensure that the links further along have the best chance to succeed.
On the field, the same applies. Starting with a strong foundation of coaching, players and mindsets will better prepare any team for success.
Go Team USA! Keep supporting the US Women’s National Team in their effort to continue making history and bring home the Gold for the third time in a row, a feat no other team has ever done!
—Kira Bilecky, St. Onge Company