...

Supply chain leaders can learn a lot from the world’s most popular sport, soccer. Perhaps one of the most important lessons is the constant adjustment necessary in today’s world of perpetual disruption. No single strategy or set of tactics will work for every situation. Jose Mourinho, long labeled and criticized as a defensive-minded coach, switched to an attacking strategy when he had players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Mezut Ozil and others at Real Madrid. Mourinho’s 2011-2012 club set records for wins, most away wins, highest goal differential, most points in away matches and points – and, more importantly, dethroned Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga.

Other important notes that translate from the pitch to the supply chain world …

1. Pass with a purpose

Soccer pros pass the ball with a specific goal in mind, from finding a teammate in a favorable position to score or to maintain possession so the opponent cannot score. Likewise, today’s supply chain leaders invest in digital technologies with a purpose – to achieve end-to-end visibility and monitor cargoes in real time, exceed customers’ expectations and increase competitiveness … without giving up the ball.

2. Timing is everything

Soccer pros perfectly understand that the timing of passes and quickly moving without the ball make a stark difference. They know when to release the ball, when to run downfield, when to switch the attack from an overloaded side to the weakly defended half of the field, taking the opponent off guard and creating an opportunity to score. Likewise, supply chain pros use digital technologies such as artificial intelligence to predict the timing of potential disruptions and to autonomously and rapidly implement an action or set of actions that will restore supply chains in the shortest possible time. AI can also predict delays so that all downstream participants can plan accordingly.

3. Adjustments are part of the game

Soccer players, and particularly soccer coaches, know they might have to modify game plans because of unexpected injuries, red cards, giving up multiple goals early in the game, etc. As a result, soccer coaches consider their options and make necessary adjustments to finish the game with a win or, at worst, a draw. Even attacking coaches might “park the bus” with a large lead and time dwindling. Likewise, supply chain leaders must realize that supply chain disruptions will occur and add optionality, giving them alternatives instead of trying to optimize each segment in their supply chain.

4. Continuous improvement increases competitiveness

Soccer teams continually evaluate and adopt new training methods, improve their training facilities, empower (or replace) their coaching staff and spend hundreds of millions of dollars in transfer fees to secure the best soccer players, all of which the top clubs do relentlessly. Likewise, to be competitive, companies continually refine their processes, technologies and strategic partnerships, moves designed to improve supply chain efficiency and performance.

5. Technology is a game changer

GPS and tracking technologies provide soccer players and coaches with real-time data on player movements and performance, including their speed, distance covered and number/frequency of sprints, which coaches and coaching staffs use to objectively assess individual and team performance. Analyzing how opposing players cover the field also helps coaches devise strategies. Likewise, supply chain pros increasingly use AIS (automatic identification systems), GPS, EDI (electronic data interchange), IoT (internet of things) and other disruptive technologies to provide all stakeholders with real-time, end-to-end visibility. Such quality data provides the means to implement decisions based on predictive and prescriptive analytics.

Putting these lessons together can help your supply chains act as a coordinated, united team. A united team was one of the simple philosophies put forth by legendary soccer coach Marcello Lippi – still the only coach to win both a World Cup and Champions League title.