A Thought on The World Cup and Supply Chains

With the World Cup starting today, (go USA!) I thought that I would add to the glut of World Cup related blogs.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about supply disruptions, worker productivity (or lack thereof) or entire continents shutting down for a month.  Instead, I’ll bend your ear on the team preparation, the practice, the tactics and the playbooks.

There is a lot made in the supply chain arena about the value of planning vs. the value of simply responding to the events as they unfold.  I would argue that if planning is good enough for the 32 nations in this year’s World Cup that it is a good thing for your supply chain operations and organization as well.  Coaches have been preparing for the opening games of the World Cup for more than a year, since they officially qualified and, in some cases, longer.  They have analyzed their squad’s strengths and weaknesses, reviewed tactics that have worked and not worked in the past, drilled their teams in training camps, tested the tactics in friendly matches all for these three opening round games and the hope that they will advance further.  Millions of dollars are invested by the national teams in planning and practice.  The two teams opening this year’s tournament, Brazil and Croatia, know what they need to do to win.  Tactics are decided, objectives communicated to the players and the time is drawing close for the whistle to blow and the game to be played.

So what happens when the whistle blows and the game actually starts?  The coaches will quickly see whether their plan is working and gives them a chance for success, or whether the opposing team is asserting its will on the game.  Some see this as a time for reaction. I, however, see this as a time for evaluation and an opportunity to pull a different playbook off the shelf, if necessary.  You see, at this level coaches never make it up as they go, that is, they don’t if they like being employed.  In the training camps leading up to the tournament they have already drilled on different tactics that they may need to employ.  There are alternate plans that have been practiced so that if the coach decides to switch things up, the players fall back on their training and execute the new plan.

An example that you are likely to see in the next week is a team that has taken a lead and makes a decision to fall back and protect their lead.  You will hear the term “pack it in” or play “11 men behind the ball” – this may not have been the plan from the opening whistle, but now that they have a lead, the coach may decide to protect it and try to stifle the opposing teams’ offense.  You can bet that this change has been drilled and practiced so that every player knows exactly what their role is.  The coach is certainly responding to what is happening in the game, but these responses are practiced and drilled as much as the starting plan is.  There is no “winging it” at this level.

So what does this all mean for your supply chains?  You have plans (I hope). You make decisions on whether to invest time and money on scenario planning and what-if analysis, or to just react as events unfold.  In essence, you are the coach.  I’d ask you to think about your supply chain in the context of sport – you have competitors that wrestle with the same questions on where to source, what to do when disruptions happen, how to exploit market opportunities.  Are they developing plans for these scenarios?  Do they have playbooks that they can pull out to inform their response to real world dynamics?  Have they “drilled” their teams on how to respond to changes and opportunities?  Can you really afford to “wing it?”

  1 Comment   Comment

  1. You can’t afford to just “wing it” with your supply chain. There are too many moving parts that can fall apart if you just start throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. While you can’t plan for every possible contingency you can come up with a few standard responses that will work with most situations.


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