How the Greatest Comeback in Sports History Can Change your Supply Chain

Oracle Team USA AC72 at SpeedA recent blog post at the Harvard Business Review discussed "What Business Can Learn from the Greatest Comeback in Sports History."  They presented six points, and the original article is well worth reading. I'd like to boil down their advice to supply chain specific suggestions, and here we go:

  1. Companies often create rigid networks and procedures which tend to be efficient in day to day operations, but which can fail spectacularly when upset. Just as Oracle Team USA (OTUSA) adopted cross-fit training to create all-around athletes, companies should build flexible and resilient supply chain networks that contain sufficient redundancy to continue to operate when things aren't proceeding to plan. Often, companies use network optimization software to do this work."
  2. Disruption will happen. Oracle designed a displacement-mode boat, and Team New Zealand designed a foiling boat that was much faster. Oracle needed to respond to win. When your supply chain is hit by disruption, you need the tools to analyze and reshape your plans. Planning cycles that take days, or even one day, aren't adequate. Rapid Planning and fast execution is required to keep from losing orders and customers.
  3. It is better to make your own luck than wait for it. Oracle learned how to foil upwind, and the other guys didn't. Approach problems with curiosity, being open to innovation. Again, having systems that are easily adjustable and which show you exactly what is going on in your supply chain will be a boon to creativity.
  4. "Gather resolve from your setbacks." This is related to the next point, and at first look, may look like standard motivational speaker boilerplate. But in the supply chain world, you will have setbacks. How you respond to them, whether you can recover quickly, whether you keep the focus on the customer instead of some cost-savings goal, and whether you learn from mistakes is of utmost importance.
  5. Keep the focus on "How could we do better?" Ten years ago, hardly anyone knew where there shipments were other than "en-route." Now even consumers know when their package is on a truck and when it will be delivered. Complacency is the sure road to business failure. Set goals that are always increasing. It will spur creativity and innovation.
  6. Data is King. As an Oracle crew member is quoted in HBR post: “In the AC 72, sometimes you have to trust the number more than your feeling – and that works only if you have good numbers and good tools." This is especially true in supply chains, as when it comes down to it, supply chains are a collection of costs and revenues.  Some decisions are better than others, and there is no way to know the difference without the correct planning tools and analytics. Segment your customers and suppliers and make sure you are concentrating on the most profitable parts of your business.

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