Serge Betsen, former international rugby union player recently said: “My sporting career spanned twenty years at the highest level and included many highlights, successes and competition, but also failures, injuries and questioning. There are many parallels that can be drawn from this for any organisation, team or individual in the business world; we can learn many valuable lessons from the successes of a high performing sports team. Just as shared values enable success in rugby, businesses also need strong shared values. You need to have the discipline to continuously drive development and growth.”
There is a newspaper article in a frame on the wall of the famous Eel Pie Pub in Twickenham with the date November 23rd, 2003. It is of course all about England’s historic winning of the Rugby World Cup, that drop goal and the celebrations that ensued. However what is striking is the quote from the then soon to be SIR Clive Woodward. “We kept making error after error. But who cares? We have won the World Cup.” Even in the hour of his greatest victory Sir Clive could not help but be aware of the errors and mistakes. Why? – Because winning is about managing performance and being relentless about the tiny details.
One thing that Sports and Business people know well is that you can’t have performance without measurement. Being relentless about the details is something at the core of Allport Cargo Services and our supply chain approach. To be constantly analysing, adapting and improving performance is the way we do things. Our Logistics Information Management Application (LIMA) helps clients measure the efficiency of their supply chain at all points from the outset and over time.
Any supply chain strategy is only as good as your ability to communicate and deploy it, and any strategy must incorporate the ability to ‘play what’s in front of you’. Just like in rugby, you can have a game plan but as the game unfolds you need to develop within context. It’s a coaching technique to learn and develop within the ‘game’ environment. In the same way, supply chains aren’t static, they are constantly moving, so you have to be able to adapt.
Ethics and values also drive on and off field behaviours. England’s last world cup campaign in 2011 (dubbed by some as ‘Mike Tindel’s stag do’) showed a lack of discipline from players away from the pitch which many believe carried into their performance on it. It is a common trait in sport that champions are hugely self-disciplined and in the world of business this is interesting that self-discipline is the trait most admired in leaders amongst other leaders.
Famous sporting coaches, like Sky and Team GB cycling coach Sir Dave Brailsford has illustrated brilliantly how tiny adaptations can have a massive impact and this has equal application in business and supply chain management. When professional sports people are at the top of their physical ability, using equipment at the top of the technological curve, there are only marginal improvements to be had and winning can be by the finest of margins. So you focus on every detail; the aggregate of tiny incremental gains across multiple areas can reap big rewards.
Similarly, where a business is managing a mature, well-run supply chain and there is already efficiency over time, a good strategy is to go into a minute level of detail. Supply chains, like many sports, are the composite of many functions. Breaking down the silos, understanding how one area compliments another, reducing lead time, looking at redundant processes, ensuring one process links to the next smoothly with no overlap, can all result in incremental gains. For ACS customers LIMA systemises a lot of those processes by taking out the manual requirements and speeding it up. It’s the ‘aggregate of gains’ that’s important because a <1% gain across a broad spectrum can make a real difference.
As we’ll see on the pitch over the coming weeks, leadership can never be solely down to one individual – it’s a shared responsibility – not just down to the Captain. You’ll have a littering of two, three or four leaders on the pitch with shared goals yet differing leadership responsibilities. The often fragmented and disparate nature of supply chain also calls for shared leadership and common goals.
Often in the supply chain we focus on the process, not the people. However you cannot discount people. Even Olympians, who strive for ‘faster, higher, stronger’ are encouraged to take their own pillows and home comforts with them to the Olympics. Why? Reassurance and familiarity plays an important part in getting the best from people.
You can’t have high performance without a high performance culture. Lots of very successful business figures are closely linked to sport because they understand the emotional connection to winning, achieving and striving to be the best. There is a relentlessness and shared common mind-set. Here at ACS, we like the word ‘relentless’ because it encapsulates our culture. We don’t set about changing something once or for ‘now’ but we relentlessly focus on key improvement areas. The game is never won; it just improves with time and constant innovation.