Monday, 14 July 2014

Brazil 2014: Shaping Future Teams

Authored by Asif Khan

Many of us have been engrossed by the hype surrounding the recent World Cup. As the drama unfolded over the past few weeks, we have been entertained with either predictable master classes by world class teams (Germany 4 – 0 Portugal) or unpredictable controversial defeats at the mercy of teams who believed in their ability to succeed (Spain 1 – 5 Netherlands). Nevertheless, the common denominator of the entire tournament has been the concept of playing as a ‘team’.

Taking a closer look at some of the teams who performed exceptionally well (my pick of the bunch include Germany, Argentina & the Netherlands), there are lessons and insights that can be applied to everyday business concepts and to my field in particular strategic sourcing and supply management. I’ll touch upon four key leadership levers which we have witness during this world cup for achieving greatness and outstanding results as a team:

1. Having the Vision to think big and to innovate - Having ‘vision’ allows leaders to create a compelling future for themselves and for others, often inspiring transformational results. The Dutch team Manager, Louis van Gaal would be a great example of a man with an intelligent vision. Despite his team arguably not playing the most attractive or exciting football, he was able to lead his team to a number of victories by having a strategic vision. (Netherlands 4 – 3 Costa Rica on penalties) His decision to substitute the regular goalkeeper in a penalty shootout was a touch of genius; as the Dutch went on to win the game by saving two critical opposition penalties. If we look at this from a business perspective, as procurement professionals we need to ensure that our strategic sourcing activities are aligned with the corporate vision of the organization to maximize value. Many buying organizations focus aggressively on savings generation (impatient attacks on goal that rarely win games) and often overlook other important aspects such as supply chain innovation; sustainability and reliability.

2. Aligning yourself with group morals and values - Ethics is all about being of service and upholding consistent values that guide us in our choices. The Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez, was the most profound player of the World Cup who failed the ethic’s challenge by acting in a way that had limited benefits to his team and country. (Italy 0 – 1 Uruguay) Suarez was involved in another controversial ‘biting’ incident which went unpunished by the referee during the game but FIFA later imposed a four month ban from all football-related activity. The short term benefit of winning the game far outweighed the tarnished reputation of Suarez as being an unethical player. Ethics in purchasing and supply management relate to a wide range of issues including fair trade, ethical sourcing and corporate social responsibility. Buying organizations need to ensure that they act in alignment with moral principles to avoid creating a perception of unethical behavior which could damage their long term reputation in the market place (the spotlight will eventually catch up with you).


3. Maintaining Courage and having a sustained initiative - The Germans are a shining example of a team who showed a lot of heart and determination to consistently entertain the crowds and deliver successful results (USA 0 – 1 Germany). Although Germany faced a gritty team they demonstrated that their strong belief and unique approach to each game was a winning formula, with both Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose eventually making world cup history. Today, procurement practices are also ever changing and it’s important that buyers are able to get things done in the face of continuous change, and respond positively to crisis, rejection and failure (create collaborative teams that are used to winning).

4. Keeping in touch with Reality and having no illusions - Unfortunately the hosts Brazil is the team that springs to mind when it comes to not being in touch with reality. (Brazil 1 – 7 Germany) Looking back at the excitement of this game, Brazil was missing their star striker Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, with no real contingency plan or back-up solution in their absence. Very quickly, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was given a reality check that his team had gone from hero’s to zero. It just goes to show that being too reliant on key players to deliver successful results is a massive risk and will ultimately lead to disappointment. The same goes for your supply chain, many buying organizations fail to understand the importance of risk management and alternatives to ensure continuity of supply (maintain a realistic view of your current position and forward plan).

In reflection on some of these memorable World Cup highlights, we should evaluate our own organizational teams and ask ourselves:

STAY: What did we do that worked well for us and we should continue?

STOP: What did we do that got in our way and we should discontinue?

START: What didn’t we do that would make us more effective and we should start?


Stay tuned for future posts where I’ll be exploring further the importance of having high performing teams when transforming your strategic sourcing activities.

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