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Supply Chain Challenges, Consumer Goods Logistics

What Logistics Managers Can Learn From Football Coaches

Ed Shoemaker | December 19, 2013

As an avid sports fan, I know that many football coaches script the first 10 to 15 plays of the game.  They have a game plan based on hours upon hours of preparation, practice and film sessions.  However, how they adjust and change the script is more important than the first 10 plays.  Many coaches make their name and win games based on halftime adjustments. 

In the logistics world, the best "coaches" are those who can make quick adjustments when things do not follow the script or logistics plan.  No one gets up in the morning and says, "I think today I will have three operators call out just to see how well I can adjust."  No one says, "I think today I will try to ship twice as much product as I normally do."  In order to be a good logistics coach, you need to be prepared to go off script because it happens daily. 

Below are some thoughts about how to prepare to go off script in your logistics plan:

Prepare – You need to prepare yourself to be a good manager.  Learn from those around you, continue your education, read articles about what others are doing, visit other operations whenever possible.  Challenge yourself to keep learning.  If we stop learning, we become stagnant. 

Practice – Realizing that business is dynamic, you need to practice, rehearse and plan how you are going to deal with predictable adversity.  If you wait until it happens, you will be constantly fighting fires instead of preventing them. 

Remain calm – We do our best thinking and make our best decisions when we are calm.  If we panic or overreact, those around us will be impacted.  It is best to lead with some level of calmness because your team is watching.  Just to be clear, being calm doesn't mean you can't have sense of urgency.  A sense of urgency is needed and should be visible.

If it's not broke, break it (suggested reading by Robert J. Kriegel) – Complacency is an enemy to running a great operation.  Managers need to challenge the status quo and realize that trying new approaches is the best way to advance the operation.  Sometimes deviating from the logistics plan on your own can bring marked improvements.

Review – Football coaches spend a lot of time reviewing game film after the game.  We need to do the same thing.  Everyone makes mistakes, but good managers learn from them and move forward.  It is important to document what you learn as you go through challenges so that the next time the game goes off script you have a better logistics plan to handle it. 

Great managers do more than maintain the operation.  Great managers, like great football coaches, shine when things go off script.