Accenture Academy Blog
Super Bowl XLIV (that’s 44 if you’re not a Roman numerals expert) is almost here! This year’s game should be a real treat with the rare meeting of the NFL’s two divisional leaders. No Cinderella teams or major collapses by the favorites this year.

In the midst of all the pre-game build up, I have noticed that a number of players and coaches are making statements that supply chain managers should heed. They are talking about installing the game plan, keeping things simple, and avoiding outside distractions. In a recent article, Indianapolis Colts guard Ryan Lilja said:  “You want to make it as normal as possible. You try to go through your normal routine.”

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton also offers a logical approach to the chaos that is the Super Bowl. During a recent interview, he stressed the keys to keeping everyone focused. Payton suggests:  “I think most importantly, having a good schedule that has balance in it and the players know exactly the plan each day and it's not changing."

These perspectives are not only appropriate for avoiding Super Bowl distractions; they also provide valuable insight to supply chain managers trying to succeed in a tumultuous global economy. Rather than frequently chasing new strategies, changing plans, and creating discontinuity, it’s important to remember what works best for your supply chain and how you achieve success. That is, don’t be distracted by this chaotic, turbulent, changing environment. Instead, focus on the fundamentals to achieve supply chain excellence.

Such was the philosophy of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Throughout his storied career, Lombardi was fully ensconced in the fundamentals of the game and avoided peripheral issues. This straightforward approach is highlighted by a famous Lombardi quote:  “Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist, but football is only two things—blocking and tackling.”

The supply chain game has its own blocking and tackling activities. They are pretty obvious—consolidate freight, create visibility, minimize handling, postpone inventory, segment customers, etc.—but we must remember to make them the foundation of our supply chain game plans. Otherwise, we may become easily distracted and lose focus on the fundamentals.

Perhaps the best collection of supply chain blocking and tackling guidelines is provided by the timeless article The 7 Principles of Supply Chain Management. It covers the fundamentals for the full spectrum of supply chain activities:

 Principle 1       

Segment customers based on the service needs of distinct groups and adapt the supply chain to serve these segments profitably.
 Principle 2Customize the logistics network to the service requirements and profitability of customer segments.
 Principle 3Listen to market signals and align demand planning accordingly across the supply chain, ensuring consistent forecasts and optimal resource allocation.
 Principle 4 Differentiate product closer to the customer and speed conversion across the supply chain.
 Principle 5Manage sources of supply strategically to reduce the total cost of owning materials and services.
 Principle 6Develop a supply chain-wide technology strategy that supports multiple levels of decision making and gives a clear view of the flow of products, services, and information.
 Principle 7Adopt channel-spanning performance measures to gauge collective success in reaching the end-user effectively and efficiently.

Additional articles of a similar vein help to fill in the details of these blocking and tackling issues. If you’re in need of a game plan refresher, look to these sources:
Of course, knowing these blocking and tackling fundamentals is not enough. You must prepare and execute, according to Lombardi. When discussing the famous “Packer Sweep” play, Lombardi said, “You think there’s anything special about this sweep? Well, there isn’t. We simply do it over and over and over. I want my players to be able to run this sweep in their sleep. If we call the sweep twenty times, I’ll expect it to work twenty times…not eighteen, not nineteen.” 

So, as you enjoy the Super Bowl, focus on which team is better at sticking to their game plan, avoiding distractions, and executing on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. That will be the Super Bowl XLIV champion (thank you Captain Obvious for that brilliant insight). More importantly, it’s the winning strategy that you should emulate to achieve championship caliber supply chain performance.

Now turn on the television and pass the nachos!

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