What Winning Sports Teams Can Teach Us About Successful SCM Implementations

(By Sanjay Jelaji)

Looks like the Indiana Pacers are going to be down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals against Miami. However, they will be coming back home and still stand a good chance of coming back. Another bonus is to see Lebron’s flopping technique being called out when the Miami Heat are on the road. 

So what does managing a professional sports team have to do with managing a typical SCM Implementation? Both teams have resources that are hired for a certain amount of time to get the work done. The sports team is put together for a season and has the objective of working cohesively to achieve the objective of winning. Similarly, an implementation team is put together to achieve the objective of implementing a system with defined scope and needs to be delivered on time and on budget. Both organizations have resources at different levels and with varied skill sets that need to work together as a team to achieve the stated objective. It is important to note that the key common theme for both teams is the word TEAM. It is crucial that leaders and decision makers create an atmosphere for everyone to thrive in the role that they are playing. This atmosphere includes several fundamental things like trust, respect and a belief within the team, and it is the job of leadership to keep communicating that periodically.

Assembling the Team
We all have our biases and opinions on how things should be done and managed. It is important for both teams to understand the overall objective and the role that they are playing to achieve it. The leaders within both teams need to first make the appropriate hiring decisions. The process of putting a team together requires a special talent. You almost need to be a psychologist to figure out the right person for the job. And, of course, there is no such thing as a perfect resource for a specific role. However, this is an important part of the whole process and special attention needs to be paid to it. One has to look beyond the specific skill set of the resource and make an assessment on the ability of the resource to operate within a team.

Defining the Plan and Communicating Objectives
IT project implementations require the scope to be defined clearly. You would think that sports teams don’t really have to deal with scope because it is almost the same for every season. However, sports teams do have to deal with new team members every season. This could be new players or coaches and there is always a new dynamic and approach that needs to be dealt with. And it is important for coaches to communicate their approach and define the scope and boundary of what needs to be done and what doesn’t need to be done. Once the scope, timeline and plan are clearly defined, a lot of decisions can be made quickly for both teams.

Implementing the Plan and Making Adjustments
IT teams generally have project and change management resources to manage the implementation plan. Sports teams have several coaches and support staff to help stick to the plan. The best-laid plans can go wrong and the winning team always has a way of adapting and adjusting the plan. The important thing to keep in mind is that it is always going to be a dynamic environment and leaders in both organizations need to keep adapting to changes as they occur.

There are important lessons that project implementation teams need to learn from sports teams (especially the ones that win). The teams that win do a good job of managing most of the things that have been mentioned above. Of course, it helps to have a few star players but eventually it depends on how the team operates together that differentiates success from failure. It is important for project implementation leaders to take some pointers from sports team coaches and their approach to managing a team.

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Sanjay recently presented a webinar on Considering Shelf Life While Planning Supply.  If you missed it, you can watch the recording here. 

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