World Cup fever: Scoring the goal

Silhouettes of People Holding Flags From Various CountriesDuring holidays and special events, we tend see the same themes in supply chain blog posts. The post on the logistical challenge of Christmas deliveries, the supply chain commentary on Valentine’s Day flower forecasting, harvesting and shipping, and the production processing post on chocolate Easter bunnies.

Not quite so frequent (but just as regular) are the posts about the football supply chain, or the supply and demand of food and beverages at stadiums. These posts still come about every two or four years, in line with the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup.

Here in our German office, even in the company of mainly scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it is next to impossible not to hear about the World Cup and all things “Fussball”. But while colleagues are busy discussing the exciting group match between Portugal and Germany, I think about how the three levels of planning also relate to a typical football match.

During a game, a football player has to make decisions based on the information at hand, including which players are around him.Obviously, there are limits to how much information he can take in or process, and this limits his choices. That split second in which Schweinsteiger decides to pass the ball to a teammate is a moment of tactical – or short-term – planning.

Olé to Operations Research (OR)

Take a step back and now we are looking at more of a medium-term planning approach – the operational planning level. Here, the person in charge is, of course, the coach. For example, Joachim Löw plans the team’s strategy by also taking into account his team’s setup and the players that will play in a specific match. Other factors such as the location, how the crowd affects the team, weather conditions, recent player injuries and the amount of optimal playing time … all of these are worked into an operational plan.

The players and coach are involved in short-term to medium-term planning. What about long-term and truly strategic planning? Who is planning the coach that is planning the players that are planning their next move? If we take Germany as an example, we see that even Joachim Löw has a manager, DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach. Wolfang is already mapping out the national team’s strategy for the coming year. He is thinking about what to look for in future recruits in order to build a solid group. He is deciding on what leadership style and traits the next coach (whether it is Joachim or not) must possess.

Yes, there are similarities to planning the success of a business and planning the success of a national football team. Even beyond the three levels of planning; optimal decisions and risk assessment for a supply chain are based just as much on theories, calculations and research as they are in the world of football.

So, the next time you’re chanting “Olé, olé, olé”, take a minute to think about all of the considerations that came together to make this exciting event truly optimal.

What are your thoughts on football and business planning? Leave us a comment below or drop Janine a tweet @JanineOlariu.