What does a good old-fashioned rugby match have to do with delivering impeccable supply service? Quite a bit, actually.
At Ingredient Brothers we’ve been relying on the Scrum Methodology to produce service as efficiently as possible for some time now. And as a result, instead of butting heads in a real scrum, we’re able to work together more effectively thanks to a singular drive that ties the whole team together.
But what are the true connections between the sport and the methodology?
The search for something new
The birth of rugby is rooted in breaking the rules and finding new possibilities. And it all began when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and started running with it during a football match at Rugby School in 1823, going against the grain to see what would happen if he did things differently.
That same attitude is what drives the Scrum Methodology today. At its core, Scrum is about seeing what is and what could be at the same time, just like William seeing the ball and thinking, “What if I picked it up instead of kicking it this time?”
It was in Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi’s 1986 Harvard Business Review article “The New New Product Development Game” that this analogy between rugby and business processes was born. And then Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber’s The Scrum Guide took inspiration from those ideas and helped to introduce a new generation of team leaders to a new way of looking at service delivery.
And over the years, even though the connection to rugby has been downplayed (or just mentioned in passing), the core parallels are undeniable.
Jumping from the field to the boardroom
The parallels between the sport and the methodology can be summed up in three primary elements: forward movement, adaptability, and context.
Moving forward as a unit
In rugby, the scrum always moves forward as a unit. Every action and decision is driven by a singular goal. The result is a unified team pushing forward as one, not multiple people giving it their all, but working entirely in silos. When a team does the same in the office, individuals get to benefit from the energy of their teammates as everyone works towards a singular goal.
Finding solutions on the go
The linear, phased approach to service delivery simply isn’t effective when you’re working with a supply chain that has multiple touchpoints. The incremental approach, where everyone works together simultaneously, allows teams to stay flexible and adaptive throughout the delivery cycle.
With this approach challenges and hiccups on the road are dealt with immediately by an entire team. The result is greater involvement throughout the team, improved communications, and shared responsibility that improves input.
Molding to the situation
And finally, the element that makes Scrum so unique: context. Just like no two rugby matches are ever truly the same, Scrum implementation doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) look the same in any two scenarios either. Its application is entirely contingent on the context in which it is applied.
Each order and client is unique and brings with it a unique context that requires an approach that meets the needs of the moment, not a pre-set checklist of steps to take when challenges arise.
How has Scrum changed the way Ingredient Brothers do things?
To be an effective strategic supplier, the Ingredient Brothers team works in Scrum squads that tackle the challenges of each project head-on (pun totally intended). But Scrum isn’t just about delivering improved service. The positive effect of this adaptive approach is felt as much internally as it is externally.
Every person in the squad is actively engaging with the solutions at hand. Whether it’s order fulfillment, ingredient sourcing, or wholesale supply chain management, each person plays a part in the end result. There is no action or effort that doesn’t somehow impact the final outcome of bulk shipments. And that shared responsibility is what keeps morale up at all times.
There isn’t a single moment you forget that you’re part of something bigger than yourself and part of a team that is as committed as you are to seeing things work out.
Now I know what you’re thinking: this sounds far too poetic. But when you’re an importer and distributor working with wholesale bulk orders, there is a poetry to things running smoothly.
Searching for a better solution through the noise
“Under the holistic or rugby approach, the phases overlap considerably, which enables the group to absorb the vibration or “noise” generated throughout the development process.”
Ikujiro Nonaka & Hirotaka Takeuchi
It’s listening to that ‘noise,’ the frictions that arise in every supply journey, that helps us address issues as they arise and find strategic inventory solutions simultaneously, not sequentially.
Every step of the Ingredient Brothers service journey is driven by seeing what is and what could be, and searching for ways to do things differently and more efficiently together. And what better way to do that than pulling together into a scrum and pushing forward towards the next goal?