Hitting a Strategic Sourcing Home Run


I’m not a huge baseball fan, but my daughter gave me the book Moneyball (used at many leading business schools) by Michael Lewis and I was eager to see the movie.  Brad Pitt takes a break from his jet-setting life with Angelina Jolie to play Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Billy Beane is well-known for fundamentally redefining the way baseball teams make decisions and challenging the way teams had been managed for over a century.  He essentially changes the decision criteria used to select players to a much more fact-based model, which focuses on the real value the players bring toward the Intended Consequences (getting a win).  Once he redesigns the consonants (People, Process, Technology), he quickly realizes that getting to the expected results is still far away. It’s not until he focuses on the vowels (Adoption, Execution, Implementation, Optimization and Utilization) that the results start showing up.  The constraints he faces should sound very, very familiar to everyone.  Follow the trail and tell me if you agree that we all need to be a Brad Pitt (no that does not come with Angelina Jolie).

  • Faces resource constraints in terms of total budget available – SIGNIFICANTLY less than the competition
  • Entrenched resistance
    • Scouts who still evaluate talent the way it’s been for decades (decision models and processes)
    • Salaries of players based on old metrics (reward system)
    • Players who define their roles based on those metrics
    • Middle management (Manager) a TOTAL barrier to change
    • Players totally fighting the change
    • An organizational attitude that accepts failure
  • An environment (the entire sport of baseball) that is openly hostile to every move he makes
  • Changing the entire Value Chain and redefining the way value is created(getting on base leads to wins)
  • Dealing with early losses and still getting the organization to stay committed
  • Getting rid of some of the players to set an example
  • Create value from a supply market (players) that has been sourced by the competition already

The parallels continue.  By the way, those of you not familiar with this particular story or baseball in general, a parallel might be what Lionel Messi and Barcelona have done in terms of redefining soccer away from long kicks and passes to short passes and a possession game.  Even though they have clearly proven that it is far superior to the competition, others have been very slow to adopt.  This concept is why you need Next Practices as a way to create an advantage while others chase Best Practices.

The more interesting question is what you do to stay on top while others adopt the same style and strategy.  And if you think I’m stretching the argument, you will find that since a large portion of baseball has adopted Billy Beane’s vision, his old techniques no longer provide the leverage.  In fact, he cannot compete because he does not have the resources that the other teams do.  And since they are sourcing the same pool of players using the same techniques, his leverage (exploiting market inefficiency) is gone.  This is no different than Supply Chain/Sourcing organizations going back into the supplier market using the same techniques that everyone else is using (Best Practices).  In fact, the best model of that are now the Milwaukee Brewers, not the Oakland A’s.  And even they have had to continuously adapt because everyone has adopted the same tools.  And oh by the way, we all assume in the Supply Chain world that the supply market has not adjusted to the techniques that we have been using?  If you think of it as a system that seeks equilibrium, that assumption just does not hold true.  If you would like a more detailed presentation on this, let us know.



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