Lessons from the NFL – Why Procurement People Need to Learn from Seattle and Russell Wilson

Please forgive an Englishman for commenting on your US national game, but I am a genuine American football fan. I remember supporting the Patriots back in the early 1990s when they were truly the worst team in the NFL for a while.

Last night I sat up until midnight UK time watching one of the most dramatic games (not “the best” in any technical sense, but certainly dramatic) as Seattle beat Green Bay in overtime for the NFC championship. And there were some takeaways, I thought, that all of us in procurement and beyond might note.

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Never Give Up

Seattle and their quarterback Russell Wilson were bad in the first 2 quarters. I mean, really, really deeply rubbish. If you didn’t watch it, I just cannot emphasize how poor they were. Get the ball, throw it back to Green Bay. Embarrassing. Green Bay should have been 25 points ahead at half time. But, Seattle kept going. Even after 4 interceptions, Wilson kept believing in himself and the team. And eventually that paid off.

So when your stakeholders just don’t want to know, suppliers won’t play ball, just remember that tenacity and persistence count for at least as much as brilliance and brains in this world. Keep going.

Play to Win

Green Bay was the architect of its own downfall. You could see the Packers stop attacking once they were well ahead. Very defensively minded, not going for big plays and sliding to ground rather than running on after another interception. Indeed, even when they were on top early on, they kicked field goals rather than going for the one-yard touchdowns. Defensive play has its place but it often doesn’t work.

In business, it is very hard to just defend. If you are not growing, you are dying. If you are not moving forward, you are going backward. The same applies to procurement functions and indeed all of us as individuals. You only live once, and sometimes you have to go for it and not just sit back and hope the right things happen.

Do Your Job

Two minutes left, Seattle still 5 points down even after their second touchdown. They take an onside kick. Instead of blocking the oncoming Seahawks - his job - and letting his teammate, the better ball player, make the catch, Brandon Bostick goes for glory and leaps for the ball. He drops it straight into the arms of the Seattle guy. Possession back to Seattle and 1 minute later, they are ahead.

If the Packers make that catch, they almost certainly win. DO YOUR JOB. Not my job, not his job. Your job. Once you can do that job really, really well, then maybe you can do someone else’s job too or instead.

Sport is Great

OK, business and procurement don’t really compare to a great sports event. But if you never get any excitement, or drama, or tension, or a feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction out of your job, then maybe you need to look for another job. (I have been in that situation in the past, and I do understand the risks and issues. But my advice is sound.) Sometimes we have to go for it and sling that ridiculous 2-point conversion pass up into the end zone with a minute left, as Wilson did last night. If he hadn’t, the final Green Bay field goal would have sealed matters, but that 2-pointer meant we went into overtime. And the rest is history.

What a great game! But the Seahawks are still going to lose to the Patriots, of course.

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