After 64 matches across 11 cities and three time zones, the world's largest sporting event has drawn to a close once again. That means France's championship victory is the last World Cup match we'll get to see until 2022. The next four years should give soccer fanatics and cynics alike plenty of time to reflect. Hopefully, they'll also use this downtime to plan for their next opportunity in 2022.

Is your organization hoping to make a run for the Procurement championship? Check out some of the Supply Management lessons Source One learned at this year's World Cup.

1. Study the Competition 

Championship coaches, regardless of sport, are constantly studying their competition and adjusting their training strategies accordingly. If you're like me, watching 'game film' was always the best part of practice. No running, no contact, just a chance to build a competitive advantage from the comfort of a chair. It's a less leisurely experience for more gifted coaches and athletes. For the savvy strategist, this off-field time is an indispensable opportunity to draw up new plays and analyze trends among the competition. Taking these lessons learned onto the practice field ultimately promises a greater chance of success when the game is on the line.

Supply Chain Managers gain these same competitive advantages by keeping their eyes and ears open. Scouring publications, absorbing thought leadership, and engaging in ongoing discussions, they can witness the evolution of new best practices and industry standards. This knowledge will help refine their internal processes and provide for more informed decision making across the enterprise.

2. Develop Flexible Training Programs

Knowledge is one thing, but putting that knowledge into practice is another thing altogether. It's not enough for coaches and Supply Chain Managers to build a database. They've got to share their knowledge with the broader team and collaborate in putting it to use.

Many Procurement teams run into trouble as a result of inflexible, ineffective, or outdated training modules. Poorly suited to Procurement's current strategic state, these programs and materials tend to internalize inefficiency and provide for uninspired results. A world-class Procurement function requires training programs customized to its unique structure, goals, and objectives. As these components evolve, so, too, must the training programs.

Any coach will attest to this. Certain drills have become old stand-bys for a reason, but no world-class would settle for simple jogging and weight training. Soccer evolves constantly as new, more dynamic players step onto the world stage. Coaches know they can only prepare for new competition with new methods. In many cases these training methods will take advantage of emerging technologies. In Germany, for example, cutting-edge tools play a key role in talent development. According to The Economist, the German youth soccer program emphasizes the importance of "creativity in random environments." In pursuit of this, experts developed a robotic cage that flings balls randomly from a variety of angles. Though Germany under-performed at this year's Cup, their history of success suggests the value of a tech-enabled approach to training.

3. Defense, Defense, Defense

France entered the 2018 World Cup final having allowed the third-fewest shots of any competitor. The eventual champion, a team that boasts over $1B in talent, took a defense-first approach throughout the tournament. Even renowned goal-scorers Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann functioned mostly as contributors to what The Ringer's Ryan O'Hanlon calls, "one of the all-time great World Cup defenses." This relatively conservative approach paid huge dividends and once again proved that old cliche accurate: Defense wins championships.

Procurement has the capacity to perform like an organization's striker. Aggressively pursing cost reduction opportunities, the function can bring a whole lot of hardware to the trophy case. Across increasingly global and digital supply chains, however, Procurement could prove most essential as a largely defensive function.

Cybersecurity attacks are a daily concern for organizations across a number of industries. Procurement, with its diverse skills and supply chain visibility, is well equipped to manage both preparedness and responses. Just as France broke down the barrier between offense and defense, organizations should blur the lines between IT and Procurement. Without siloes between them, the two departments can more openly share their expertise and align on strategies to address these emerging challenges. Defense doesn't have to be reactive either. Working together, Procurement and other stakeholders can develop an aggressive approach to security that solves problems before they arise.

Work these lessons into your game plan. With time you'll find it easier than ever to meet Procurement's objectives and goaaaaaaaaaals.

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