It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 25 years since the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team took the Barcelona games by storm in 1992. Nicknamed the "Dream Team," this group of athletic superstars, which featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley, crushed their competitors by an average of 44 points.

You might think that your supply chain and the Dream Team are in entirely different leagues—and professions, for that matter.

However, if you look at the way this group of NBA stars, which had always competed against each other in the past, were able to work together with one goal in mind, you may discover some interesting lessons that will put a new spin on your supply chain.

Don't Let One Player Trump Unity

Surprisingly, Michael Jordan was not the captain of the Dream Team. Knowing that his stardom would detract from and overshadow the team, Jordan did not take the position. Rather than having one domineering figure on the court, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson split the responsibility as co-captains. Their ability to work seamlessly together under the leadership of coach Chuck Daly helped bring to the table differing strategies (some better than others) that would otherwise have been lost if only one person was in charge.

Likewise, each leg of your supply chain has its own priorities and driving forces. The supplier wants to know when they can pack the container. The carrier wants to know when they can pick up the container at the port. The warehouse services provider wants to know when the carrier will arrive.

When you allow one player to drive the entire team, it can be easy for that individual to get carried away with their own strategy. A good coach will make sure that the ball gets down the court. A great coach, however, will make sure that the team is working together to guard and protect whoever is carrying the ball at any given moment. 

Study Your Competition

Jordan spent countless hours watching game tapes of the other nation's teams. Not only was he focused on his own game, he was equally focused on knowing the competitors' game. His dedication to studying the competition helped him identify cracks and opportunities that would help the Americans overtake their opponents on the court.

In the same vein, you can study your own competition to learn how they consistently score 3-pointers or why they keep stumbling as the clock counts down. Read the supply chain trade magazines, download supply chain success case studies and ask your transportation contacts what practices are working and not working for others.  

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A Humbling Lesson From Coach Daly

In preparation for the games, the Dream Team scrimmaged against a group of the best NCAA players. In the first match, coach Daly gave Jordan minimal court time and put in players that didn't match up against the weaknesses and strengths of the NCAA team. As a result, the Olympians lost to the college kids—an intentional reminder from Daly that even the best of the best are capable of losing if the entire team isn't playing to their strengths.

When it comes to your supply chain, always keep in mind that even under the greatest of conditions, sudden disruptions can occur. Whether it's your overseas supplier, LTL carrier or expedited air services provider, make sure that you're putting in the right player at the right time. Mistakes will happen. There's no doubt about it.

Learn from them and keep traveling towards the gold!