What Mexico, Japan, and Senegal’s shocking 2018 world cup wins can teach us…

about strategy execution

Published on: June 2018

Written by: Rommin Adl

At the start of the 2018 World Cup finals – the biggest global sporting event outside of the Olympics – underdogs Mexico, Japan, and Senegal shocked the world with a stunning preliminary victory.

Mexico, ranked 15th, Japan, ranked 61st, and Senegal, 27th, outscored their heavily-favored opponents, Germany, 1st, Colombia, 16th, and Poland, 8th, respectively.1, 2This is an unusual result. CBS sports experts handily predicted Colombia as the victor of Group H with five of six experts selecting them as the winner, and not a single expert foresaw Japan’s victory.

So what set Mexico, Japan, and Senegal apart? What allowed them to beat their opponents who were vetted to take it all?

Coach Akira Nishino of Japan cited “hard work,” “endurance,” and “experience” as the essential elements of their success, describing the finish of this match as “the best possible result.”3

While I’ll leave it to the sports experts to speculate exactly how these upsets happened, there is one clear component – the “hard work” and “experience” Nishino cited, stem from thousands of hours of practice. For all teams in the World Cup tournament, every arcing goal, measured kick across the field, and dramatic stop of the ball inches from the goal line is the result of a significant investment of time in practice.

Before setting foot on the field, players have put in countless hours of drills, strength training, and film review, using intense training to learn how to respond to the high-intensity challenges of being in the game.

We expect this of professional (and even amateur) sports teams. Professional soccer players never go into a World Cup match without practicing first, so why would we let our corporate leaders and their teams enter high stakes business situations without giving them a chance to try things out? Like the consequences of erring in a World Cup match, the risks of making a mistake on the job in the business world are huge — new strategy investments can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Fortunately, through the use of customized business simulations, individuals can practice making critical business decisions in a risk-free environment and gain this much needed experience.

A customized business simulation of your enterprise, business unit or process, using real-world competitive dynamics, places leaders in a context where they step out of their normal day-to-day roles and gain exposure to the big picture. Participants make decisions in a risk-free environment, allowing them to experience critical interdependencies, execution best practices and levers that they can use to optimize their company’s key performance indicators.

Within minutes of being placed in a simulation, participants grapple with issues and decisions that they must make — now. A year gets compressed into a day or less. Competition among teams spurs engagement, invention and discovery.

Simulations have a broad range of applications, from building deep strategic alignment to developing business acumen to driving leadership development and sales transformations. No matter the application, well-designed business simulations are proven to significantly accelerate the time to value of corporate initiatives. A new strategy can be delivered to a global workforce and execution capability can be developed quickly, consistently and cost-effectively. Back on the job, participants own the new strategy and share their enthusiasm and commitment. Results can be measured in company alignment, team effectiveness, revenue growth and share price.

Interested in learning more about the value of simulations? Here’s how Coca-Cola leverages business simulations to grow revenue management skills, and how Intuit uses business simulations so that new managers can practice making strategic business decisions. Check it out!