Why CrossFitters are better Supply Chain Managers

More than 380,000 people have signed up for the CrossFit Open 2017, a challenge to find the fittest person on Earth based on 5 painful workouts for 5 weeks. That’s a whole lot of effort to put into your training. A few years back, everyone had to include at least one full marathon on their CV, but these days it seems that CrossFit has taken over. I recently attended the Nordic StrategyForum Supply Chain and Procurement conference in Riga, where one of the topics was how to achieve a more balanced and mindful working life. This triggered me to combine these two passions of mine and to think about what supply chain managers could learn from this rapidly growing sport.

By Heidi Larsen, Supply Chain Princess


#1 Burpees
Everyone hates them, but they are an inevitable part of your training. SCM relevance: Travel. Go there. Visit your supplier. When I first started out almost 15 years ago, there was still a certain prestige in business travel. I no longer see that to the same extent. In fact, people are protective of their free time outside of business hours – and especially the weekends, when the good connections to Asia take off from Europe. However, if you want to be successful, you must include travel in your work life. You cannot know what’s going on at your factory site from behind your desk.

#2 Thrusters
From what I hear, everyone loves to hate these as well: an exercise lifting a barbell from the floor to over your head and back. It’s exhausting. SCM relevance: You have to stick at it, even when you’re tired. Thorkild Christiensen from Novo once taught me that the correct answer to the supplier’s question of when you are leaving is “when we are finished”. I think this is a very good way to show that you’re willing and able to spend all the time necessary to solve a given challenge.

#3 Rope Climb
At first glance this seems impossible – but it is doable using the right technique. SCM relevance: It’s not dangerous to not know everything; it’s dangerous to not know what you don’t know. Always strive to learn more about the culture of the place where you’ve chosen to do business and the people with whom you work. Be curious. Ask questions. And, most importantly, listen.

#4. Handstand Pushups
This exercise was one of the first to truly impress me. You stand on your head, and push your entire body straight upwards. SCM relevance: View the world from a different angle. Try to understand your supplier’s reality – and think about not only what you can gain from the relationship but also what can you give.

#5 Tyre flip
Flipping a 100kg tyre is simply fun. SCM relevance: Obstacles will occur, but you can overcome them – again using the right technique. Learning exactly where and how to act will make the task much easier. And if you make it a fixed part of your training, one day it might even look graceful.

Working out gives me mental energy and power. It releases endorphins and it helps me to think about something subconsciously so that I can hit on a better solution to the challenge afterwards. Studies show that after being tasked with something, it’s better to go and do something else first and then come back to it, as your subconscious mind will start working on the solution even when you’re not actively thinking about it. Maybe a bit more mental energy and power could lead to better solutions to your supply chain challenges?