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The Power of Three!

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

September sees the start of the Rugby World cup in Japan, and Rugby is a game that I have grown to love ever since my son started playing for a local junior’s


What can Procurement Learn from the Rugby in Japan?

I have, over the years picked up the subtleties of the game from listening to the coaches and how they would develop the young players to read the game, support each other and operate as a single entity - with a multitude of different roles all coalescing to become a team in the true sense of the word.

Japan has also been responsible for some very important improvements to purchasing and supply-chain management, especially from the perspective of Quality, Cost and Delivery combining forces to become a powerful approach to supply chain management. I learnt this from my days at Nissan in the UK, where their supply mantra was “QCDDM” – Quality, Cost, Delivery, Development and Management, all being considered in the selection and development of their production suppliers. Many organisations have adopted the QCD (Quality Cost and Delivery) principle, but often fall short in its delivery. How many times have you seen supply selection based on ticket price (to the detriment of quality and delivery performance)?, and how many times have you heard the comment that “we can of course improve the quality, but it will cost you more”. Where there is pressure to save money, the combining of QCD often becomes window dressing causing frustration between different parts of the wider supply chain organisation.

In a recent procurement transformation, the functions of Purchasing, Supplier Quality and Logistics were all co-located as part of wider category management

Quality, Cost and Delivery - The Magic 3!

teams, and a Rugby analogy was used to explain how the functions should be working together; Whenever there is an issue with one aspect of the wider team, the other two should be on their shoulders supporting – the Rugby coaches would describe this as being part of a “pod” of three.

For example, if there is a supply quality issue, then the SQA engineer “had the ball”, but they should be directly supported by both the purchasing and logistics representative. This way all functions are represented, and a more balanced approach can be taken. In the same way, if there was a delivery problem, then logistics would have the ball, but with Purchasing and Quality standing side by side with them. This was more than a theoretical positioning as it became important for all parties to consider the impact on each other – In many cases solutions to issues came from the sharing of knowledge between SQA, Logistics and Purchasing.

So “Three” can really be a magic number - “Omne trium perfectum” – Everything that comes in threes is perfect!

Dr Paul Joesbury

Dr Paul Joesbury is the founder of the Procurement Doctor Blog and is a procurement transformation specialist with over twenty years of experience gained internationally within Automotive, Aerospace, Defence, Leisure Vehicles, Local Government and Packaging sectors. He is graduate engineer, with an MBA and completed his Aston University Doctorate (DBA) in 2016, where he undertook research into procurement effectiveness and procurement transformation.

The Procurement Doctor blog ( has been designed for procurement and supply chain professionals to share best practice in order to improve both our profession and its reputation. Come and join the debate – contributions, articles and editorial content always welcome

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1 Comment

The rugby analogy is excellent and I would like to go one step further. Each player should have the honed skills relevant to his position, but without the rest of the team is powerless against any organised opposition. People often think that in the manufacturing context this means that each person is constrained like an automaton, however, the best wins are always where individual players use their flair and brilliance within the structure of the team and the rules to offer something that delivers more than the sum of the whole team.

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