Total Business

In the early 1970s the trainer of the Dutch national football (Soccer) team, Rinus Michels was faced with an extraordinarily talented player named Johan Cruyff who had a unique style and flair for the game. Asking himself, what he could do with an entire team of such talented individuals,Michels developed a concept which he called Total Football, which was considered revolutionary at the time. Cruyff went on to play for Barcelona and eventually became the coach of the team for many years during which he encouraged a number of players to learn a set of skills and adopt this philosophy of play. One of those players was Pep Guardiola who is Barcelona’s current trainer.


Key characteristics of total football include ideas such as:

  • Team first – there is little room for outsized egos and players who try to score  at the expense of their own teammates.
  • Individual talent & skill – players must have outstanding acceleration, ball control, and an extraordinary ability to make accurate passes
  • Clear objectives – besides scoring goals, possession of the ball is considered key as the other side can not score if they do not have the ball
  • Fluid positions – players switch places constantly and the defense plays a critical role in offensive plays
  • Established subroutines – players know where their teammates will be before they are there
  • Trust – through shared experience and practice the players trust each other completely on the field and respect each other’s competence

Barcelona’s football academy, La Masia, was instrumental in training a generation of young players in the skills and philosophy of play.

Today, this group of players, including Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, and others who today under Guardiola’s leadership are said to play the most effective and attractive football in the world.

Total Buisness draws an analogy between this style of play and the needs of modern multinational companies. At the core is the idea that business is getting more complex and faster and that new tactics and skills are needed for firms to prosper. A complementary idea has to do with style and ethics as in Total business, how a team plays is potentially more important than winning or losing.

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