Total Management: What We Can Learn From Dutch Football

My comments are in the original link below the article.

Is total football a myth? Is total management an unachievable aspiration?


Source: Total Management: What We Can Learn From Dutch Football

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A long time ago, in a country called the Netherlands… long before two Dutch guys started a corporate rebellion… and long before Jos De Blok started a revolution in nursing and self-management… perhaps even slightly before Gerard Endenburg developed Sociocracy, there was another revolution happening in the way we organise ourselves. This pioneering work in organisational philosophy, was happening at Ajax Football Club and in the Dutch National Football Team. Let me explain…

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In the 1960s, the Dutch Football Team were a reasonably obscure and small football team, but things were about to change thanks to the help of a man called Rinus Michels. Michels, had successfully managed Ajax to league titles and a number of European Cup victories, and was pioneering a method now known as Total Football. This method has been described as a ‘systems thinking’ approach to football and hypothesised that it was possible to change the perceived size of the pitch during the game. When the opposition had the ball, they would be circled, making the pitch feel very small. When their team regained possession of the ball, players would spread far and wide, thus making the pitch feel huge and the opposition’s job of regain possession like a long struggle.

Total Football

At the time, the English method was static and firmly rooted to playing with 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 strikers, and the Italian method (Catenaccio) was all about having a strong immovable defence. Total Football however, was the antithesis to these rigid structures. This revolutionary organisational method asked for a more fluid approach to football, one which was relative rather than absolute. In Total Football, all players could play the role of any other player on the field and were immediately replaced in their position by one of their teammates. One way of explaining this I’ve heard is that whilst 4-4-2 more or less asks everybody to stay in position, in Total Football, the pitch is seen as a grid. Players have a kind of ‘home box’ on the grid. When they leave their box, the system adjusts, each player moving to ensure each box is taken. The team shape shifts as needed, allowing for the kind of emergence and creativity needed to unsettle static teams.

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Of course, this method asked for a different type of player. It wasn’t enough anymore to be a right back. A defender had to have skills on the ball. And a striker needed to be able to do their bit at the back. Players needed to be ‘T-Shaped’, that is to say great at one thing and good at many. Or as a friend once said to me: “We need to be jacks of all trades and masters of some”. Total Football players needed to be adaptable and intelligent in order to adapt with the system.

Let me pause for a second… Does any of this ring a bell?


Continues in source: Total Management: What We Can Learn From Dutch Football