Working as a team: Lessons from Total Football
Solomon Kariuki  |  Jan 9, 2020  | 
Solomon Kariuki  |  Jan 9, 2020  |  Brand

"A successful team beats with one heart"- Sarah Redmond.

Total football is a tactical style of football where the traditional roles for outfield players are diminished. Any player can play in any position depending on the demands of the game. This method became famous in the early 70's with the Dutch national soccer team sweeping apart opponents. Its genius was most evident in the 1974 World Cup finals, when an exchange of 65 passes led to a goal even before the West German team could touch the ball.

Looking at the demands of the present day corporate world, teamwork is an integral ingredient in an organization’s success. Collaborative effort by the members of a group is necessary to complete tasks in the most effective and efficient way.

For a group to thrive, the individuals in it must be willing to work harmoniously just like in total football. Each person’s role is diminished and everyone is willing to take up other roles for the greater good. However, for the above to happen, the following key things must be present:

Effective communication – In total football, the opponents thought that the Dutch team spoke telepathically. Each player seemed to know where the other would be even before making a pass. While telepathy is a bit of a stretch, team members should be able to communicate effectively and effortlessly. This applies to both vertical and horizontal communication. Everyone should be in a position to express him/herself. Recent surveys have shown that millennials prefer working in environments where they feel that their opinion is valued.

Flexibility and adaptability – Total football's tactical success hugely depended on the adaptability of each player, specifically, the ability to quickly switch positions depending on the match proceedings. Do note that adaptability in an organization does not necessarily mean cross-department switching of roles. This could be more effective within a department where one is willing to take up new roles and excel in them.

Taking Initiative – In total football, any player who moves out of his position is replaced by his teammate; all while maintaining the team's organizational structure. Seemingly, the ability to take initiative makes people think as part of a group rather than as an individual. They are thus likelier to do more than is required. This results in improved creativity by innovating and developing superior products, subsequently leading to better service provision to the customers.

Total football did not deliver much success to the Dutch team, as they lost the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals. Nevertheless, over the years, it has evolved and mixed with other styles like Spanish Tiki-Taka with tremendous results. More importantly, it provides us with some key take-outs that we could extract in terms of working together as an organization rowing the same direction.

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