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We can learn a lot from Johann Cruyff’s “total football” by recognizing that people are the key asset of the IT organization. Greatness (value creation) is achieved when all people are working together cross boarder in an atmosphere of creativity and innovation to support the overall business vision and ambition. We call it Agile IT Management!

There are moments in time when a practice is transformed to reach a new level of excellence. Often the transformation is driven by a genius that dare to think differently and challenge the traditional – and show great success. One such genius is Johann Cruyff (recently passed away) who revolutionized football in the 1970’s to what it is today. A few days ago, he passed away in Barcelona but this legacy will always shine on the football pitch. It was an idea of “total football” based on creativity and innovation involving all players on the pitch. Earlier, football was based on an idea to minimize risk (defensive) and Cruyff idea was to optimize outcome (offensive). This is theory still is the foundation for clubs like FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The question I ask myself is how “total football” would look like in IT management. Isn’t it so that the current IT philosophy is based on risk minimization (operational excellence) instead of value creation? What can IT management learn from the ideas of Johann Cruyff?

The key principle for Cruyff’s idea is that all players are involved in offensive and defensive ambitions of the team through creativity and innovation. For me, this idea can be translated into IT management and is the ultimate IT management where IT (all parts) and business play together in beautiful harmony in creating value and experience for its end customers. We need to recognize that people are the key asset of the IT organization and greatness (value creation) is achieved when all people are working together cross boarder to support the overall vision and ambition. To many times, I see IT organizations revolving around tools and processes – and people are mainly viewed as production units. It creates silos and extremely complex governance to figure out how to get things done.

Today, I see IT organizations with ambitions to support business in a new way – with full focus on value creation. But the challenges are solved using old tools resulting in new complex governance structure, processes and tools. The key is in the people and that we view people as our key asset. That we allow for a “total football” in the It organizations where people are allowed to leverage their creativity and innovation in a common vision to create the best value for business. That IT Operations, Business Relationship and IT Governance play the same game and actually could be exchangeable – with fast and creative interactions. That is the way forward for the digital IT organization – we call it Agile IT Management (read more: hansgillior.wordpress.com).

My point of view is that IT organizations can learn a lot from the ideas of Cruyff in terms of “total football” and how we view ourselves. Many football players had probably thought the same ideas before him, but Johann Cruyff was the first to “implement” the ideas into practice. He dared to go against the traditional and the conservative, and take the football to a new level. And, isn’t it the same way in IT management? That there are people talking about new ideas but very few dare to that the step and challenge. These are the real heroes of the IT organization.

My recommendations:

  • Who are your heroes who dared to change the conventional way of working? What can you learn from them?
  • What are the key assets in your IT organization? People and competence, or processes and tools?
  • What are you willing to change to support business ambitions in the digital era? Success is built on challenging our current mindset and way of working – are you willing to go there?
  • Contact Hans Gillior (Sofigate) to discuss Agile IT Management – the way of optimize business value creation in the digital era.

During the Football World Cup in 1974, Sweden played an equal game against the Netherlands staring Johann Cruyff. Most Swedes don’t remember the score but rather a sequence of the game where Johann Cruyff invented a new trick and fools the Swedish defender off the pitch. This was pure genius and innovation in a single moment of the game. IT organization has the same opportunities to display our genius and innovation in contact with business – and that is what business expects. It is all about daring to do the unexpected and innovate in the moment to create business value in a new way. Do you dare to be innovative and creative in the next meeting with business?

Hans Gillior – Senior Advisor (Sofigate)

Read more: hansgillior.wordpress.com