I get the ball, I pass the ball.

Perhaps the best midfielder in the world, Xavi, explains how he and Barcelona is so successful in the game of soccer: “I get the ball, I pass the ball. I get the ball, I pass the ball”.

I use his quote to make business people understand what 100% responsibility, simplicity and immediate relevance is all about. It is a simple enough statement, but it is only immediately relevant in business when you understand the meaning of the two operative words “get” and “pass”. Xavi didn’t say “I happen to get the ball, I get rid of the ball. The ball got to me, I kick it somewhere.”

Let’s take a look at the definitions of those words. From Mirriam Webster’s:

Get: To gain possession of, to seek out and obtain.

To “get” the ball means to seek out and obtain and gain possession of the ball. It is a causative action – the player takes 100% responsibility for the input – getting the ball under his control.

And for the sports definition of “pass”, we turn to Wiktionary:

Pass: The act of moving the ball or puck from one player to another.

To “pass” the ball is to take 100% responsibility for the output – that the ball passes from one’s own control to that of a teammate.

This is the essence of the article titled “Processes, automation and human potential“. It is a simple concept and very visible when it fails or succeeds in soccer. But oh so difficult to get people to understand and practice in the business world.

One doesn’t just sit around and wait for the input, one obtains the input needed to produce value in one’s job. One takes 100% responsibility for getting what one needs in order to deliver what is expected. And 100% responsibility means no blame, shame or regret – only that one gets the needed input.

And one doesn’t just pass off any package out of one’s area of responsibility. One ensures the customer really gets the value expected, or better. The customer is the recipient of the value one creates. whether internal or external to the company.

This is all about 100% responsibility. And it is simple – that’s why it works so well. And it is immediately relevant. Even in the family, among friends or in business.

Xavi really gets it, and he’s the best.

11 thoughts on “I get the ball, I pass the ball.

  1. Nice observation. Harvard Business school has been messing this up since about the 70’s.
    They don’t put a person there. The thinking is that personnel are fungible (one is as good as the other – it’s a commodities definition – one barrel of oil is as good as any other barrel of oil) and can be interchangeably used. There is isn’t any understanding of the value of a trained corrected person. They also don’t understand that people like to work. They take pride in it. They expand their space around it. They take responsibility for the whole company and their part in it, and their customers.
    We drove a company to over 5 billion dollars a year in billing in 8 years from nothing, by making sure our customers won all the time. We all liked and worked hard for our customers, and they knew it.
    Also the ‘corrected’ is important. When you come out of school with the basics, you still don’t know the key points , and the priorities and correct evaluations of things, and it takes time and mentoring, and making mistakes and getting them corrected to become really effective.
    I used to hire people, and I always hired people who had a demonstrated record of getting things done, over degrees, and such. Lot of PHD computer science guys that are not effective at all.
    They can’t do the simple basic things that are the most key. And they can’t talk with customers.
    I’m usually more deeply technical than anyone I know, and I can talk with people and help them at their level of understanding.
    The soccer player you cited, I am sure did a great deal of practice, and got some very effective mentoring and coaching to become what he is. He had natural talent, but it was developed.

    Developed is a key point.

    Always nice to see your posts.

    I was in the hospital for about a month so I’ve been out of it. Almost back to battery now.


    1. Glad you are back – in shape and posting here. I really like your contributions.

      People as commodities is a damaging viewpoint. People create and use and consume commodities. People cause, commodities are the effect of causation.

  2. Geir,
    Thanks. Glad to be back. To some degree this reminds me of the name, want and get your product policies. You need to be able to specify exactly what products and sub products you want to produce. You really need to want those products. And you have to actually produce those products.

    Notice to that there is a flow there. A repetitive flow between you and your co-workers, you and your customers, your customers and you. Without the flow there are no products, there are no customers, there are no businesses, and there isn’t any success.

    Oddly enough, in quantum physics Max Planck showed that everything that flows in the universe flows at a particular frequency, times a constant, called Planck’s constant. All matter is actually energy in motion, it’s another form of flow. Flow occurs between two areas of different potential, held together by a base. The base in customer relations is the agreements made between yourself and the customer, which hold the relationship in place, and then flow occurs back and forth as part of the natural comm cycle of customers and providers.

    What I always did with customers was to build up good will, and trust on their part so they knew when something happened, as it does, I was there to fix it, would fix it, and they were in safe and caring hands. No matter what it was, and when it was.

    A good team will have that trust between themselves, and you will see the natural flow occur based on the ebb and flow of the game.

    That happens by practice, and repetition and training, and going through hell together.

    Some people aren’t there and they aren’t playing the game, and you alluded to that. And it’s low quality, and people really pick up on that, and absolutely hate it.

    I get the ball, I pass it on.

    I got the ball, I’m passing it back to you.


  3. I’m not a businessman, but I’m a longtime and vivid football fan. In my opinion, Barcelona’s Playstation type of game is modern and can be an inspiration for many domains, but in the end, the “goal” of the game is…the goal itself! In British culture football still means “kick and run”. As long as the game is over both in football or business and the victory is accomplished, does it really matter the way the best result is gained?

    1. According to my linked article, it does not matter how. One focus on the output (the goal) and takes 100% responsibility for the delivery of that. Then one takes 100% responsibility for obtaining the required input and then one takes 100% responsibility for whatever needs to happen in between the two. It doesn’t much matter what that inbetween is.

      The same goes for each player on the field – and that is precisely why Xavi’s quote is so applicable.

  4. I like this article. What comes to mind is intentional, fully present and engaged. Nice!

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