Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News What José Mourinho Can Teach Us about Team Building

What José Mourinho Can Teach Us about Team Building

This item in japanese

Lire ce contenu en français

Alan O’Callaghan gave a presentation at the Scrum Gathering Portugal 2016 on what José Mourinho can teach us about team building. Starting with the similarities between Football and Scrum, the talk addresses the less understood characteristic that affects Scrum’s effectiveness, that is, according to the speaker, the building of self-organising teams.

O’Callaghan, an active member of the Scrum Patterns Group (ScrumPLoP), first explained that both Football and Scrum:

  • Have a few set of rules that are easily understood;
  • Are played by teams that have to be coached;
  • Provide an almost infinite variety of approaches to achieve success

He then showed the importance of “The Team” for Mourinho, the most successful european football coach. Since his graduation in Sports Science, Mourinho rejects the theories that put focus on individual training; instead, he started to develop his own methodology totally oriented to the team, clearly presented in his quote:

We have to understand that eleven men chasing an objective is completely different from one man doing it.


Complexity, as defined by Edgar Morin, was the next topic highlighted in the talk. According to Mourinho’s friend and biographer Luis Lourenço, he was the first football coach to operationalize complexity in his methods, carrying ideas from the Philosophy field to the concrete human activity.

Some of the inherent characteristics to the Mourinho’s methods, mentioned O’Callaghan, are:

  • There is no separation between the first team and the reserves. Each single player might be called to action at any given moment.
  • Training is no different than playing a real game.
  • Fitness, agility and tactical training are all parts of a single activity called training. There are no separate types of training, every single activity contributes to the final objective.
  • The “player” is also a “social being”.
  • …and there is no separation between the coach and the group!


Three key lessons have emerged during the talk:

  1. The world is a complex system of centres of “wholes” within “wholes”. We need to base actions on an understanding of their interrelationships.
  2. A group of individuals only becomes a team when seduced by a common goal.

  3. When focusing on any component of the system or process, present it in a way that highlights the context in which it exists.


All of them may guide behaviors for both Football and Scrum teams.

The Scrum Patterns Group is working on sequencing events (patterns) and may help us take the next step operationalizing complexity in the Scrum field.


Rate this Article