The Barcelona Way - Notes

2008 The Board of Barcelona FC elect to appoint Pep Guardiola as Head Coach – not the fans choice and definitely the outsider to a number of bigger names in the frame.

The book is an analysis of how central building and maintain the culture was to the spectacular successes that followed and how understanding the building blocks of culture can create a map for other teams and organizations to think about and apply in their own context.

‘Success has nothing to do with good luck but lots to do with a good culture’.

In 1994 James Baron & Michael Hannan 2 Business school professors at Standford set out to prove their long term assertion that culture mattered to business success as much as strategy did. Their project focused around silicone valley start ups and took 15 years with a detailed longitudinal study of 200 firms. They concluded companies could broadly be categorized as having 1 of 5 types of identifiable cultures.

The star culture based on hiring elite talent from prestigious universities and firms.

Engineering culture. Primacy of engineers within the business

Bureaucracies. Lots of middle managers, processes, org charts job descriptions etc

Autocracies. Similar to above plus the centrality of 1-overall leader

Commitment model. Tended to put people first and attract people whose personal values were reflected in the company.

Commitment cultures in the data were the only types of companies to be consistent winners outperforming every other type of management style in a meaningful way. None of these companies failed.

Barcelona FC had been a star culture but that was about to change.

Hughes identified 5 elements to the commitment culture at Barcelona which he characterizes as; The big picture, Arc of change, Repetition, Cultural architects and authentic leadership.

Big picture is about clarity of an overall sense of direction it’s the north star that allows the organization to navigate. A vision of the future

Arc of change. What is change going to look like, what signposts and way markers will we use to navigate the map provided in the big picture?

Repetition of key systems and processes.

Cultural architects. These are people who can change and influence the mindset of others, they break down resistance to change, transmit their own self-confidence and help build shared mental models.

Authentic leadership. All change needs leadership with culture this is about both what the leader does and does not do.

4 factors to creating a culture:

  1. Imagination – emotional connection to what might be
  2. Illustration – how are we going to get there
  3. Participation – consultation and co-authorship other peoples ideas and contribution
  4. Integration – embedding change

Identity and purpose are very important so understand your why in order to understand deepest drivers of motivational fuel

‘Think less about what to expect from life but rather ask yourself what life expects from you’ Victor Frankl

Starbucks – ‘We are a people business serving coffee, not a business serving people coffee’ Howard Shultz

‘A coaches job is to explain to athletes who, what, where when why and how they are going to succeed.’

Joe Rhode senior creative exec at Disney twice presented to Disny board and idea for a new park featuring live animals, this was twice rejected. The third time he bought a live Bengal tiger to make the point. They got then the idea of the animal kingdom.

Daydreaming (visualization) works best when you think about both the goal and the obstacles you’re likely to encounter.

Johan Cruyff – 3 main criteria when explaining what in the big picture of the culture: Credibility, clarity and cojones.

The big picture will be empty talk if it not matched with behavioural level execution. Successful change requires the translation of ambiguous goals into tangible behaviours. Behavioural goals are far more important in making effective change.

Guardiola’s ladder of behavioural priorities were:

  1. Humility
  2. Hard work
  3. Team player

‘Talent will get you into the dressing room but how you behave within the culture determines how long you will stay there’ – Tixiki Bergiristain

Arc of Change

Every change journey has 5 stages: Dream, Leap, Fight, Climb, Arrive.

Signposting the journey is key to help everyone navigate and stay orientated to the process. Speeches, stories, ceremonies and symbols.

Pixar storytelling method 6 sentences:

  1. Once upon a time there was a
  2. Every day
  3. One day
  4. Because of that
  5. Because of that
  6. Until finally

Guardiola’s leadership style is focused on relationships:

Seeks to create belonging by establishing clear vivid identity

Be vulnerable and talk openly about emotional states to create safety and trust

Speak to the whole person and connect to things beyond the field and the game

Tell the truth

Recurring systems and processes

‘All our life, so far as it has any definite form, is but a mass of habits’ William James 1892, father of modern psychology.

‘Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly ever acquire the skill to do difficult things easily’ James R Corbett, boxer.

Stop judging talent and start observing character.

Feedback loops. Speed limit compliance is increased by 30-60 per cent when radar speed signs are in place.

A feedback loop has 4 stages: evidence, relevance, consequence and action.

Links to Boyd’s OODA loops and the notion that speed and agility are really about information processing.

Karen May VP people development at Google – speedback process. In activity feedback time out drill – 3 minutes in pairs knee to knee based What advice would you give me based on the experience you’ve had with me here?’

Action triggers help protect goal pursuit from tempting distractions, bad habits or competing goals.

Keystone habits REPS




Strong immediate feedback

Cultural Architects

Cultural architects – leaders without authority. Critical to the peer to peer feedback that sets and maintains the norms and standards of the group.

Leaders can only really lead when people believe in them

Cultural assassins have the opposite impact are negative and only see the reasons something cant be done.

Much of our basic decision making is driven by consequences or identity:

Identity, who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?

Authentic Leadership

Critical role of leadership in establishing and maintaining a high performance culture setting an authentic example

Guardrails for decision making – ‘wide enough to empower but narrow enough to guide.’

Show humility, work hard put the team first

Key characteristics, consistency, transparency.