Dreaming of being the champion or what software developers can learn from Jogi Löw – Part 2

Alexander Keller
Alexander Keller
May 31st, 2016

The last article dealt with the question of how we can secure the future of the IT industry in Germany through youth development. Also and most importantly, it dealt with the question how software teams can position themselves better. As an analogy to software engineering I am referring to football as a sport that can teach us a lot about team work and that I am myself involved in with passion since my childhood.

How do interdisciplinary experts become a team?

In the last part we learned about the benefits of broad-based groups of experts. But how does a group of different people working in different disciplines become a team?

Every coach in team sports must rise to this challenge – from my experience as a youth coach I know it is an enormous challenge. But no task could be more exciting. How do I manage to influence a group of different characters so that all move to the same direction, while also having fun and reaching their full potential?

Here, the term of motivation gets important. From my active career as a footballer, I can report the following: I myself had many coaches, from former Bundesliga to Bezirksliga players. Ultimately, it was very important for me to have a coach and motivator convincing by competence. Old successes hardly count. Jürgen Klinsmann would not be respected and appreciated by his players for his former success, if he had done a poor job as their coach. A player notes quite fast whether a coach is good in what he or she does. Competence is the most important good and creates trust. For example, Thomas Tuchel, one of my biggest idols, trains the top club Borussia Dortmund today. He never was a top footballer. So how does he manage to motivate champions like Mats Hummels for a Bundesliga game in Darmstadt?

Less regulations, more self-responsibility

In my opinion, the key to success is to handle each player individually. For me as a coach that means to offer players an appropriate framework accompanying, but not patronizing them. Everyone needs to make their own decisions and thereby set achievable goals. Thus, anyone can develop individually, but still achieve bigger goals effectively as a group.

Concerning this, a quote from Thomas Tuchel fits in, describing his training methods: “… We preserve the maximum creativity inside the field defined by the lines”

With the “crash barriers” Thomas Tuchel thus prescribes the conditions. In this context, players are supposed to make their own decisions which promote their creativity. The goal of that exercise, however, aims at the whole team.

Tuchel wanted his team to learn the playing system “diagonal flat passes”.

What was the situation for the national team 2014? Again, Jogi Löw and Oliver Bierhoff broke rules in order to create the perfect conditions for their philosophy. The now-familiar Campo Bahia was created as a central part of the project forth World Cup title (#wirfuer4). It contained lodgings where several players of different club teams lived together. This was the frame but the players decided themselves how they wanted to live in the houses. It was all about personal responsibility.

I often hear from less football-driven people that the sport seems primitive. Definitely, there is the aspect of the beer drinking hobby footballer. Just as there are the amateur hackers who put up and design websites themselves. But these people do not claim to get particularly successful in this area. I absolutely believe we can learn from people like Thomas Tuchel or Jogi Löw who work in the top range of a discipline. This motivated us at Centigrade to adapt these approaches in order to use them in our daily work.

The aim is to create conditions that bring team members to their best performance. Without going into detail, I will describe some examples from our company below.

The workstations can be individually adapted to personal needs. Here, the well-being of an employee plays a crucial role. If long sitting, inevitably occurring in office jobs, gets a daily problem of an employee, he may instead work on a height-adjustable standing desk.

The workstation can be adapted to the personal needs.

The added value might not be directly measurable for the development itself, but an ergonomic work place will make a software developer healthier, happier and more productive. Another thing increasing the motivation could be listening to music while working. Some already know the benefits of music during sport, such as jogging or the gym.

We also want to work in a good atmosphere together with our clients. To get a better understanding of the respective colleagues, we arrange regular appointments on site with the customers. It is not uncommon that a shared dinner and networking are preferred to the hotel room.

On an trip with other employees.

These kinds of events, like here at the customer’s site, are an optimal basis for our co-operation. In an atmosphere outside the workplace where everyone feels comfortable, getting to know and understanding each other works a lot better.

Due to flat hierarchies in our organizational structure, each employee has the opportunity to take responsibility in a setting that suits him or her. Internal workshops help passing on experience and knowledge among colleagues and also motivate the people to contribute to the ongoing development themselves. For example, every employee can propose own ideas for blog posts to dive into a topic he or she is interested in.

Does too much freedom cause chaos?

In addition to these freedoms, however, clear limits must be set that will be accepted and lived by everyone. For example, at Centigrade there exist company-wide “coding conventions” for software engineers which are developed jointly and on a continuous basis. Following these limits is not difficult within a structure as described above. People follow these rules without the need of sanctions or penalties since the high self-responsibility results in motivation. Penalties often cause negative pressure. Jürgen Klopp took away this pressure from his players by believing that acting independently works better than harsh sanctions. Working under pressure is not fun for anyone. He motivates his players with that attitude:

„I do not believe that the fear of losing motivates you more than the desire to win. And the desire to win is what is at stake. It awakens the greed in you. That’s what you are. It lets you run easily. It allows you to grow beyond your borders. It makes you strong. And this desire to win keeps me up!” Jürgen Klopp
Source: Commercial of Jürgen Klopp

For Centigrade, this means that there are no “penal trainings” after being defeated – we rather give rewards for a won game.


Clearly, defining the factors of “success” is difficult. But success is always the result of a continuous development. At Centigrade, we try to achieve a positive attitude of all employees by constantly working on optimum conditions. Only then can we as a UX team continue to play in the top class.

Want to know more about our services, products or our UX process?
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