Book Review

Book: Team of Teams

By September 26, 2017 No Comments

Probably the biggest single challenge most leadership teams face is transitioning from a company in which they do everything to one in which they don’t. In his best seller,Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal, US Army General, Retired, documents how he lead the transformation of a part of a traditionally very structured organization – the US Army – complicated by the fact that he was actually running a task force which was composed of many other very structured and purposefully segregated (from each other) organizations, like the FBI and the NSA.

It is a must read for anyone running a business which is attempting to scale and is operating in an increasing complex and constantly changing world. A world where your prospects, your customers and your competitors all have access to the same information you do – maybe more. In other words, the world we all find ourselves in today.

The points made in the book are too numerous and impactful to be listed in a short form blog post, but at its highest level, the lesson learned by McChrystal and his direct reports is that the Command & Control management model they grew up with and made famous by Fredrick Winslow Taylor for the industrial age is no longer valid in the information age. McChrystal transformed from a top down leadership model to that of a Team of Teams, from planning and predicting to adapting and resilience. Instead of reserving all knowledge to the leadership, the task force migrated to shared consciousness. Instead of all decisions being made from a single centralized source, the task force sought empowered execution. This transformation was only made possible when he and his senior leaders created an environment based on mutual trust and acknowledgement of interdependency.

What is the takeaway for scaling my business?

McChrystal characterized the challenge for leaders attempting to lead this transformation as morphing from a Chess Master to a Gardener. No CEO, owner or GM can have, or be expected to have, all the answers and therefore be able to lead her company as a chess master, responsible for making all decisions and instructing all others as to what they should do. Instead the role for senior leadership has to more like a gardener,- creating the ecosystem from all the parts both within and without the company, nurturing trust and interdependency, and tending to the care and feeding of the component parts by thoughtful mentoring and leading by example.

You have got to ensure that all employees, not just the leaders, have a shared Vision and know where the company is going and how it is going to get there. They all have to be clear about who is responsible for what so that company is gaining Traction everyday. Lastly and perhaps most importantly the environment must be Healthy, rooted in trust, where everyone is open and honest with each other and expects and demands accountability. If you ensure that all the members of all the teams in the company are linked to each other then it is far more likely that all the human energy in your company is aligned towards and is more likely to achieve the outcomes you desire.

Graphic credit: Amazon

Next Steps:

If you want to be a better leader, a great place to start is to read How to Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman and Rene Boer. You can download it here.

You can also listen to General McChrystal describe his daily 90 minute meeting with his entire organization in this brief video.

General McChrystal points out that this is not limited to the military by pointing at the saving of the Ford Motor Company through a similar transition to a Team of Teams, as documented in American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save the Ford Motor Company by Bryce Hoffman.  You can read my post about it here.

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