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Team of Teams
Cover of Team of Teams
Team of Teams
New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Borrow Borrow Borrow
What if you could combine the agility, adaptability, and cohesion of a small team with the power and resources of a giant organization?

THE OLD RULES NO LONGER APPLY . . .

When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2004, he quickly realized that conventional military tactics were failing. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decentralized network that could move quickly, strike ruthlessly, then seemingly vanish into the local population. The allied forces had a huge advantage in numbers, equipment, and training—but none of that seemed to matter.
TEACHING A LEVIATHAN TO IMPROVISE
It's no secret that in any field, small teams have many ad­vantages—they can respond quickly, communicate freely, and make decisions without layers of bureaucracy. But organizations taking on really big challenges can't fit in a garage. They need management practices that can scale to thousands of people.

General McChrystal led a hierarchical, highly disci­plined machine of thousands of men and women. But to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, his Task Force would have to acquire the enemy's speed and flexibility. Was there a way to combine the power of the world's mightiest military with the agility of the world's most fearsome terrorist network? If so, could the same principles apply in civilian organizations?
A NEW APPROACH FOR A NEW WORLD
McChrystal and his colleagues discarded a century of conventional wisdom and remade the Task Force, in the midst of a grueling war, into something new: a network that combined extremely transparent communication with decentralized decision-making authority. The walls between silos were torn down. Leaders looked at the best practices of the smallest units and found ways to ex­tend them to thousands of people on three continents, using technology to establish a oneness that would have been impossible even a decade earlier. The Task Force became a "team of teams"—faster, flatter, more flex­ible—and beat back Al Qaeda.

BEYOND THE BATTLEFIELD

In this powerful book, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in Iraq can be rel­evant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and other or­ganizations. The world is changing faster than ever, and the smartest response for those in charge is to give small groups the freedom to experiment while driving every­one to share what they learn across the entire organiza­tion. As the authors argue through compelling examples, the team of teams strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA. It has the potential to transform organizations large and small.
From the Hardcover edition.
What if you could combine the agility, adaptability, and cohesion of a small team with the power and resources of a giant organization?

THE OLD RULES NO LONGER APPLY . . .

When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2004, he quickly realized that conventional military tactics were failing. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decentralized network that could move quickly, strike ruthlessly, then seemingly vanish into the local population. The allied forces had a huge advantage in numbers, equipment, and training—but none of that seemed to matter.
TEACHING A LEVIATHAN TO IMPROVISE
It's no secret that in any field, small teams have many ad­vantages—they can respond quickly, communicate freely, and make decisions without layers of bureaucracy. But organizations taking on really big challenges can't fit in a garage. They need management practices that can scale to thousands of people.

General McChrystal led a hierarchical, highly disci­plined machine of thousands of men and women. But to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, his Task Force would have to acquire the enemy's speed and flexibility. Was there a way to combine the power of the world's mightiest military with the agility of the world's most fearsome terrorist network? If so, could the same principles apply in civilian organizations?
A NEW APPROACH FOR A NEW WORLD
McChrystal and his colleagues discarded a century of conventional wisdom and remade the Task Force, in the midst of a grueling war, into something new: a network that combined extremely transparent communication with decentralized decision-making authority. The walls between silos were torn down. Leaders looked at the best practices of the smallest units and found ways to ex­tend them to thousands of people on three continents, using technology to establish a oneness that would have been impossible even a decade earlier. The Task Force became a "team of teams"—faster, flatter, more flex­ible—and beat back Al Qaeda.

BEYOND THE BATTLEFIELD

In this powerful book, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in Iraq can be rel­evant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and other or­ganizations. The world is changing faster than ever, and the smartest response for those in charge is to give small groups the freedom to experiment while driving every­one to share what they learn across the entire organiza­tion. As the authors argue through compelling examples, the team of teams strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA. It has the potential to transform organizations large and small.
From the Hardcover edition.
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    FOREWORD BY WALTER ISAACSON

    Whether in business or in war, the ability to react quickly and adapt is critical, and it's becoming even more so as technology and disruptive forces increase the pace of change. That requires new ways to communicate and work together. In today's world, creativity is a collaborative endeavor. Innovation is a team effort.

    This book draws timely lessons for any organization seeking to triumph in this new environment. Based on very real and vividly described situations that General McChrystal encountered as a commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, it describes how organizations need to reinvent themselves. This involves breaking down silos, working across divisions, and mastering the flexible response that comes from true teamwork and collaboration.

    I have observed this phenomenon in my own study of innovation in the digital age. The greatest innovations have not come from a lone inventor or from solving problems in a top-down, command-and-control style. Instead, the great successes—the creation of the computer, transistor, microchip, Internet—come from a "team of teams" working together in pursuit of a common goal.

    I once asked Steve Jobs, often mistakenly considered a lone visionary and authoritarian leader, which of his creations made him most proud. I thought he might say the original Macintosh, or the iPhone. Instead he pointed out that these were all collaborative efforts. The creations he was most proud of, he said, were the teams he had produced, starting with the original Macintosh team working under a pirate flag in the early 1980s and the remarkable team he had assembled by the time he stepped down from Apple in 2011.

    Today's rapidly changing world, marked by increased speed and dense interdependencies, means that organizations everywhere are now facing dizzying challenges, from global terrorism to health epidemics to supply chain disruption to game-changing technologies. These issues can be solved only by creating sustained organizational adaptability through the establishment of a team of teams.

    High-speed networks and digital communications mean that collaboration can—and must—happen in real time. The distributed, decentralized, and weblike architecture of the Internet empowers each individual to be a collaborator. Likewise the necessity of real-time innovation and problem-solving requires integrative and transparent leadership that empowers individual team members.

    This new environment gave Al Qaeda a distinct advantage, allowing the networked organization to strike rapidly, reconfigure in real time, and integrate its globally dispersed actions. At first, this overwhelmed the Task Force led by General McChrystal, a traditional, secretive, siloed military hierarchy that was configured to solve the problems of an earlier era.

    The solution was, surprisingly, found in changing management structures. The U.S. military and its allies had to transform the way the special operations community operated, changing the way it waged the War on Terror.

    The experience of General McChrystal and his colleagues, and their examination of the experiences of others, taught them that complexity at scale has rendered reductionist management ineffective for solving these issues in our networked world. Efficiency is necessary but no longer sufficient to be a successful organization. It worked in the twentieth century, but it is now quickly overwhelmed by the speed and exaggerated impact of small players, such as terrorists, start-ups, and viral trends.

    Management models based on planning and predicting instead of resilient adaptation to changing circumstances are no longer suited...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 23, 2015
    Retired U.S. general McChrystal (My Share of the Task) and his coauthors draw on their respective military and management experience to construct this well-written business book about “what’s different in today’s world and what we must do about it.” There’s some heady stuff in here, including precise descriptions of military procedure, and detailed explorations of the valuable lessons the military has learned recently about collaboration. As McChrystal notes, that change hasn’t been easy for an organization that long prided itself on a strict “command-and-control” flow of power and “need to know” philosophy. The resulting book is a collection of innovations that the modern U.S. Army has embraced—and that most corporations can too. In the new paradigm proposed here, the focus is on “adaptability” instead of “efficiency,” promoting “generalized awareness,” and empowerment. The authors’ abundance of material is made manageable by good organization and some surprisingly strong writing. There are only a few non-military examples (such as GM and Ford’s contrasting organizational approaches), so readers not interested in military strategy may leave this book unfinished; for any other businesspeople, it will get a definite thumbs-up. Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2015
    Former leader of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq lends his gutsy insight to the management breakdown of that effort, which ushered in huge changes from the top down. Replaced in 2010 as head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for his outspokenness, now retired from the Army and teaching leadership at Yale, McChrystal, along with three co-writers, fashions an engaging narrative on how the traditional centralized management style of the American forces no longer worked against the fluid, agile enemy of jihadi terrorist networks. His work is essentially a chronicle of his ability to lead a sea change in military management style between 2003, when he joined the Task Force, and the triumphant assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, in 2006. Frustrated by the protean nature of the enemy, which constantly undermined the rigid discipline and superior force of the U.S., McChrystal and his cohorts had to step back and take stock of some leadership models in history-e.g., British Adm. Horatio Nelson engineered a stunning victory over a superior Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by creating chaos and uncertainty in the enemy command. The authors also examine the ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who initially established the supremacy of the centralized business structure. In a showcase at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, Taylor introduced the art of "scientific management," by which factory conditions moved like clockwork, where there was "the one best way" for production and all causes and effects were predictable. However, by the first Iraq War, the military had boxed itself into an outmoded Maginot Line rather than rewarding fluidity, agility, resiliency, and adaptive thinking. Creating teams and lateral trust altered an entire military culture. Despite some boggy, unspecific acronym-speak, the authors offer useful examples and takeaway advice.

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