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Team of Teams
Cover of Team of Teams
Team of Teams
New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
The retired four-star general and and bestselling author of My Share of the Task shares a powerful new leadership model
Former General Stanley McChrystal held a key position for much of the War on Terror, as head of the Joint Special Operations Command. In Iraq, he found that despite the vastly superior resources, manpower, and training of the U.S. military, Al Qaeda had an advantage because of its structure as a loose network of small, independent cells. Those cells wreaked havoc by always staying one step ahead, sharing knowledge with each other via high-tech communications.
To defeat such an agile enemy, JSOC had to change its focus from efficiency to adaptability. McChrystal led the transformation of his forces into a network that combined robust centralized communication ("shared consciousness") with decentralized managerial authority ("empowered execution").
Now he shows not only how the military made that transition, but also how similar shifts are possible in all kinds of organizations, from large companies to startups to charities to government agencies. In a world of rapid change, the best organizations think and act like a team of teams, embracing small groups that combine the freedom to experiment with a relentless drive to share what they've learned.
McChrystal and his colleagues explain their process for helping organizations embrace this model. They also share fascinating research and examples from settings as diverse as emergency rooms and NASA's mission control center.
Read by Paul Michael. Introduction and recaps read by General Stanley McChrystal.
From the Compact Disc edition.
The retired four-star general and and bestselling author of My Share of the Task shares a powerful new leadership model
Former General Stanley McChrystal held a key position for much of the War on Terror, as head of the Joint Special Operations Command. In Iraq, he found that despite the vastly superior resources, manpower, and training of the U.S. military, Al Qaeda had an advantage because of its structure as a loose network of small, independent cells. Those cells wreaked havoc by always staying one step ahead, sharing knowledge with each other via high-tech communications.
To defeat such an agile enemy, JSOC had to change its focus from efficiency to adaptability. McChrystal led the transformation of his forces into a network that combined robust centralized communication ("shared consciousness") with decentralized managerial authority ("empowered execution").
Now he shows not only how the military made that transition, but also how similar shifts are possible in all kinds of organizations, from large companies to startups to charities to government agencies. In a world of rapid change, the best organizations think and act like a team of teams, embracing small groups that combine the freedom to experiment with a relentless drive to share what they've learned.
McChrystal and his colleagues explain their process for helping organizations embrace this model. They also share fascinating research and examples from settings as diverse as emergency rooms and NASA's mission control center.
Read by Paul Michael. Introduction and recaps read by General Stanley McChrystal.
From the Compact Disc edition.
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  • From the cover

    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...

About the Author-
  • Stanley McChrystal retired from the U.S. Army as a four-star general after more than thirty-four years of service. His last assignment was as the commander of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. His memoir, My Share of the Task, was a New York Times bestseller. He is a senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the cofounder of CrossLead, a leadership consulting firm. Tantum Collins is currently studying international relations at Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar. David Silverman and Chris Fussell are senior execu­tives at CrossLead and former U.S. Navy SEAL officers.
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