Book Review: Team of Teams

  photo: forbes.com

photo: forbes.com

In 2003, General Stanley McChrystal was entrusted with leading a Joint Task Force against Al Qaeda’s operations. His book Team of Teams describes the lessons he learned from a managerial standpoint during this endeavor. It should come as no surprise that military history and strategy play a large role in McChrystal’s book. He also gives a brief history of the different types of management styles and how they have evolved over the years. For anyone remotely interested in either history or the military, this book is definitely an interesting read. If however those topics really bore you, than perhaps this isn’t the book for you.

Some of his key points are:

-While technology has made the world simpler in many respects, it has also complicated and added a layer of complexity to the world, making everything faster and the future harder to predict.

-The standard management style for decades was to predict and create rigid plans for the future, and, while fighting Al Qaeda, he realized how ineffective this management style is in today’s fast paced world.

- Believes that “resilience thinking” should be the preferred management style. Resilience thinking is when the “managers accept the reality that they will inevitably confront unpredicted threats; rather than erecting strong, specialized defenses, they create systems that aim to roll with the punches”.

- This requires teams of people, rather than individuals. Truly flexible leadership that will be resilient into the future would be a "Team of Teams". 

  graphic:  urgentink.typepad.com

graphic: urgentink.typepad.com

-They needed to create a shared consciousness between levels of the organization by increasing information sharing and transparency. To achieve this, they gave out info about the entire scope of operations to all members of the task force and offered everyone a chance to help. They used liaison programs to create ties between smaller teams within organization, built trust and a joint sense of purpose and promoted the use of empowered execution: where teams or the individuals closest to a decision have the authority to act decisively.

-Believes that “classic heroic leaders” have become obsolete in this new environment, Instead of the classic leader persona, the person in charge should become a humble gardener “the gardener cannot actually “grow” tomatoes, squash, or beans- she can only foster an           environment in which the plants do so”. Utilize an “eyes-on, hands-off” approach.            

Thus, his main strategy was a decentralization of managerial authority working in tandem with empowered execution.

Leaders of any organization required to be agile can surely understand this line of thinking. If your organization is going through a culture shift, away from more traditional leadership structures, Team of Teams can provide helpful insight. 

  photo: cspan.com

photo: cspan.com

This review was written by Abbey Research staff member Curtis and originally appeared on this site.