Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World


General Stanley McChrystal was in command of the Joint Special Operations and director of operations in the Iraq War. He took on the very difficult challenge of changing long-held military beliefs about organization, communication, efficiency and more in order to be able to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq who were using new technology to create a different combat environment. This change in tactics forced McChrystal to adapt and change form a culture of efficiency to a culture of adaptability.

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways
  1. Aimed to scale the adaptability and cohesiveness typical of small teams up to the enterprise level. This involves creating a "team of teams" to foster cross-silo collaboration. This way the insights and actions of many teams and individuals can be harnessed across an organization. Innovation and problem solving become the products of teamwork, not a single architect. Doing this requires increasing transparency to ensure common understanding and awareness, changing the physical space and personal behaviors to establish trust and foster collaboration, decentralize and empower individuals to act as decisions are pushed downward which allows members to act quickly. This concept also changes the traditional concept of a leader - the leader now becomes in charge of creating the broader environment to facilitate the above mentioned instead of being a command and control, micromanaging leader
  2. Shared consciousness - extreme transparency and effective communication which helps each team be up to date and connected with what the rest of the teams are doing
  3. Empowered execution - pushing decisions downward so that those on the front lines, often those with the best info can act quickly and decisively
  4. Team of teams - a large unit which captures at scale the traits of agility and adaptability normally limited to smaller teams
  5. Eyes on, hands off - leaders must take on a new role where they supervise their employees, create a conducive environment and more but don't micromanage and try to make decisions for their employees
  6. Trust and common purpose absolutely necessary for any team to be effective and sustainable
  7. Complexity - Things that are complex (living organisms, ecosystems, economies) have a diverse array of connected elements that interact frequently. Because of the density of linkages, complex systems fluctuate extremely and exhibit unpredictability (chaos theory!) and a small disturbance in one place can trigger a series of responses that build into unexpected and severe outcomes in another
  8. Nonlinearity - Humans feel at home with linear functions. Nonlinear functions, on the other hand, make us very uncomfortable as they defy our intuitive understanding  of growth and scale. Initial differences in the base or slight increases or decreases in the exponent have massive consequences
  9. The models of organizational success that dominated the 20th century have their roots in the industrial revolution and, simply put, the world has changed. The pursuit of "efficiency" - getting the most with the least investment of energy, time or money - was once a laudable goal, but being effective in today's world is less a question of optimizing for a known (and relatively stable) set of variables than responsiveness to a constantly shifting environment. Adaptability, not efficiency, must become one's central competency.
  10. Due to technology and communication advancements, everyone can be a more effective collaborator and this makes the ability to react quickly and adapt more important than ever before
  11. Changing through hundreds of iterations much more powerful, effective and efficient than trying to get it perfect the first time
  12. Organizations and teams must be constantly pushed or it will fall behind
  13. One of the toughest things to do is to unlearn how you thought the world works
  14. Must deeply understand and adapt to your environment
  15. Through Taylor's breakthroughs in steel processing (standardizing every step so any layman could learn it) lead to the Industrial revolution and America's obsession with efficiency
  16. Appreciating the magnitude of what one doesn't know is vital
  17. Gaining understanding is not the same as predicting
What I got out of it
  1. A good book on leadership and the importance of being adaptable and being able to react quickly in today's world rather than the Industrial Revolution's heritage of efficiency above all else.

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