Teams of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by retired Army General Stanley McChrystal is a book that discusses how General McChrystal and his colleagues used the hardships they faced in Iraq to shape all types of civilian and military organizations to be successful using a different approach to their structure.
He uses the Ford motor company as an example of a company who uses the Team of Teams approach, and shared consciousness concepts to empower every team member to communicate effectively and execute more efficiently. In today’s fast paced business world, it is too difficult for management to do all the thinking. All members, of every team need to equally formulate and communicate ideas to stay ahead of changes, allowing management to have a more hands-off approach.
Essentially, adaptability, not efficiency must be our primary goal to accomplish the complexity of today’s challenges (McChrystal, 2015). In today’s complex work environments, we must create cohesive teams who are bound by a common purpose, not trying to constantly outperform each other. Once everyone gains a shared consciousness and feels a sense of empowered execution, leadership can transition to an eyes on, hands-off approach. This approach creates a highly adaptable organization able to succeed in any environment.
General McChrystal uses the conflict against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to explain why organizations must adapt quickly to overcome complicated problems. AQI had developed a unique structure, allowing them to succeed in an operational environment that was more connected, faster paced, and far less predictable than previous eras.
McChrystal realized that his idea of proper management and leadership would have to change rather than the tactics and technology advancements the teams possessed. The culture of the military lifestyle is based on discipline, structure, and organization, which it can also be attributed to Fredrick Taylor’s doctrine of “Scientific Management.”
In recent decades, technological advancements have made the world more connected, interdependent, and faster-paced than ever before. These factors give organizations challenging and complex situations to overcome. It is now more challenging to predict what an organizations competitor will do. In order to respond to this more complex environment, organizations need resiliency and the ability to confront the unknown.
McChrystal saw that small teams possessed these traits, however, organizations or commands with rigid fundamental structure did not. In order to solve complex problems across an organization, the problems were typically identified at the bottom rather than the top. This makes it difficult for those at the bottom to feel empowered to accomplish what is needed in an organization that operates from a top down leadership method. Hence the team of team’s concept, where everyone is empowered to identify problems and communicate issues to make change.
Giving individuals a sense of trust and purpose within their team builds a sense of connectivity that is unstoppable. McChrystal knew that he needed to develop that team not just at the Task Force level, but a much greater scale. Unfortunately, the traits that make a team highly adaptable are increasingly difficult to apply across a large organization.
To solve this problem, McChrystal devised a “teams of teams” idea, which resembled the make-up of a small team but could be applied to a larger organization. Through transparency of intelligence, trust, and overall purpose he broke down the silos that groups had isolated themselves to and brought people together. He created an environment of shared consciousness where every member of the team felt as though they were part of the network.
In this new model, leaders should compare themselves to that of a gardener, enabling subordinates with the hands-off approach rather than a chess master who tries to control every move. After the transformation of McCrystal’s task force using the new concepts their speed and precision increased exponentially. If organizations can embrace these new mental models of the 21st century they will unlock unlimited potential for human progress.
Takeaway for a Warrant Officer
Warrant officers are tactical and technical assets to their commanders and organizations. As targeting Warrant Officers, we have the responsibility of synchronizing intelligence with operations to increase overall combat power for the commander. As the Targeting Warrant, we should be the one planning and leading the targeting cycle and military decision-making process for the commander. The book, Teams of Teams, by General Stanley McChrystal opened my eyes to why versatility and transparency in an organization are the key elements required in today’s complex operations to be successful.
As a Targeting Warrant, I have the ability to affect the shared sense of purpose among those I work with. Most organizations under the old model struggle to disseminate information from the top down, leaving the small teams with a lack of information and understanding. The team level is where genuine trust, cohesion and shared understanding is critical and where tactical missions are executed. If leaders understand that the information, they are empowered with, gives the small teams the power they need to be successful, the mission will be successful.
As a Targeting Warrant, and leader, I understand the importance of ensuring my subordinates have an overall understanding of the mission and ability to make positive change. This will ultimately enable them, as leaders, to practice disciplined initiative to accomplish the commanders intent.
As a new Targeting Warrant, I will most likely be assigned as a Target Acquisition Platoon Leader (TAPL). As a new TAPL, I will be able to apply the concepts learned from this book to positively empower my platoon. I will strive to ensure that my team understands the importance of radars for both our friendly mission and enemy forces as high-value targets.
Having a better understanding of the importance of radars will give them the drive to accomplish the commander’s vision and intent. If I can accomplish this as a TAPL, I know I will be able to apply the same concepts at higher echelons to empower those around me to develop a shared sense of purpose regardless of the situation.