- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Portfolio; 1 edition (May 12, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591847486
- ISBN-13: 978-1591847489
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 507 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World Hardcover – May 12, 2015
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“In addition to being a fascinating and colorful read, this book is an indispensable guide to organizational change.” –Walter Isaacson, from the foreword
“This is a bold argument that leaders can help teams become greater than the sum of their parts.” —Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
“Team of Teams is erudite, elegant, and insightful. An unexpected and surprising wealth of information and wonder, it provides a blueprint for how to cope with increasing complexity in the world. A must read for anyone who cares about the future—and that means all of us.” —Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind
“Team of Teams is a compelling, pragmatic argument for a more information-rich, decentralized approach to management from a leader who has successfully weathered storms with higher stakes than most business leaders will ever encounter. A must-read book for anyone serious about taking their leadership further, faster.”—John Venhuizen, president & CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation
“General Stan McChrystal’s Team of Teams is an instant classic. Best leadership book I have read in many a decade, by one of our nation’s most gifted and iconic general officers.”—Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret), Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009–2013; dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
“The lessons and concepts outlined in Team of Teams provide a valuable blueprint for leadership across any industry or domain. The principles of classical leadership struggle to deal with today’s pace of change, free-flow of information, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the digital generation. Team of Teams harnesses these new realities as assets, providing a leadership framework to produce the inclusiveness and adaptability of a fast-moving start-up, at the scale of any size organization.” —Brad Smith, president and CEO, Intuit
“In Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal, who won some of our most striking victories in the great war between nations and terrorist networks, shares insights for all in this lucid, persuasive, and sometimes wrenching account of our troubled yet transformational times.” —John Arquilla, professor, Defense Analysis United States Naval Postgraduate School
“In the fast-moving world of today and tomorrow, organizations that don’t adapt will simply fade. Team of Teams makes this case in compelling ways. I literally could not put the book down.” —Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad”
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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The discussions in the book are grounded in organizational management theory and leadership methods, but along the way gives a once in a lifetime look at the inside of the most storied Special Operations Forces (SOF) unit in existence today. This is not a book about the latest way to become a great leader. In fact it’s about becoming the kind of senior leader that can develop and sustain an entire workforce of great leaders. The lessons the authors put forward to challenge the typical (and often failing) organizational models and leadership approaches were paid for in blood over the last decade.
I do not come at this review as a scholar of organizational management but rather as a participant and recipient of the Team of Teams approach in the military where I was a leader for over 20 years. I have known the author for more than 2 decades having served as a front line Soldier and leader in his unit and also as his assistant/confidante/advisor during his most senior command. Stan, along with his 3 co-authors, believes that the world is now so complex (vice complicated) that the old models of command and control are extinct. They are so passionate about this evolution that they have started a successful consulting firm to share their lessons. I have worked with 90 plus U.S. and international organizations in and out of government and I cannot think of one that would not benefit from this study.
An alternate title to this book might have been Trust and Purpose meets Empowered Execution. The Task Force’s journey towards shared consciousness and smart autonomy starts in 2003 with the stunning realization by the commander of the world’s most precise and lethal Counter-Terrorism Task Force that they were losing the strategic war against Al Qaeda. From there the authors interlace examples and case studies of organizational models, leadership techniques, and technological advances from a myriad of areas. They include weather forecasting, basketball and soccer, engineering marvels, big data, airline customer service, aircraft crews, NASA, SEAL training, plastic surgeons at the Boston Marathon bombing, GM versus Ford, MIT studies, and the enduring effects of Ritz Carlton and Nordstrom. My favorite example is the Star Wars bar comparison.
The discussions found in the various chapters of the book are wide-ranging but relevant to leading all organizations in this modern world. The following should be of interest to today’s leaders: the difference between complicated and complex environments; how having more information available does not improve prediction nor mean lead to smarter decisions at the top; Taylorisms and efficiency ideals may actually cost you more than they save; the ‘need to know’ fallacy; the value of using your best people as ‘liaison officers’ or ‘embeds’; how resilient people make organizations stronger because they can adapt to changing environments; learning from your adversary is time well spent--they might have a better organizational model not necessarily better people; how to delegate authority to take action until you are uncomfortable; how to build trust and a shared awareness of the big picture; ‘eyes on, hands off’ leadership; and the difference between creating Strategic Corporals and an organization full of Lord Horatio Nelsons.
The book carries you forward in time to see how far the Task Force had come by changing their culture, structure, and habits to allow the larger corporate command to become as agile and capable as its commandos. Pages 184-188 detail the successful operations that the “Task Force” were able to undertake after the shift. This short example, that covers just 46 minutes of a follow-on-target operation, highlights sharply the outcome of The Task Force’s investment in transparency, trust building and empowered execution. The command took risks and luckily their bosses supported them and let them learn to beat AQI at its own game.
Sir Lieutenant General Lamb, a close friend of Stan McChrystal, shared a paper with me once that he titled 'In Command and Out of Control' and it raises a lot of the same questions and concepts about how to lead in a complex and fast-paced world. The conclusions were similar. Success comes from giving freedom to subordinates, increasing speed of action, achieving self-synchronization---in a nutshell: decentralized command. The concept is literally about getting 'out of the control' business and realizing that in order for organizations to take advantage of fleeting opportunities teams must be empowered at the lowest levels to take action. McChrystal echoes this and the need to repeatedly broadcast so that everyone knows the goals and strategy of the organization. This includes letting everyone in the organization have a say about the direction of the ship and feel free to alert others of impending icebergs. McChrystal and Lamb’s cooperation in Iraq was not by accident but from years of trust building and a shared awareness of the big picture.
Missing from the book is a deeper discussion on the role of planning, plans, strategic thinking and strategy. While the Team of Teams approach allows organizations to be adaptable and resilient there is still a key role for planning and strategy. Maybe it’s as simple as the old adage ‘the plan is nothing but planning is everything’ or maybe this is the topic for their next book. Although its demonstrated throughout the book its unstated that great leaders are often well-read. Only by studying leaders and organizations can you begin to see the need for the Nelson touch, to avoid the Perry principle, or understand the butterfly effect.
The book is only 250 pages long but it is full of simple time-tested ideas that can be put into action with little cost. The difficult part of acting within the shared consciousness that Stan McChrystal describes is getting your people to realize they are empowered to make decisions. This task mostly falls on the senior leaders of an organization. This method can be exhausting and requires resilient and disciplined leadership at all levels, but the rewards are unmatched. I have personally served in organizations that utilize shared consciousness and empowered execution or have previously undergone a Team of Teams evolution. The fact that the culture endures after the leader departs says a lot about how powerful a culture change in an organization can be. I have also served in government agencies that just couldn’t accept that their strength truly lied in informed and empowered employees. Luckily the latter are destined for the dustbin of history.
More and more often today leaders reinforce an environment that speeds up business failure. The world has changed and leadership models haven't kept up. This book can show you how to adapt to the complex world we find ourselves in. Team of Teams documents how the most professional and deadly special operations force found itself humbled by an enemy that was better adapted to the 21st century way of war. More importantly it’s about how leaders at all levels need to be humble enough to realize when to change their old ways and trust their people to make rapid yet informed decisions.
If “Team of Teams” is an honest reflection of Stanley McChrystal’s views on what it takes to lead organizations that deal with the complex challenges brought about by the volume and speed of 21st century information, this ex-commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Iraq, may be a guy who will shatter some stereotypes about general officers. And, he deserves the ear of anyone, in any human endeavor, who wants to lead. This is a general who speaks of his leadership role as that of a gardener. And a good gardener works hard, knowing the plants and the soil intimately.
Some of the book's critics have said that there is little new offered in the way of management theory. Possibly true: as a student of Agile leadership, I didn't see any novel ideas presented. Yet in the examples provided and the unique juxtaposition of ideas, "Team of Teams" offers something persuasive and memorable.
McChrystal and his team of co-authors weave a series of gripping short stories about business successes and failures into the narrative, serving both to make “Team of Teams” an engrossing read, and to powerfully illustrate their viewpoint that successful leadership and management requires much different emphases than the focus on efficiency which made companies such as General Motors great in the 20th century. Whether contrasting the fates of two different passenger airline flights which ran into trouble while airborne, or candidly admitting the failures of JSOC to stop Al Qaida violence under his own command, McChrystal and his team relate each story to their central thesis that adaptability, information-sharing and decentralized authority have replaced efficiency and centralized decision-making as more and more 21st-century world challenges cross the threshold from being complicated (lots of moving parts, but potentially understandable) to complex (too many variables moving too quickly for any single human genius to master). This is a general who will tell you that trust and “shared consciousness,” both of which have to be cultivated, combine to form the epoxy that hold the 21st-century organization together.
One powerful image found in “Team of Teams:” that the successful organization is no longer as a “well-oiled machine,” but rather, a “living organism.” The point is not that the organism no longer needs to stay in great shape, but rather that living organisms succeed to the extent that they respond appropriately and rapidly to the constant changes that take place both within it, and in its surroundings.
Of the many stories and real-life examples which McChrystal’s team of authors use to buttress their case, the remembrance of British Admiral Horatio Nelson’s stunning victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805 is a tale that contains many pearls for someone who wants to lead according to the “Team of Teams” approach. It is an oversimplification to say that Nelson broke naval convention by allowing his captains to break ranks and engage the enemy at will, without taking central direction from the flagship. The British victory had been years in the making, as Nelson had worked long and hard to develop his captains into the kind of team that would be capable of success in a naval engagement where anticipating each other’s actions was more important than which side had the superior firepower. The lesson for today’s leaders: it is not merely about turning people loose, but moreover about equipping them with the right tools, building the team mindset, focusing them on the common mission, and then trusting them to act in real time, in response to the ever-changing environment.
“Team of Teams” should be read by anyone who wants to understand how to apply Agile leadership to their particular team, whatever the industry, sport, or other team endeavor.