Team of Teams Model or how to fight chaos

Team of Teams

In Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal suggests a new way of thinking and directing to help businesses adapt and advance more swiftly in a complex environment. Today’s world is characterised by swift, unexpected changes and complex interdependencies. Traditional organisational structures built on effectiveness and streamlining predictable procedures are no longer suitable for dealing with these new issues.

The role of the leader becomes creating a broader environment instead of command-and-control micromanaging.

General Stanley McChrystal – Team of Teams

General McChrystal led the US Joint Special Operations Task Force to counter Al Qaeda’s growing threat in Iraq. The Task Force had some of the best personnel, information, training, and technology.

Team of Teams
Team of Teams

Despite this, it could not defeat Al Qaeda’s disorganised operations and hostile terrain. It was forced to drastically alter its operational paradigm. It was successful after converting from a command-and-control system to a Team of Teams approach.

Change Management and Adaptation

Change Management was vital for winning. Surprisingly, the management style changed, not tactics or new technology.

Since the Industrial Revolution, most industries have adopted management doctrines inspired by or comparable to Frederick Taylor’s “Scientific Management“. A system that is excellent for achieving highly efficient execution of known, repeatable processes at scale. This organisational culture is not exclusive to the military. Despite this strategy’s effectiveness throughout the twentieth century, we realised in 2004 that it had limitations. Similar to the Maginot Line, which the French employed during World War II, it proved unable to deal with a new wave of threats. Efficiency no longer suffices.

Recognising that a mental model is only a representation of reality rather than reality itself is essential. When we tell individuals to “think beyond the box,” we ask them to throw their mental models.

In 2004, we did not have an efficiency problem; we had an adaptability problem.

General Stanley McChrystal – Teams of Teams

These models become problematic when they no longer mirror reality and stifle original thought. Technology had a role in both the problem and the solution. But the organisation’s cultural shift made it possible for the Task Force to use it effectively.

Resilence: from Complicated to Complex

Most of today’s management models were created during the industrial era. At this time, it was possible to break down complicated systems (with many moving parts) into linear, predictable, and measurable interconnections.

However, in today’s dynamic, networked world, we regularly deal with complex systems with so many interconnections that a bit of change in one component can have a non-linear impact on many other elements, affecting many more elements. Even if you can find correlations, it is unclear what cause (s) would lead to the non-linear escalation.

We have moved from data-poor but fairly predictable settings to data-rich, uncertain ones.

General Stanley McChrystal – Teams of Teams
Team of Teams
From the book Team of Teams, by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman and Chris Fussell.

The environment created by complexity is fundamentally different from the tough challenges of the past. Despite improved tracking and measuring capabilities, complexity implies that the world has grown far less predictable.

You must modify your organisational structure to fit the environment in which you operate to succeed. The Task Force realised it was handling a complicated system with a framework for complex problems. Later, it evolved into a dynamic team-of-teams model. It allowed it to swiftly adjust to its highly connected, quick-paced, and unexpected environment.

Transparency and Trust

In addition to redesigning the physical infrastructure, creating openness and information sharing at the needed scale necessitated reevaluating every organisational culture practice and process.

Our standing guidance was “Share information until you’re afraid it’s illegal.

General Stanley McChrystal

At the centre of the reform was the daily briefing. It provided all Task Force members and partner agencies with access to the full spectrum of the activities. The daily briefing gave everyone a voice.

Building Successful Teams: Empowered execution

A team of teams may only form when leaders are ready to hand over control and delegate responsibility. Beyond just delegating, leaders need to actively foster decision-making skills at all levels. Additionally, it is crucial that a collective awareness base already exists. People must understand the system’s perspective and context before taking authority. Otherwise, removing restrictions and letting people do whatever they want will be disastrous.

The temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing.

General Stanley McChrystal – Teams of Teams

General Stanley McChrystal discovered that he frequently asked the force, “What do you need?”. IT aw much more effective than “Do this”. The task Force centralised until it became uncomfortable. And when they were on the verge of chaos, they discovered their sweet spot. Interested in fostering collaboration, and removing silos, read How to improve collaboration at work?

Team of Teams model Conclusion

Businesses depend on the cooperation of employees inside their organisation to make sense of today’s complex, highly unpredictable world. By forming a team of teams, organisations may turn their workforce into a single, highly adaptable functioning organism with a shared goal.

The management (and, by extension, structure) has limited modern organisations’ success. Despite having much more data, the world has grown less predictable due to increasing interconnection and rapid communication. Creating successful teams in the current day requires two factors:

  • Sharing of utterly transparent information.
  • A decentralised system of decision-making.
General Stanley McChrystal and Team of Teams

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