May 12, 2015
When General Stanley McChrys took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2004, he quickly realized that conventional military tactics were failing. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decentralized network that could move quickly, strike ruthlessly, then seemingly vanish into the local population. The Allied forces had a huge advantage in numbers, equipment, and training – but none of that seem to matter.
It’s no secret that in any field, small teams have many advantages – they can respond quickly, communicate freely, and make decisions without layers of bureaucracy. But organizations taking on really big challenges can’t fit in a garage. They need management practices that can scale to thousands of people.
General McChrys led a hierarchical, highly disciplined machine of thousands of men and women. But to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, his Task Force would have to acquire the enemy’s speed and flexibility. Was there a way to combine the power of the world’s mightiest military with the agility of the world’s most fearsome terrorist network? If so, could the same principles apply in civilian organizations?
McChrystal and his colleagues discarded a century of conventional wisdom and remade the Task Force, in the midst of a gruelling war, into something new: a network that combined extremely transparent communication with decentralized decision-making authority. The walls between silos were torn down. Leaders looked at the best practices of the smallest units and found ways to extend them to thousands of people on three continents, using technology to establish a oneness that would’ve been impossible even a decade earlier. The Task Force became a “team of teams” – faster, flatter, more flexible – and beat back Al Qaeda.
In this powerful book, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in the rack can be relevant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. The world is changing faster than ever, in the smartest response for those in charge is to give small groups the freedom to experiment while driving everyone to share what they learn across the entire organization. As the authors argue through compelling examples, the team of team strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA. It has the potential to transform organizations large and small.
Stanley McChrystal retired from the US 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.