What could you learn from ‘Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World’ by Gen Stanley McChrystal (2015, 304 pages)

General Stanley McChristal has a phenomenal reputation amongst veterans. His new book ‘Team of Teams’ charts his experience commanding the Special Operations Task Force in Iraq. Stanley pointedly highlights the initial problems when arrives. He inherits a slow, top-down, bureaucratic organisation that is failing. The book then charts the evolution of the Task Force into an agile decentralised, empowered organisation.

The results and impact speak for themselves. Stanley argues that his approach of shared conscious and empowered leaders is as the relevant in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex & ambiguous) world of business as it is in the deserts and mountains of the middle east. He also uses several powerful non-military examples in the book.

The most important knowledge I take from this book, is his approach to leadership. Stanley describes his leadership approach as ‘eyes on, hands off’. However, he warns that this approach is risky, and should only be done once ‘shared consciousness’ is achieved.
Amazon link – Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

Link to the McChrystal Group website

Additional material in the book is also worth note.

  • Fordism/Taylorism is a great reductionist philosophy for a complicated (or closed) system as it increases efficiency.   However, these theories are not good for open/complex systems as one person cannot know/control everything
  • A team/holacracy is more effective as it is more resilient, but to work you need trust and purpose
  • You need to be shared consciousness and trust before you empower
  • ‘eyes-on, hands off’ leadership – a great simple phrase that describes Stanley’s idea leadership approach