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One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams Hardcover – Illustrated, 13 June 2017
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--DAVID G. BRADLEY, chairman of Atlantic Media "One Mission is required reading for anyone leading people. Fussell's vivid account of how a team of teams model turned the tide on the battlefield is both inspiring and instructional in helping leaders to navigate the transition from twentieth-century bureaucracy to twenty-first-century complexity."
--DOUG MCMILLON, president and CEO of Walmart "Leaders from all sectors will recognize themselves and their organizations in the pages of One Mission. Fussell is an engaging writer, weaving together stories of his military past with tales of the many businesses that he was worked with. The result is a valuable, practical manual of how to make the necessary changes to become a Team of Teams."
--ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, president and CEO of New America, author of The Chessboard and the Web "Chris Fussell is one of the most dynamic thinkers of our day. His ideas and his perspectives have challenged many of my own assumptions and pushed me to think bigger. I'm smarter because of Chris Fussell. Read this book!"
--SIMON SINEK, optimist and author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last
"Whether you are the CEO of a company, the head of a government agency, or the leader of a nonprofit, this book should be the next one you read."
--MICHÈLE FLOURNOY, CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and former under secretary of defense for policy "Businesses that operate using the old command-and-control model struggle to navigate the complex problems of the twenty-first century. With One Mission, organizations have the vocabulary and toolset they need to switch to a Team of Teams model and excel in the information age."
--DHIRAJ RAJARAM, founder and chairman of Mu Sigma Inc.
About the Author
- Publisher : PRENTICE HALL; Illustrated edition (13 June 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0735211353
- ISBN-13 : 978-0735211353
- Dimensions : 15.75 x 2.54 x 23.62 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 20,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The book sets itself the task of describing how to create an adaptable organisation that can meet the modern business world. It suggests that if such an organisation follows its tips it will be able to be as flexible and speedy in adjusting to rapidly changing conditions as any small room nimble team. The challenge of being adaptable in this increasingly complex and volatile world is a daunting prospect for any organisation. Since any organisation must align itself through establishing a shared consciousness as fast or faster than the challenges and problems that might occur.
In order to achieve this, the writers describe the hybrid model that McChrystal and his team created in the theatre of war to fight the Taliban. McChrystal’s team created an organisational structure that overlaid the fluidity of a network on a standard, bureaucratic and hierarchical structure.
The writers present several tools for creating a hybrid organisation.
The first is an aligning narrative to harmonise the one mission from the disparate parts of the organisation.
The second is to create a means of communication that crosses the boundaries and tribal cultures of the various ivory towers that can exist in such an organisation.
The third is to create an operating rhythm that enables an organisation to adjust itself faster than its encounters.
The fourth is to establish a decision space for operators to execute their mission in an empowered and distributed basis.
Lastly, it is to create a network of trusted contacts who each teams organisation values and not at as an unnecessary mole for the senior leadership. Unfortunately, this book gives several lengthy but less than insightful case studies of the work that McChrystal’s management consultancy has worked with.
What are sadly missing from this book was a clear explanation of the key problems that McChrystal Group Leadership Institute’s called in to resolve and clear explanation of the demonstrable benefits and results from such consultancy advice by the McChrystal group. One key weakness was its lack of appreciation of how to merit the information being exchanged and the need for strong leadership. One felt that the organisational structures suggested in this book would actually lead to a failure for someone to make a quick and timely decision in a time of urgency, due to the unnecessary emphasis on over consultation encouraged in this book.
There was a lack of clarity in the case studies about what were the key problems that the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute were being called in to solve, and a lack of insight on how they resolved these problems, plus a clear demonstration of the actual benefits in terms of increased profits, lower staff turnover, better communications et cetera. Overall in terms of defining what the real problems such firms involved in the case studies and what were the demonstrable benefits of the work of the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute’s work, many readers will find this book a disappointment.
Team of Teams documents how the Industrial Age introduced Frederick Winslow Taylor’s ‘Scientific Management’ model, which equated to Time and Motion/ Efficiency studies and Command and Control leadership. That used to serve us well when you were making Model T Fords, now – not so much (though its influence prevails far too much – for a crushing critique of how very unscientific that model actually is I recommend The Management Myth by Matthew Stewart).
When McChrystal was placed in charge of JSOC, battling Al Qaeda in Iraq – he found that despite having all the men, the money and machines – they were losing against a far smaller group of insurgents in an agile, connected network organisation. The reason? They were efficient, but not effective. He was playing chess, while they were playing draughts! He had a hierarchy, they had multiple leaders (we killed the ‘second in command’ about twenty times). The little starfish was beating the big spider.
The General schooled at West Point to be the archetypal hero leader now had to stop being a chess master – and become a ‘humble gardener’, to create places for others to flourish. He devised a new model – “Team of teams” – where the relationships between constituent teams resembled those between individuals on a single team: silos were busted by trust, cooperation and common purpose.
It really is an important book in a time when change is all around and comes at us all so fast, requiring adaptability like never before. Our leadership team benefitted from my summary learnings from it about 6 months ago. But to be honest there wasn’t much of a ‘how to’ there, we needed the implementation to go with the inspiration. That’s where One Mission comes in.
Chris Fussell was McCrystal’s aide-de-camp, charged with a lot of the implementation. He’s therefore best placed to help other organisations implement the new thinking that came out of that arena into our own.
Rather than try to go through a chapter at a time, I’ll pull out what I thought were the most important themes in the order that seems to make most sense to me, but I urge you to read the book for yourself and ask yourself and your leaders the questions each chapter poses.
THE PROBLEM WITH BUREAUCRACIES
The old industrial leadership paradigms see people as cogs in a machine. The way to improve? Improve the processes. But we have all seen how often people who are told to be cogs end up saying, ‘computer says no’. And the larger the organization, the slower such flow chart heavy systems become and the less able to respond to rapidly changing environments. The JSOC was running a highly efficient, complicated losing twentieth-century bureaucracy against a fast and connected twenty-first century complex network of evil.
THE PROBLEM WITH NETWORKS
But that doesn’t mean networks are necessarily the answer for your organisation to flourish. They lack central cohesion and planning, so long term may implode, and lead to individual groups performing well, but not in a way that’s aligned toward any coherent goal.
What was needed was a way to form a hybrid, bringing the best of both models together. A Team of Teams.
Fussell was a Navy SEAL. They have their own history, heroes and methods of being the best of the best, charged daily to ‘earn your Trident.’ But all those other military teams, and analysts, and intelligence agencies, all scattered around the globe, had their own team to be the best at doing what they did in – so if anything goes wrong it’s not our fault, it must be the other guys!
Fussell outlines well the frustrations that come from being on the ‘tactical’ front line, where decisions often have to be made quickly in real time, whereas those in ‘operational’ (for this read management) areas are dealing with the logistics and longer time scales, and above them those in ‘strategy’ at the top line of leadership are meant to be making much more long term plans.
Gaps develop all three ways, and often those on the tactical front line feel the strategists are far removed from their day to day challenges – and the only recourse they have for help, guidance or even to voice frustration is the managerial level above them who feel caught in the middle.
The answer they put in place was to agree and commit to an OPERATING RHYTHM of regular honest and candid communication. For them, this equated to thousands of people at all levels and multiple agencies all going online at 1600hrs for a 90 minute meeting, every single day (sounds like a lot of commitment? They did have a war to win!). The stories told show how everyone at any level with something to contribute was actively encouraged to do so – given the ‘psychological safety’ to do so without fear of being belittled.
These regular ‘Operations and Intelligence’ meetings served to unite all individuals in the teams into that team of teams. Perhaps most important in these times would not be the brief look back and the long look forward, but the way everyone was included and brought away from their own silos under an ALIGNING NARRATIVE. This is the ‘ONE MISSION” that forms the book’s title. The Aligning Narrative is what pulled them all together and would be reiterated in various ways throughout, in written and spoken words.
Previously if you had asked any team what they were there to do, they’d probably say it was obvious – “Beat Al Qaeda!” But every team would then form its own version of that that actually mean for them, and for them to do. Now they established and agreed and repeated over and over not just WHAT they were there to do, but HOW to – as a Hybrid Organised Network – a Team of Teams.
“Our overarching goal now was not simply “defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq” but to become the type of culture that could… Our process was as important as our end goal, and defining the process was the equation
Credibility = Proven Competence + Integrity + Relationships.
Instead of talking only about winning, we would talk about changing how we operated in order to win.’ (pg 58)
The primary question I draw from One Mission then for your organisation (and for the group of churches I lead our leadership teams will discuss this tomorrow before everyone gets a copy of the book to read and implement) is this; What’s our Aligning Narrative? How do we agree, frame it, communicate it, repeat it and live it out?
The reason this is so important is that getting this right allows people in their teams to operate in a culture of Empowered Execution; knowing what you can do, and what you need to ask permission to do. Without knowing that, most people will default to playing safe, but clarity creates decision space and room for ‘positive deviants‘ to make those off the grid decisions that push the norms and make breakthroughs.
What’s Your One Mission?
As leaders, what do we need to identify, put language around and then discipline ourselves to communicate and demonstrate to help everyone on our Team of teams know how we do, what we are here to do?
-The author begins with the problems that the military in Iraq was faced with. Because of modern day communications, the enemy was able to make use of information quickly. An attack against the American forces would quickly go viral, so that the enemy forces were able to show that they could hurt our army; conditions on the ground could change quickly, and by the time the leaders received that intel, the window of opportunity to use it would pass; it was also difficult to coordinate the different forces that were sent in by our government to do battle.
-Although this book doesn't show you what strategy would be good for your business, it is meant to set up the means to better determine what the strategy should be. It does this, by showing how you could empower all of your men to be information gatherers and disseminators, so they could act as one, and be stronger than their individual parts. Issues that would normally be hidden under the rug in most organizations, will be exposed in this system, so the chances of the group being blindsided is greatly minimized.
-The examples given are thorough and very well explained, with many jewels found throughout. Things like "Everyone likes to be empowered," I'll often tell groups of business leaders, "until they're actually empowered." I read through this book twice, so that I could take notes on what was written, as each chapter has so many things that a businessman can learn from.
-This is one of the top ten business books that should be on everyone's list, and is highly recommended for anyone who wants to improve both himself, and the organization that he/ she is part of.
Stan McChrystal and Chris Fussell are pioneers, thought leaders and the preeminent proponents of this emerging world of organizational progression and transformation. Although the genesis of their thesis comes from the military world, it would be a mistake to think of either of them solely as military men simply relating and translating their war experiences to the civilian corporate world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, the crucible of war on terror in the 21st Century both necessitated and accelerated the change in how we fight, how we organize the teams, units, and task forces who were called to fight a new enemy. This enemy was globally, connected, technologically adept and continuously morphing and adapting. Although many of the principles in both “Team of Teams” and “One Mission” have existed in one form or another individually for some time, McChrystal in particular is due credit for having the intelligence, foresight and courage to see that the status quo of traditional systems weren't working and that an urgent change was needed.
In “Team or Teams”, McChrystal, Fussell and their co-authors Dave Silverman and Tantum Collins laid the foundations for this new way of thinking. Beginning with important historical context, they then introduced the principle of complexity and the challenges it imposes, existing tribe dynamics, the importance of shared consciousness, broad participation in a centralized forum to facilitate information sharing, trust, and empowered execution. Key to “Team of Teams” was the concept of our modern leaders needing to be more like “gardeners tending their patch rather than Patton-like Generals, executing chessboard moves.
In “One Mission”, an excellent and timely follow on to “Team of Teams”, Chris Fussell and C.W. Goodyear provide tangible real life implementation techniques and case studies where enterprises have already seen the benefits and returns associated with making these bold changes. Fussell takes the themes to new levels, showing the results that are possible. Throughout the book, he provides reference points from his military career that are more than war stories, they are useful parallels to our corporate experiences that reveal remarkable similarities to situations and challenges we have all faced and are facing in corporate America. I found these case studies to be instructive and convincing, the real life proof that implementing a Team of Teams hybrid approach can produce real results. In other words, the “how”.
The case studies examine a range of different sized businesses in varying sectors and industries demonstrating the efficacy of the process for just about any type of enterprise. As most of the examples to date have been U.S. based operations with American management and cultures, it will be interesting to see future case studies where the “Team of Teams” approach is implemented abroad. Fussell is also honest enough to show these situations “warts and all” admitting that organizational change isn't always smooth sailing or permanent. The process needs to be tailored to each organization's structure and requirements and most importantly, adapted and maintained on an ongoing basis.
One Mission is the book we all wish our CEO’s will read. It's clear this approach will with time be the norm, and the standard for successful enterprises. Organizations and leaders who get on board early will reap the benefits, attracting and retaining top talent, winning customers and leading the way.