Team of Teams

New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

When General Stan McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in 2003, he quickly realized that conventional military leadership approaches were failing. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decentralized network that could move quickly, strike ruthlessly, and seemingly vanish into the local population. The allied forces had a huge advantage in numbers, equipment, and training—but none of that seemed to matter.

To defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, McChrystal and his colleagues discarded a century of conventional wisdom and remade the task force, in the midst of a grueling war, into something new: a network that combined 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 have been impossible even a decade or two 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 Iraq can be relevant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. The world is changing faster than ever, and 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 teams’ strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA and has the potential to transform organizations large and small.

Author:

Christopher L. Fussell is a senior fellow with the International Security Program at New America. He spent 15 years as an officer in the Navy SEAL Teams, and is now a principal at the McChrystal Group.