Chris Fussel, One Mission

Team of Teams, distributed networks, knowledge management – all relevant topics in today’s increasingly complex environments. In most – if not all – large organizations, however, these efforts fail. They fail because of heavily ingrained tribal cultures that resist the flow of knowledge across all levels of the hierarchy. In today’s increasingly complex and fast-moving world, argues Chris Fussel, former Chief of Staff to General McChrystal in Iraq, organizations can no longer accept this.

Theoretically, this sounds easy. Any organization will know how strongly departments fight to defend their turf or how powerful a particular group within an organization can be. Meanwhile, simply delegating leadership to subordinate units is a recipe for marathon meetings and inefficiency. In One Mission, Chris Fussel explains how the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq managed to combine the strengths of bureaucracy (long-term planning, resource optimization, efficiency) with the strengths of distributed networks (empowered execution, rapid iterations, effectiveness). The solution involved a worldwide meeting (i.e. massive conference call) involving junior-grade analysts, field operators, and top-level generals sharing information and insights.

The basic work cadence came down to daily recalibrations – a 90-minute meeting with teams sharing insights and information and leadership providing strategic goals. Teams then executed on those goals until the next day, when the process began again. While that rhythm is most likely too intense for most organizations, Chris Fussel shares case studies (UnderArmor, Intuit, et al) on companies facing the same challenges of complexity and speed that can only be overcome through a team-of-teams approach.

A must-read if you are interested in cross-functional communication and empowering execution across all levels of an organization, no matter how big or small.