If there is one positive outcome from conflict it is the pace at which it drives innovation and adaptation. Those concepts are key to the optimal human performance (ohp) model – constant evolution and adaptation to optimise performance leveraging innovation born from the diversity and pushing individuals and teams to extremes. In General Stanley McChrystal’s book “Team of Team – new rules of engagement for a complex world” he highlights the massive adaptation that his Task Force went through, against all the natural instincts of the parent organisation and the environment in which he and many of his team honed their skills, based on a the brutal reality that the military organisation of yesterday was not able to tackle the enemy of today.
4 key recommendation I highlight from McChrystal’s work that stand out as being essential to any team or organisation that needs to adapt to the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous markets in which we operate are:
1) Daily Operating Cadence – by establishing universal commitment across multiple units, teams, agencies and at all ranks he established unprecedented situational awareness and an ability for decisions to be made, actions taken, effect measured and refinements made in a constant stream of 24 hour cycles massively increasing the ability of a large organisation to respond and overcome a much smaller but dangerous enemy.
2) Democratisation of Information – by loosening the historical intra agency grip on intelligence and insights he created an environment fed on fresh and actionable information. That access to information increased the effectiveness of decisions – more decisions could be made, in less time, and with better outcomes as more, lower level commanders could take ownership of the situation on the ground.
3) Dynamic teams – like any business, McChrystal and his team grew up in organisations structured into logical silos aimed at creating efficiency. By actively moving people with diverse skills and experience across traditional boundaries he created, through forced exposure to foreign bodies, he created trust and respect and opportunities to learn new ways of working. These then spread as more people moved into adjacent teams and ultimately to to other allied forces. Constantly forming, reforming and adapting teams to focus on specific challenges got people familiar with change and spread innovative practices.
4) “Eyes on, hands off” leadership – whilst this might not be a specific recommendation and is likely the result of applying multiple methods and approaches put in place by the Task Force, it illustrates the value of transformation from Directive, Authoritarian leadership styles to Observational / Federated leadership.
It is also worth noting – many of the individual adaptations to the organisation and culture came from the direct experience of individual operators and small teams on the front line, tested in a live theatre of operations, with failures being rapidly assessed and improvements identified resulting in further adaptation and testing. This high tempo cycle of testing and learning is highly relevant for businesses struggling to decide what to do next in the face of disruption.
You can read more in Fred Nichols summary of the 12 chapters of the book in the attached PDF which is available from Distance Consulting or for the complete story you can read or listen to the complete book.