The book we wrote found an audience with senior leaders across many industries. From the reading list of commandant of the Marine Corps to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon’s 2016 list of “must reads,” the book’s ideas found receptive audiences in some of the world’s most seasoned and credentialed leaders.
Even with Team of Teams as a frame, however, readers have continued to ask us a common series of questions: I accept the premise, but how exactly do we implement this model? Or What are the most important steps to focus on when attempting a team of teams? And even How does a forum with thousands of people not devolve into total chaos?
To this day, I’ll also often get another line of questioning meant to be respectful of our teams’ efforts in conflict, but which expresses a healthy skepticism about whether lessons from a modern battlefield can truly apply to other realms: What your organization did was impressive, but it’s different here. In the military you can just give orders, and subordinates have to follow. It’s not like that in the civilian world.
If there are any former military folks in the room, they’ll invariably chuckle at this.
I was on active duty for just over fifteen years, and I can’t think of a single time that I ever truly gave or received an “order” like the one you might imagine from watching a war movie, in which a higher-ranking officer’s harsh words are universally adhered to and respected by those under their command. That approach doesn’t work well in the conven- tional military, and it falls even further short in the special operations community—where triple-selected, highly qualified, and deeply experienced personalities don’t take kindly to being ordered by an officer with less practical experience than they possess.
Regardless of context, a leader cannot simply command people what to do and expect them to wholeheartedly follow. Rather, their task should be to guide teams, influence their decision making, and give them appropriate but not overly restrictive guardrails. But guardrails like this are impossible to establish without one critical factor—an organizational model that retains stability where necessary while also allowing for the distributed decision making that is mandated by our information age.
Many of the questions I’ve received, of course, can be compounded into the following line: What are the practical and tangible steps that business leaders must take if they are to build their own team of teams? Team of Teams told our story and made an argument about the final state that modern organizations need to arrive at to succeed, but it was not a practicum on how to reach that goal. Our intent in the pages ahead is to offer just that; to provide leaders with a sense of the necessary steps to creating a team of teams.
Excerpted from ONE MISSION: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams by Chris Fussell, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Chris Fussell, 2017.