Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

Reviewed on , book by Stanley McChrystal

Team of Teams is a good book about scaling organizations from individual-based trust, to team-based trust. Building large teams in the 21st century where communication thrives in all directions and through the white-space of the organization chart. The strategies are extracted from real-world field practise in Iraq, fighting the most notorious terror organization in the world: AQI. Their organization resiliency proved their biggest threat, with the web bouncing back in an antifragile fashion to every leader taken out by the forces. It was like a Fortune 500 company fighting off startups with the organization edge of being able to move much quicker, despite having substantially less resources. The book explores how to get the best of both worlds. The US army had to reorganize itself completely to thrive in this environment. AQI’s competitive edge wasn’t their technology, it was their agile organization.

While keeping itself aligned with reality through Crystal’s real-life examples, the book dives into my favorite parts of management history. From specialization to Taylorism. Most companies, including the army, hadn’t moved completely away from Taylorism where everything is dictated from above. This is extremely effective in some environments, but not in a fast-changing one where decisions cannot be created from the top. The author drives this point home with examples from Preussia, Drucker, .. It involves many stories I’ve heard before around checklists and how teams have to supplement each other because the volume of knowledge is too large. I couldn’t wish for a better explanation of the team mentality than this book offers, using all of my favorite examples and pieces of history.

It really drives the home that communication is the source of a healthy organization. And lots of it. Every time you increase communication, the organization does better. Communicatoin and autonomy is what the book centers around.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. It reminds me of many other books I’ve read, compiling the points into a compelling management book. It has an overemphasis on acronyms that you forget that are not required, and the writing is not always as good as it could’ve been which is why it doesn’t get the 5th star. The content is definitely for 5/5, but the writing could’ve been more compelling.