One Mission

One Mission

How Leaders Build a Team of Teams

Chris Fussell and C.W. Goodyear

Portfolio, New York, 2017, 304 pages

Book Review published on: September 29, 2017

One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams is a follow up to the book Team of Teams. Chris Fussell and C. W. Goodyear state that their intent is to write a book to give the reader a sense of how to build a team of teams. It recounts the details of the structural and interpersonal changes Gen. Stanley McChrystal incorporated to build and maintain a team of teams in Afghanistan. The book stands on its own but is definitely worth reading as a sequel to Team of Teams.

The purpose of this book is to answer the question of how to create an adaptable organization. It endeavors to create a model for a large organization to adapt with the speed and agility of a small team. To be adaptable in a volatile and complex world, an organization must align itself through establishing a shared consciousness as fast as or faster than the challenges and problems that arise. To accomplish this, the author describes the hybrid model that McChrystal and his staff established in theater to defeat the Taliban. They created an organizational structure that overlaid the fluidity of a network on a standard, bureaucratic, and hierarchical structure.

The authors present several aspects to creating this hybrid organization. The first is an aligning narrative to harmonize “one mission” from the disparate parts of the enterprise. The second is to devise a means of communication that crosses stove-piped boundaries and tribal cultures of various teams. The third is to create an operating rhythm that allows the organization to realign itself faster than the change it encounters. The fourth is to create a decision space for operators to execute their mission in an empowered and decentralized basis. The last is to create a network of trusted liaisons who are valued in their own organization and not just extra people to act as moles for their parent organizations. These liaisons are given genuine responsibility and have the power and authority to call senior leadership directly when needed.

The authors use several examples of large civilian companies who employed the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute’s methodology with great success. These examples can be a bit distracting to the flow of the text, but they illustrate the ideas are transferable and not just applicable to a military environment.

The book is easy to read and worth reading for any leader, whether of a large enterprise or a small team. None of the concepts it espouses are new or radical. Aligning teams, communicating with transparency, and decentralized decision making are all outcomes that are commonly sought by any group. What this book shows is how McChrystal was able to make it all work in a complex and volatile environment. Any organization that can use the method in the book to create a hybrid organization, or even to come up with a technique of its own to build an adaptable organization, will be better suited for survival in a threat-filled world.

Book Review written by: Ted A. Thomas, PhD, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas