6. The book is written in a very simple and lucid manner and makes an interesting read also for a not so regular reader. Though it is written by a retired military general the book’s applicability is not limited to military and is a must-read for leaders in all organisations. The author suggests that even business executives could effectively apply wartime lessons to their boardrooms. The author has covered a vast canvass in the book and has touched upon various issues relevant to modern leadership. The logic given is simple and applicable, it shows how the challenges faced by the US special forces in Iraq can be relevant for any leader.
7. The Strong Points. The author strongly believes that the world is now so complex (vice complicated) that the old models of command and control are extinct. He is passionate about this evolution that he has decided to start a successful consulting firm to share what he has learned. The Task Force’s journey towards shared consciousness and smart autonomy start, in 2003 with the stunning realisation by the commander of the world’s most precise and lethal Counter-Terrorism Task Force that they were losing the strategic war against Al Qaeda. From there the author interlaces examples and case studies of organisational models, leadership techniques, and technological advances from a variety of areas. They include weather forecasting, basketball and soccer, engineering marvels, big data, airline customer service, aircraft crews, NASA, SEAL training, plastic surgeons at the Boston Marathon bombing, GM versus Ford, MIT studies, and the enduring effects of Ritz Carlton and Nordstrom.
7. The discussions found in the various chapters of the book are wide-ranging but relevant to leading all organisations in this modern world. The following facts highlighted in the book may be of interest to today’s leaders :-
(a) The difference between complicated and complex environments.
(b) How having more information available does not improve prediction nor mean lead to smarter decisions at the top.
(c) Taylorism and efficiency ideals may actually cost you more than they save.
(d) The value of using your best people as ‘liaison officers’ or ’embeds’.
(e) How resilient people make organisations stronger because they can adapt to changing environments.
(f) Learning from your adversary is extremely important they might have a better organisational model not necessarily better people.
(g) How to delegate authority?
(h) How to build trust and a shared awareness of the big picture – ‘eyes on, hands off’ leadership.
8. The book carries you forward in time to see how far the Task Force had come by changing their culture, structure, and habits to allow the larger corporate command to become as agile and capable as its commandos. The details of the successful operations that the “Task Force” undertook after the shift have been described well. This short example, that covers just 46 minutes of a follow-on-target operation, highlights sharply the outcome of The Task Force’s investment in transparency, trust building and empowered execution. The command took risks and luckily their bosses supported them and let them learn to beat Al-Qaeda Intelligence at its own game.
9. The conclusions that the author comes to our simple. Success comes from giving freedom to subordinates, increasing the speed of action, achieving self-synchronisation – in a nutshell by a decentralised command. The concept is literally about getting ‘out of the control’ business and realising that in order for organisations to take advantage of fleeting opportunities teams must be empowered at the lowest levels to take action. General McChrystal echoes this and the need to repeatedly broadcast so that everyone knows the goals and strategy of the organisation. This includes letting everyone in the organisation have a say about the direction of the ship and feel free to alert others of impending icebergs.
10. The author has at the end of every chapter given a block ‘Recap’ of all relevant topics that have been highlighted. A summary of the chapter and a sort of a revision of what he wanted to convey. The summary at the end of each chapter helps the reader collate his thoughts and link them once again to the relevant examples covered in the chapter. Even when the reader refers to the book in the future, a quick glance at the summary at the end of each chapter should be quite effective in recapitulating the essence of each chapter. Thus the subsequent reads of the book will be much simpler and brisk.
10. The Only Shortfall. Missing from the book is a deeper discussion on the role of planning, plans, strategic thinking and strategy. While the Team of Teams approach allows organisations to be adaptable and resilient there is still a key role for planning and strategy. Maybe it’s as simple as the old proverb ‘the plan is nothing but planning is everything’.