Team of Teams

Team of Teams

New Rules of Engagement for A Complex World

Book - 2015
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As commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), General Stanley McChrystal played a crucial role in the War on Terror. But when he took the helm in 2004, America was losing that war badly: despite vastly inferior resources and technology, Al Qaeda was outmaneuvering America's most elite warriors. McChrystal came to realize that today's faster, more interdependent world had overwhelmed the conventional, top-down hierarchy of the U.S. military. Al Qaeda had seen the future: a decentralized network that could move quickly and strike ruthlessly. To defeat such an enemy, JSOC would have to discard a century of management wisdom, and pivot from a pursuit of mechanical efficiency to organic adaptability. Under McChrystal's leadership, JSOC remade itself, in the midst of a grueling war, into something entirely new: a network that combined robust centralized communication with decentralized managerial authority. As a result, they beat back Al Qaeda. In this book, McChrystal shows not only how the military made that transition, but also how similar shifts are possible in all organizations, from large companies to startups to charities to governments. In a turbulent world, the best organizations think and act like a team of teams, embracing small groups that combine the freedom to experiment with a relentless drive to share what they've learned. Drawing on a wealth of evidence from his military career, the private sector, and sources as diverse as hospital emergency rooms and NASA's space program, McChrystal frames the existential challenge facing today's organizations, and proposes a compelling, effective solution.
Publisher: New York, New York : Portfolio/Penguin, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781591847489
Branch Call Number: 658.4022 M12t
Characteristics: ix, 290 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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May 10, 2019

I definitely got a lot more out of this book then after reading General McChrystal’s personal memoir, which I found personally apathetic and disappointing. This book, however, had a lot of very interesting professional observations about leadership and management from the author's comparisons and lessons learned leading and overseeing combat missions in Iraq. The first thing I noticed was the emphasis on the potential limits of technology. Although technology provides ease and comforts, it also increases our demand to absorb and produce more, which as human beings we are very limited in doing. The book explores more about that topic more extensively. Secondly, it delineates the differences between leadership and management and more so emphasizes the importance of management. In our society today, there is so much weight and importance placed on leadership, we tend to forget how important the management piece is. One can inspire and motivate people all day long, but without proper management people, tools and strategies, attaining objectives and meeting expectations is a moot point. So, I greatly appreciate the emphasis on the management piece. Lastly, I also appreciate the leadership and management comparisons between combat missions and the private sector and how these principles are intertwined regardless of what business, vocation or organization an individual is a part of. I could not give this book a five because Jocko Willink’s book “Extreme Ownership” knocks this one down a few notches, but I highly recommend this book, it was a good read overall.

Mar 03, 2018

An enjoyable, erudite read, Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal was written by a general for generals. McChrystal takes his time to make his points. He presents cogent evidence to support his assertions, but those would be easy enough to accept on the basis of his authority. His education and experience made him an expert. From 2003-2008 he was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command that was responsible for defeating the insurgency of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and neutralizing its leadership, including the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In order to achieve that, McChrystal had to reconfigure the way the Army usually operated.

The transformation was radical for the military, but familiar to the private sector. Information could not be held in organizational “silos” on a need-to-know basis. The office layout, while allowing adequate personal space, had to be open so that people could talk across desks, across islands of information and authority. This was only way that the allied joint forces could defeat AQI, which was decentralized, resilient, adaptable, flexible, and driven by the media of information exchange from the cellphone to the international news website.

The coordinating theme is the balance and integration of shared consciousness and empowered execution. Shared consciousness includes the physical perceptions brought in from information assets, either directly from soldiers in the field or indirectly from informants or remote sensors. It also includes the philosophy of the mission, an agreement on doctrine and rules of engagement. Given that, empowered execution allows those closest to a problem – taking a house or killing an enemy leader—to solve it in real time.

Early on, McChrystal establishes a baseline that he returns to repeatedly throughout the book. Frederick Winslow Taylor’s efficient organization defined not just the methods of production or the layout of the office, but the fundamental doctrinal premise of a civilization for 100 years. Taylorist thinking led to the impenetrable (but immovable) Maginot Line that aircraft flew over. The coalition forces defeated Saddam Hussein because both sides were fighting the previous war. The Iraqi insurgency demanded new habits from new learning. It was time to take everyone’s brains out of their footlockers and put them all to work thinking, discussing, planning, and criticizing.

Chapter 10 “Hands off” contrasts the experiences of Commodore Matthew Perry and Gen. Ulysses Grant. Perry was on his own, over 6,000 miles from home. He had total control and no oversight. On the other hand, Grant issued meticulously detailed orders to his generals. McChrystal’s world was a strange mix of the two. While he enjoyed complete information input from assets in the field, soldiers, helicopters, and drones, he also insisted on letting the leaders on the ground make their own decisions, knowing, of course, that they were not alone at all.

McChrystal completed a master of science in International Relations from Salve Regina University. He has company. Maj. Gen. James W. Nuttall deputy director of the Army National Guard earned an MA at SRU. Gen. Peter Chiarelli completed an MA in national security strategy at SRU after earning an MPA from the University of Washington. After finishing a master's at Salve Regina, Gen. Anthony Zinni (USMC) earned another master's from Central Michigan University.

Perhaps making too much of his outside-the-box thinking, it is interesting to note that Gen. McChrystal recommended "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" for Admiral James Stavridis’s anthology, "The Leader’s Bookshelf."

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