Oxford Business Book Club at Blackwells Bookshop Oxford

Oxford Business Book Club at Blackwells Bookshop Oxford

Business / Oxford

One Mission, How Leaders Build a Team of Teams

Nicholas Newman reviews a book by  Chris Fussell and C.W. Goodyear

Portfolio, New York, 2017, 304 pages

Nicholas Newman reviews a book by  Chris Fussell and C.W. Goodyear

Portfolio, New York, 2017, 304 pages


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 claim it is a book about how to set up a team of teams. It describes in detail work of US army general Stanley McChrystal in his efforts to create a team of teams in Afghanistan and Iraq war zones. It is a sequel to the authors earlier book team of teams.

The book sets itself the task of describing how to create an adaptable organisation that can meet the modern business world. It suggests that if such an organisation follows its tips it will be able to be as flexible and speedy in adjusting to rapidly changing conditions as any small nimble team. The challenge of being adaptable in this increasingly complex and volatile world is a daunting prospect for any organisation. Since any organisation must align itself through establishing a shared consciousness as fast or faster than the challenges and problems that might occur.

In order to achieve this, the writers describe the hybrid model that McChrystal and his team created in the theatre of war to fight the Taliban. McChrystal’s team created an organisational structure that overlaid the fluidity of a network on a standard, bureaucratic and hierarchical structure.

The writers present several tools for creating a hybrid organisation. These are:

  1. The first is an aligning narrative to harmonise the one mission from the disparate parts of the organisation.
  2. The second is to create a means of communication that crosses the boundaries and tribal cultures of the various ivory towers that can exist in such an organisation.
  3. The third is to create an operating rhythm that enables an organisation to adjust itself faster than its encounters.
  4. The fourth is to set up a decision space for operators to execute their mission in an empowered and distributed basis.
  5. Lastly, it is to create a network of trusted contacts who each teams organisation values and not at as an unnecessary mole for the senior leadership.

Unfortunately, this book gives several lengthy but less than insightful case studies of the work that McChrystal’s management consultancy has worked with.

What are sadly missing from this book was a clear explanation of the key problems that McChrystal Group Leadership Institute’s was called in to resolve and clear explanation of the demonstrable benefits and results from such consultancy advice by the McChrystal group. One key weakness was its lack of appreciation of how to merit the information being exchanged and the need for strong leadership.

One felt that the organisational structures suggested in this book would actually lead to a failure for someone needed to make a quick and prompt decision in a time of urgency, due to the unnecessary emphasis on over consultation encouraged in this book.

There was a lack of clarity in the case studies about what were the key problems that the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute were being called in to solve, and a lack of insight on how they resolved these problems, plus a clear demonstration of the actual benefits in terms of increased profits, lower staff turnover, better communications et cetera. Overall in terms of defining what the real problems such firms involved in the case studies and what were the demonstrable benefits of the work of the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute’s work, many readers will find this book a disappointment.

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