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There is nothing permanent except change.Heraclitus

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Team of Teams

Team of Teams

How can you revive efficiency by breaking down silos in your organization? The former commander of the American Task Force in Iraq draws a parallel between his experience and business organizations that have been able to overcome the limitations of silos.

Author(s): General Stanley McChrystal

Publisher: Portfolio Penguin

Date of publication: 2015

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General McChrystal took command of the American Task Force in Iraq in 2004. The American army there was struggling at the time. The general’s first reflex was to invest more resources and organize more raids—in vain. Ambushes, deadly terrorist attacks and loss of strategic points continued to increase.

He then realized that this situation could only be reversed by radically modifying traditional practices. He tackled the silos that compartmentalized the many players involved—various army corps, intelligence services, embassies, etc. He gathered all the analysts in one big open space, sat himself in the middle and covered the walls with screens to track operations as they took place. This change shook habits of compartmentalization and competition between teams. People were astonished to see the general holding conference calls on loudspeaker! By constantly initiating exchanges of personnel and information, McChrystal managed to get the various departments to cooperate. The difference was quickly visible on the ground, as the number of operations, but especially their relevance and quality, increased dramatically.

Have no fear—this isn’t a boring account of military operations. The author provides many relevant parallels with the business world. Examples borrowed from Bell, Boeing, Facebook and NASA make it easier to transpose the lessons drawn. He shows how companies who have been able to overcome the limitations of silos have organized themselves into networks of teams, supported by regular communication flow, staff exchanges, cross-functional projects and shared challenges.

This book is particularly interesting on two accounts: a first-person recounting of little-known aspects of American operations in Iraq and the story of a noteworthy experience in organizational de-siloing.