Constructing teams

Posted by on September 08, 2019 · 2 mins read

I recently read the book Team of Teams and found the General’s story about AQI/terrorism useful and informative. The military General (author) undermines an AQI terrorist organization by re-organizing his teams of forces into a “team of teams”, ultimately linking how companies face very similar organizational issues in competitive markets.

Reading Team of Teams was serendipitous since my company recently came up with a similar organizational structure that mimics his proposed thinking.

A couple of key takeaways:

  • Traditional organizations have hierarchies meant to optimize low information workflows. Organizations with a single leader are efficient for task based & low information workflows, but fragile when information overload is too much for a single person (manager) to synthesize. In a team of teams structure, people closest to valuable information are able to make decisions without authority.
  • If information is a key asset to decision making, prisoner dilemmas between teams perpetuate in a traditional hierarchy. Have you ever felt like teams within the same company are constantly trying to undermine each other to make themselves look better to their mutual bosses? Unwanted information asymmetries between company teams ultimately force the bosses to make a difficult decisions with little information.
  • Leaders of the future don’t play chess, they garden. Future leaders will not make decisions in an async environment with one person controlling the battlefield. Instead, they will empower their teams to communicate with each other to make decisions on the battlefield in real time. The role of a leader will change from a hero on the ground, to a coach who teaches their team to make decisions. This is best done by creating organizational structures and environments where communication can flow quickly between teams.

In one picture this is what a “team of teams” looks like. There are many versions/flavors that this can appear in, but this is the place to start.