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Build a Team of Teams

Make your organization more adaptable, by Stanley McChrystal.

Stanley McChrystal

Stanley McChrystal

General, U.S. Army, Retired

Build a Team of Teams
  • Overview
  • Episodes
  • Recommended for you


Modern business and modern warfare have more than a few things in common. In combat with Al Qaeda in Iraq, General Stanley McChrystal learned quickly that his army would need to adapt to unpredictable tactics and conditions to contain this new enemy, using a flexible, “team of teams” approach rather than a sluggish, top-down, hierarchy. 

In his masterclass, McChrystal and his right-hand officer Chris Fussell explore the importance of building a network of connected teams whose working relationships are supported by shared consciousness, or shared contextual understanding of any given event. In today’s shifting economy, this approach enables the entire organization to be more adaptable to unpredictable conditions.

What You'll Learn

  • How to build transparency in large organizations

  • How to quickly adapt to changes

  • How to bring individuals into alignment with your organization’s mission

  • How to handle personal and organizational mistakes productively

This image was originally posted by ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office and the image has been changed. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


3 Episodes

1. Adapt Quickly, Share Consciousness


Retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal was forced to learn on his feet while fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, an enemy whose command structure was distributed rather than centralized. In response to this new brand of warfare, McChrystal developed a “team of teams” approach, which hinged upon the notion of “shared consciousness.” This new communications strategy empowered disparate working groups to share information – and use it to adapt – more quickly.Upon returning to civilian life, McChrystal discovered that shared consciousness could be applied perfectly to the new challenges that large, distributed businesses face in a more fluid global economy. In this lesson, he explores how to use his communications strategy to cultivate transparency and adaptability in any large organization.Shared Consciousness: Universal contextual understanding of everything that’s happening in a system. It empowers disparate teams and individuals to make decisions on their own and close to the po...

2. Align Individuals


Retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal is best known for creating a comprehensive counter-terrorism organization that revolutionized the interagency operating culture. His reforms made the U.S. Army lean, mean, and responsive to the ever-changing threats posed by modern foes. In this lesson, McChrystal explores how to use shared consciousness and team-based performance incentives to bring individuals into alignment with your organization’s mission and goals.Use transparency to uncover rogue agents and weak linksSmall teams may go rogue with:Good intentions, but poor understandingBad IntentionsThe transparency afforded by shared consciousness protects against either scenario.Use transparency to uncover rogue agents and weak linksIneffective individuals are quickly surfaced in a culture with shared consciousness.Evaluate team performance, not individual performanceIncentivize a combined outcome, not individual success.

3. Evaluate Your Failures


Since offering his resignation to President Obama for making some off-the-cuff remarks to Rolling Stone magazine in 2010, Retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal has taken his leadership experience into the public sector. He recommends that business leaders own their mistakes – just as he says he accepts full responsibility for his career-ending gaff. In this lesson, McChrystal lays out a plan for handling failure productively, an approach that can be applied to personal as well as organizational mistakes.Consequences of Punishing FailureThe organization will become overly cautious.Failures will be covered up.After-Action ReviewWhat happened that led to this outcome?Determine the proximate causes of failure.Communication PlanDetermine the best way to inform the entire organization of the failure.Always report on a recent success before a failure briefing.

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