Employee Engagement, Featured

Eliminating Hierarchy: “Team of Teams” Surprising Takeaways


In the world of business, culture impacts everything – from the quality of a company’s talent, to its productivity and profitability, even down to its attractiveness to investors.

Which is why it’s not surprising to find out that culture played an equally critical role in the United States Joint Special Operations Task Force’s successful pivot in its conflict with Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the mid-2000s.

That there’s much to be learned from the Task Force’s overhaul of its internal architecture for business in general is the premise of General Stanley McChrystal’s book, “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World.

In it, McChrystal asserts that to stay competitive in our increasingly connected, fast-paced, and less predictable world, businesses must discard their hitherto reliable focus on efficiency and instead strive for adaptability above all else.

The way to achieve that? By letting go of hierarchical structures in favor of a “team of teams” – an organization within which the relationships between teams resemble those of individuals on a single team.

Read on for five more surprising takeaways from Team of Teams:

1. Teams are much better than one individual leader

As Glassdoor teaches us, the majority rules. Gone are the days of blanket marketing a brand without employees buying in. People now choose to work with your company, not for it. Which means that the reviews your employees write trump any message from one leader.

In this digital age, stabilizing teams across your organization to get work done is the only answer to avoiding chaos or a brand that cracks with one poke at its foundation.

2. Share information that needs to be shared

For teams to move quickly and efficiently, they need to be armed with the information they need to make decisions. Autonomy is essential, but handing decision-making power over to a team that doesn’t have the right information can be disastrous.

It can be difficult to achieve high levels of transparency in your company’s information sharing, but without it, your teams won’t have the independence and information they need to succeed.

3. Shared consciousness is key

Trust is essential for teams to work together successfully. To build trust, the authors advocate moving teams around to ensure everyone understands each role and shares the same consciousness to make decisions.

Breaking down silos and nurturing lateral ties can help you achieve fluid, team-like cooperation across the entire organization.

4. Give teams power to make decisions

In traditional top-down structures, the decision-making process often constrains innovation. Empowered execution allows individuals and teams closest to the problem, armed with unprecedented levels of insights from across the organization, to decide and act decisively.

Once trust is built, approval is just a matter of protocol.

5. Leaders should enable, not direct

Staying competitive requires speed and speed can only happen when there is both trust and understanding. When politics and bureaucracy are simplified, a leader’s role changes from director to enabler.

Gone are the days of barking orders. Instead, leaders must take an “eyes-on, hands-off” approach, so they can create an ecosystem in which the organization is empowered to problem solve and get things done.

Culture secrets of our Best Places to Work

Culture is the glue that holds everything together and is the secret sauce of many our Best Places to Work. Discover how to boost openness and transparency from these top-rated companies in our eBook, Best Places to Work Highlights.

One company that leans on this model is Nestle Purina – a winner time and time again of our BPTW award. To learn more, download the Glassdoor eBook on Culture Codes of Best Places to Work.

Do you have feedback on this or any post? Drop us a line at b2bcontent@glassdoor.com

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