Team of Teams

Hello Systems Thinkers,

General Stan McChrystal – Team of Teams

A short post this time.  I just wanted to share a wonderful podcast we listed to as homework a few weeks ago, and then discussed.  It’s an interview with General Stan McChrystal, an American General who was in charge of their special forces.

The organisational and cultural transformation he undertook is amazing. It’s clear he is a natural systems thinker and is an inspiration to us all.

All of us in the group were seriously impressed by what General McCrystal did and the insights he provided us with.  Loads to try to learn and apply.

It’s all about awareness of context

The focus he put on helping everyone at all levels in the organisation understand the context they operate in was seriously impressive. The priority and investment he put into enabling everyone to understand the context, what’s going on and to connect with others who had something useful to share is a standout point.  Totally doing away with silos and treating knowledge as power that individuals keep hold of tightly for themselves.

I also love the way he gave autonomy to teams, but also made sure they were accountable.  There was nowhere to hide.  He went to great lengths to make sure people understood that so long as what they want/need to do to get the mission done is legal and ethical (i.e. they need to take responsibility) then they can do whatever they want, and should not give a bureaucratic process as an excuse for not taking action.  I loved that.

Sharing responsibility is to pass the buck

The subject, reminded me of an old John Kay article I’d read not long before on the subject of accountability. I shared it with the group.  Do have a read.  It’s not long:

Sharing responsibility is to pass the buck

I’m a big fan of John Kay’s writing, and for me, and in relation to my experience of the public sector, he is on the money.  Here is key paragraph:

“Appropriate accountability is not “why did you do that?”, still less “you should have told me before you did that”. And it is certainly not “it would be helpful if you did this instead of that”, the classic means of imposing a course of action without taking responsibility for it. Constructive accountability gives people freedom to make decisions but holds them fully responsible for the consequences. A traditional public sector ethos does just the opposite.”

I want to give thanks and credit to Mike Haber, who first pointed this podcast out to me.  Do check out his excellent systems thinking blog, here:

Enjoy the long weekend.


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