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Keynote Session Recap: Teams of Teams

New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

Before Chris Fussell became Partner at McChrystal Group Leader Institute, he spent over 15 years in the U.S. Navy. After transitioning into the corporate world from the Navy, Chris started to see a common issue that not only military leaders face, but also organization leaders as well: we have powerful small teams that are able to adapt to change in external environments, but we’re incapable of operating with the same agility as an enterprise and therefore lose to external risks.

“The battle organizations face isn’t always a result of the external environment, it’s a result of your internal culture,” Fussell says.

Fussell argues that the traditional bureaucratic structure of organizations creates siloed teams (marketing, sales, leadership, etc.) with firewalls that keep each team from communicating and working together to reach a common goal. Instead, teams operate in their own network to reach their specific goals and as a result, the organization can’t adapt as a unit to today’s complex and fast-moving world.

Fussell encourages leaders to combine the agility, adaptability and cohesion of small teams with the power and resources from the decision makers (leaders) of organizations to create transparency and cohesion that helps teams discover success. To do this, Fussell encourages leaders to execute on the following:

  • Create a strong narrative that answers the “why” of your organization. When leaders translate the organization’s narrative to each individual employee, they initiate change on the individual level to operate in a manner that supports the “why” of the organization. “The ability to control risk is bound by your organization’s narrative,” Fussell says.
  • Eliminate bureaucracy and work toward an interconnected system to create opportunity and insights. When organizations are an interconnected system, employees from every level can learn from one another and collaborate quickly and effectively to combat external forces.
  • Provide directional guidance of the current state, but give employees their own space to make decisions. Enabling teams with autonomy within the context of the greater mission empowers them to act on the best interest of the organization and make informed decisions.

Fussell relates effective leadership in today’s environment to gardening. Gardeners understand the different elements of the garden that they can control and can’t control, and thus they can trust their process and focus on building a garden that’s equipped with the right soil, plants for the environment, water, etc. Today’s leaders must build a protected ecosystem and provide resources and guidelines for employees to be empowered to succeed. Powerful leaders build a model that is protected from the outside, but it’s up to those on the inside to work together and create change.

Chris Fussell Bio

Chis Fussell is a partner at McChrystal Group, where he heads up the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute. Chris is an author of the 2015 New York Times bestseller, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World.