In 2015 Stanley McChrystal published the book “Team of Teams”. Aimed at business organizations, the book explains how McChrystal and his co-authors changed the way their military task force operated to better deal with decentralized threats. Taking all the agility and adaptability of a small team and adapting it to every level of their task force. A dream setup for many, which resulted in the book being well received as a guide on how to do this in a business setting.
Decentralization, speed, adaptability. The premise hits on a lot of key ideas that are important in development right now. Big ideas that, when it comes down to it, center around communication and trust.
A Team of Teams approach means building a network of shared consciousness across the organization. Individual teams are most often built around solving a specific problem which leads to those teams focusing only on their own issues and rarely interacting with people outside of their team. When managers notice this problem they introduce more horizontal structures and open workspaces, spreading out people and knowledge instead of creating chains of command that information needs to flow down through. This helps teams feel more equal, but without an increase in communication, there is still a problem of knowledge flow.
“If you’re in a silo, you don’t intentionally withhold information from other teams. You just don’t think about talking to them.” — Professor Beekums
Hierarchies and silos have led to teams and individuals missing out on key information just because they didn’t know the right person to talk to. But if we can keep a flow of knowledge moving between teams, the problems get distributed, reaching more minds that might hold the answer.
Encouraging collaboration with technology
Often collaboration is mandated by someone in the organization, needing to be led or enforced by a single person. Some of that responsibility can be alleviated when the tools being used by a team encourage collaboration on their own. With software like Luffa, an organization can put the ability to decentralize information in the hands of everyone. While capturing a conversation anyone in a meeting can flag important moments, add needed meeting artifacts, and share parts of meetings with other people. At the end, any captured knowledge can be instantly shared with everyone in an organization by posting it to the organization timeline to keep everyone in the loop. That way, the responsibility for making sure that all knowledge is captured during a meeting is dispersed across everyone there.
By making past conversations and decisions available and discoverable to groups of people from different teams, more people are able to learn from those discussions. They can search for topics by keyword, date, location, or even participants. People don’t even have to be present for the meeting to be able to reap the benefits of the conversation.
When information is held by a key few it becomes centralized. Only those with access are able to make educated decisions, they become gatekeepers to certain knowledge, often without even realizing it. Flows get bottlenecked as teams wait for certain people to make decisions, costing everyone time.
Luffa is the capturing app for teams that makes meetings more useful, productive and smart. Luffa captures and…
Building a team of teams
Teams already exist within organizations, making them into a team of teams means breaking down the barriers between them while also understanding the value that each individual brings.
“When an organization works well as a whole system, when it prioritizes people’s best talents and abilities, it is inevitably a more satisfying workplace because it is designed and managed so that people can contribute to the overall goal through their unique capabilities.” — Angela Montgomery
While an individual may be on one team, their expertise could likely be appreciated elsewhere. When one team is about to do a big update, there is a good chance that many other teams are going to want a heads up before the last minute that this update goes live. To avoid large-scale clashes the usual approach is to send out email updates, have a meeting, or send someone a quick message over Slack. Updates on smaller issues or problems aren’t communicated as regularly. Which can lead to the right information not always reaching the right person.
We are currently in a phase of tech development and discourse where the idea of decentralization is now a common topic. Which, when simplified, comes down to creating structures that are not centrally controlled by a single body, but instead dispersed to create a system that is less likely to fall apart or be manipulated due to having a single control point. Even Tim Berners-Lee recently wrote on the topic while explaining his newest project: Solid.
A hierarchical organization is centralized. If one team in the flow has a problem it becomes a block for all of production. A team of teams approach is decentralized. Knowledge decentralized that’s accessible through any team. Everyone knows the things they need to do make their own decisions without having to wait for an email to be responded to or for a message to get passed along to the right person. Without having to wait for information, teams are able to make their own informed decisions to keep moving at a consistent pace.
“Organizational design, then, is the science, not the magic, of enabling different competencies to achieve the goals for which they have been brought together.” — Angela Montgomery
When organizations fail to break down barriers between teams they start making choices that cost everyone time and money. They hire new people to fill gaps that they assume exist but may already have qualified candidates for, they bring in consultants, possibly pausing projects until the “right person” is found. All the while, if they had an understanding of the knowledge that they already had, they could be solving many of these problems already.
Harnessing the knowledge you have
To create an organization around a Team of Teams structure you need to first create a culture that will flourish in it. This means consistent communication, trust in everyone to make educated decisions and making sure that everyone has access to the information that they need.
If you’ve been considering implementing a Team of Teams strategy in your workplace, you can use a tool like Luffa to start decentralizing knowledge. Take time to appreciate what everyone brings to the organization, and show that they are valued. A culture of knowledge sharing can only happen when people feel comfortable sharing their ideas in an environment that proves that it’s ready to listen.
Want help decentralizing your knowledge and building a Team of Teams? Sign up for Luffa today: okluffa.com