Here are My Lessons & Takeaways from Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal – (with a nod to “Alphabet,” the new “Google”)

It’s interesting…   Just after I presented my synopsis of Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal, (with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell) at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis, Google announced it’s reorganization into a “Company of Companies.” Now, their new big-tent company is “Alphabet.” From the blog post announcement by Larry Page:

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google.

We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products—the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

Team of TeamsSo… what makes Team of Teams such an important book. It’s the first book that helped me realize just how interconnected every part of every organization has to be. And, also, how each separate organization is somehow kind of interconnected also. Consider, from the book:

Products, events, nations, phenomena, and individuals have become more connected to, dependent on, and influenced by one another than ever before.
Boeing’s primary assembly of its 787 Dreamliner, for instance, requires about one thousand workers at its Everett, Washington, plant. But it depends on wings from Nagoya, Japan; horizontal stabilizers from Foggia, Italy; cargo and access doors from Sweden; wingtips from Korea; and landing gear from Gloucester, United Kingdom.

Here’s how I summarized the most important message of the book (from my synopsis handout):

The challenge; the true, ultimate challenge – to grasp and understand complexity. (In other words, we barely have grasped the “C” in VUCA).

  1. From “efficiency to complexity.
  2. Nothing is predictable any longer 

  3. The shelf-life of information and advantage is shorter and shorter 

  4. The real lesson of the Butterfly Effect – you simply can’t know where the next butterfly will be when it 
flaps its wings… or, how it will interact with other butterflies 

  5. Not “complicated,” but “complex” – there is a difference!

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

    #1 — “Efficiency” is dead as the decisive advantage– “complexity” has arrived. (Frederick Taylor was great, for the problems of yesteryear; but now, things have changed…). 

    #2 — The rhythm of regular meetings is essential – across “silos” and groups. But, where there is no genuine urgency, these meetings can become dreaded, and not all that productive. In the midst of genuine urgency, the meetings are welcomed as “survival” tools. 

    #3 — Changing the physical work-space is essential to the kind of communication needed for an agile, adaptable, team- of-teams. 

    #4 — There is no permanent fix… 

    #5 — Here’s a question – how do you plan in this shape-shifting environment? (“Nobody knows anything”). 

    #6 — Be brutal about discovering your LIMFACs (“limiting factors”). 

I think Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World is a new must-read. The book recognizes that because the old world is gone, the old ways are no longer effective. It’s time to implement something truly new and different.


My synopsis, with the handout + the audio recording of my presentation, is available on our companion site,



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