Eric Handler headshot Written by: Eric Handler

Unlock the Power of Action Teams During a Crisis

When your company is under pressure to adjust quickly to new expectations and realities, it’s time to tap the power of…teams. Does this sound slow or bureaucratic? Think again, as a “team of teams” can drive better decisions, faster.

With the fast-moving days of 2020, when companies have had to examine whether their past practices are keeping pace with current realities, the answer to better, faster decisions might lie in the power of networked teams.

During the early, difficult days of fighting the brutal terrorist group known as ISIS, General Stanley McCrystal was flummoxed at how these loosely coordinated bands of attackers could continually out-fox the most technically advanced militaries in the world. He realized that the problem during this crisis was the organizational structure of the allied militaries. The top-down approach was ill suited for this situation when teams had minutes and hours to act, not days or weeks.

General McCrystal radically reorganized his special operations command into networked, empowered “team of teams” that operated under overarching guidance (but not specific orders) and was encouraged to make decisions and act quickly, relying on the other teams to support and coordinate efforts. The results were impressive, and ISIS’s empire went from growing rapidly to declining to (almost) non-existent.

McKinsey & Company calls this “teams of teams” approach a “network of action teams,” and the concept is similar – name the issue at hand, set priorities, build teams that are both coordinated and networked, and turn them loose on the issues of the day. Learn and adjust.

It’s a fantastic approach for managing through a crisis and one that we have inculcated here at Handler. We have each been assigned to more than one team where we can serve and offer our talents and abilities. This network of action teams has proven invaluable for us and the implementation during Covid is one we certainly plan to continue post-Covid.

To see the original McKinsey article, quoted above, click here.