Leadership

#Ideas17: Encourage Adaptability by Adopting Small Team Fundamentals

By / Mar 7, 2017 Chris Fussell, the chief growth officer at McChrystal Group and a former U.S. Navy SEAL. (Sabrina Kidwai, APR, CAE)

Chris Fussell, the closing keynoter at ASAE’s 2017 Great Ideas Conference, encouraged organizations to become adaptable and rely on small team fundamentals to keep pace in today’s world.

During the war in Iraq, the U.S. military had to restructure and adapt in order to keep up in the fight with insurgents who lacked a traditional chain of command. And it’s a process that can be applied to all organizations, said Chris Fussell, chief growth officer at McChrystal Group and former U.S. Navy SEAL, during his closing keynote at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference.

As the world becomes a more complex, interconnected space in the information age, organizations need to respond by changing the way they manage their operations. “It’s not about going flat; it’s not about centralizing; it’s not about distributing teams very quickly from some higher headquarters,” Fussell said. “It’s about connecting gaps that exist between the small teams on the ground.”

While organizations with a centralized structure may be able to better predict outcomes and control processes, Fussell said they won’t be able to respond as quickly to competition or market changes. Instead, they need to introduce adaptability by decentralizing decision-making power and promoting cooperation across previously siloed departments.

This happens by adopting small team fundamentals at an organizational level; that is, trusting others within the structure and creating a common purpose and shared consciousness so “everyone has access to the right information and a shared picture of what matters right now.”

A consistent communication model helps accomplish this goal, allowing people to share information and data and still align mission and strategy within a structure. With that in place, “empowered execution,” in which small teams can operate without always going through the line of command, can follow.

“Global enterprises can move faster than small, distributed startups; small, distributed networks,” Fussell said. “It’s not easy, but you can do it. And when you re-synchronize, it’s an important takeaway for us that the next conversation, it didn’t start with our review of information. …It started with teams that pushed the boundaries the furthest.”

But, in order for organizations to adopt a hybrid centralized-distributed model, Fussell said that leaders must first start communicating with the heads of these small teams by “finding and highlighting their understanding to solve those problems.”

Once that happens, leaders must give these small teams the space and resources they need to operate effectively, telling them: “We will build you this environment; we will structure it so we know it’s meeting its maximum capacity. But then it’s up to you. We’re going to stand back; let us know what you need.”

Then it’s up to leaders to provide the accountability for teams, avoid micromanaging, and give them responsibility over their actions. And to keep teams motivated and cross-collaborative, leaders need to remind them that they are part of a larger purpose and mission.

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. More »

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