Book Notes: One Mission

One Mission: How Leaders Build A Team Of Teams by Chris Fussell with Charles Goodyear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The aim of the book is to highlight ways to improve the speed of getting things done – as more and more work is done in cynefin defined complex environments the solutions for the complicated and obvious domains, e.g. bureaucracy, are no longer suitable to solve the problems.

  1. The traditional organisational structure is the usual way to support decision making, however it is slow with each level working at a slower cadence than the one below.
  2. Additionally people lean on the organisational structure so that they don’t need to take full accountability for their actions e.g. “well I escalated the issue” etc.
  3. Finally with the cascading of goals you get two problems –
    • Firstly that at each layer in the organisation there is a different focus or interpretation meaning that as the goals cascade they diverge.
    • Secondly that although the goals might be aligned the timing might not meaning that different parts of the organisation get out of synch of the other.

The issue with goal cascade and speed is overcome using (in their case) a daily meeting which is open to anyone who wants to attend – this is not for hierarchical reports, this is for collaborative problem solving. It is during this session that a reminder can also be given about the priorities so that everyone hears the exact same message – bringing shared consciousness. This session depends on good interpersonal relationships and psychological safety for it to work, as such people were addressed by first names and used video so people to build trust and asked for their thoughts not just raw data. It is important for senior people in these forums to be honest such as highlighting what they don’t know – here not knowing was acceptable; not thinking wasn’t. The frequency of the meetings set the temp for the organisation – ensuring that they could maximise the value of information before it became out of date and worthless.

Its goal was collective learning to drive autonomous action, not grading one another on completed efforts. It was a forward-looking forum, not a hindsight review.

Between these meetings teams have empowered execution through the use of rules which clearly bound what they are allowed to do and in which cases they need to seek approval. The challenge with empowered execution is that people want autonomy without accountability – they can commonly be hesitant. This is the quickest way for the decentralised approach to fail.

The other is deviance – where people step outside of the norms, there are two forms of this, positive and negative. The positive form is where people outstep the norms within their approved space, this could be a different way or working or approaching a problem. The negative deviance is where people push things overstepping their boundaries which can not be tolerated.

Organisations tend to produce complex solutions to complex problems – instead producing simpler rules is vastly more effective in both getting the desired result but also in keeping the speed of the organisation high.

To build a quick decision making organisation relationships are key – these are valuable both within your organisation but also with other organisations you work with. In the past a liason that you might put into another team might have been more of a spy for you or a junior individual for this to be valuable these liaisons need to be well networked, achieved and respected internally – they should add value by building relationships with people in both organisations and help the speed of information flow in both directions.

The book concludes with this definition of leaders in organisations

I understand the complexity of the environment. I understand that you must move faster than our structures allow for and that you understand your problems better than I ever could. I will create space for you to organically communicate and share information. I will empower you to make decisions and execute. I can help guide us on the path, but only you can win the war. I trust you to do that.

In response members must fulfill their equally important part

We understand that you’re building us the space to thrive but that it is ultimately our journey to take. We see you humbling yourself to the reality of the complex fight. We trust you to protect our ability to move with speed and adaptability. We will rise to the challenge and hold ourselves accountable to the outcome.

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