I really enjoyed this book. I found it on Goodreads and loved the title first and foremost!
The narrative surrounds General Stanley McChrystal’s time in Iraq as the leader of the Allied Forces fighting ISIS and other terrorist organisations.
The general faced a new kind of enemy that was heavily decentralised, nimble and adaptable in the urban environment of Baghdad. The Allies found that while they had significant advantages in skill, funding, sheer numbers and technology, ISIS were outdoing them on the battlefield. A new approach was needed.
In the meat of the book, McChrystal takes us through how he restructured his forces to be more decentralised and less hierarchical in what is traditionally the most hierarchical of organisations, the military.
By operating in ways that would traditionally be seen as “inefficient”, such as opening up information flow to as many people as possible, the Allies were able to push decision making power downward. This created an interconnected, networked organisational structure with minimal silos.
The changes worked to great effect and led to the Allied forces gaining significant ground and eventually, bettering ISIS.
What makes this book special, besides the great title, is the organisational structure McCrystal devises that deals with the complex.
Our world is changing and the author outlines ways to deal with an evolving and unpredicatble environment while still keeping some hierarchy.
I will revisit the section where the author goes through his explanation of simple, complicated and complex environments. This was really succinct, punchy and a great explanation that is more accessible than, say, Nassim Taleb’s work.
I didn’t expect when I started the book that one of the most interesting aspects would be ISIS and how they operated. It is fascinating how they were able to have such success as a group of relatively disorganised militants against one of the most powerful military forces ever to be assembled.
I would recommend this read to anyone interested in organisational design in the 21st century looking for ways to deal with a more complex world and who wants to be adaptable to change.