When General Stanley McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operation Task Force in 2004 to lead change management, he had no way of knowing what he was in for. The seasoned veteran—a four-star general with more than three decades of service in the Army—soon realized he had the nearly insurmountable task of fighting an enemy (Al Qaeda) that was both a chameleon and formidable.
While the U.S. had the organization, technology, and strategic know-how to defeat any foe, the ability of the enemy to change tactics and move easily across and through difficult terrain—often blending into crowds or staying well-concealed in caves or mountains—resulted in McChrystal re-thinking the way the U.S. Joint Forces and its support staff operated.
The resulting change amounts to one of the greatest undertakings any organization has ever endeavored to accomplish, and it provides a veritable playbook for how change management can be done successfully by organizations of any size.
“We had to unlearn a great deal of what we thought we knew about how war—and the world—worked,” writes McChrystal, now retired, author of Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement For A Complex World. “We had to tear down familiar organizational structures and rebuild them along completely different lines, swapping our sturdy architecture for organic fluidity, because it was the only way to confront a rising tide of complex threats.”
Though the theater might have been war, the language sounds a lot like that used for business, doesn’t it?