The book is an excellent explanation of changes in our environment and why organizations will be more successful with a new approach to management.
The most interesting point is the parallel between business and military organizations. The current change is not limited to a specific industry or military branch; it is a societal change every organization will face. We have to choose between efficiency and adaptability. Adaptability we need to succeed in our complex environment reduces efficiency, what is difficult to accept.
“High-level success depends on low-level inefficiency.”
Silo-based organizations with internal competition have been successful in the past. However, as our environment shifted to the high level of complexity (and high level of unpredictability), silos-based efficiency is insufficient. This type of organizations have limited access to information and internal resources to solve problems spanning across different work groups.
Example: GMs separate ignition and airbag teams could not solve an ignition issue affecting airbags for several years. Nobody in the organization had access to all needed information and incentive to take any actions interfering with the organizational objective of cost reduction.
To become more effective (at the expense of efficiency), the organization need to encourage the free flow of information and introduce “system thinking” across levels and departments. “A person can not understand a part of the system without an at least rudimentary understanding of the whole.”
The solution is to share the information and empower people on all levels to make decisions based on this information. In complex and unpredictable environments leadership role changes from “chess” to “gardening.” Instead of attempting to orchestrate and control every organizational move, the leader needs to concentrate on the high-level picture and provide an environment for fast decision making across the organization in the context or each situation.
However, information without empowerment would be frustrating, and empowerment without information would not generate success – both components need to be present in the organization to generate results.
To prevent natural mistrust beyond members of an immediate team, a military organization started to “embed” representatives of other functions into the team’s environment. Team members learned to trust a person representing different function and become more open to cooperation with the same function in the future. This approach created a “team of teams” ready to work together on overarching organizational goals.