Recently, I finished reading General Stanley McChrystal’s book entitled “Team of Teams” which outlines a massive strategic change in how the U.S. Special Forces operates overseas. These changes reflect much of what is happening in the software development world today and within many teams working on Salesforce delivery teams. McChrystal outlines how working in smaller, nimble teams helps accomplish the mission while being adaptive in an ever rapidly changing environment. While reading this book, I saw parallels to what is being done at many companies who are deploying and delivering new Salesforce functionality. Many companies, no matter the industry, are taking the leap of faith to combine both business and technical resources into combined scrums teams. As these type of new teams form, understand that it can take some time to get this structure going, but its definitely worth it. With this blog, I want to share my thoughts on McChrystal’s book and how a military innovation in team work connects to what is happening in many companies delivering Salesforce across the industry and how successful teams play a critical role.
Working in the Past
In Team of Teams, McChrystal describes the ‘war on terror’ in 2004 and how the military was built for large wars with big command and control teams. However, in this new war McChrystal describes the enemy was in fact small, nimble and could move faster than the larger US Special Forces. Much like the ‘waterfall’ project methodology, the US military’s large command and control way of operating was no longer working for the new and changing landscape. Decisions needed to be made by those closer to the ground and in a quick manner. In my previous experience, both at Dell and at Salesforce (the company), when technology operated in a command and control or waterfall approach the ability to react to change in the environment was slow, painful and was fraught with risk. What McChrystal outlines in his book is the need to evolve tactics to address a new and rapidly changing environment. This narrative is what is playing out in our Salesforce delivery space and something I see happening each day when I talk to my peers in the industry – both locally and nationally.
McChrystal writes about the need for smaller, nimbler teams to get the mission accomplished and walks the reader through how this is done in the midst of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would agree fighting a foreign enemy is quite different than delivering value based platforms such as Salesforce, the tactics are very similar in nature. One of the hallmarks of getting things done is to break out the work and teams into digestible chunks. Whether you are on the battlefield or developing configuration steps in Salesforce, you need to look for small clear victories and build off of this, all the while gaining from lessons learned. The book also states the simple fact that our world is more complex and less predictable – despite our increased abilities to track and measure many variables and inputs. It is human nature to want to measure and access each detail before we execute but to get effective work or your mission done, you must move quickly and adapt. Check out this image from the book which really calls out what Team of Teams typically look like.
“A team fused by trust and purpose is much more potent. Such a group can improvise a coordinated response to dynamic, real-time developments” – General Stanley McChrystal
When a team has purpose and a goal, they are empowered to deliver incredible results. The old way of working team members relied on orders; but teamwork is a process of re-evaluation, negotiation and adjustment. Team players are constantly sending messages to and taking cues from their team and those teammates must be able to read each other’s move and intent. When working in an agile environment as we do in PI, the team begins to bond, trusts each other and shares a common approach and purpose in how work gets done.
When we look across the teams in PI and in particular CRM, we must build trust amongst our team and our extended partners within the Fidelity eco-system. As McChrystal continues to point out “Without this trust, the Navy SEALS would be a collection of fit soldiers.” Of course most of us are not the Navy Seals, but if our teams do not have a baseline level of trust within the team, we are simply a collection of educated, smart and technically certified professions. Harvard Business School teams expert Amy Edmondson explains “Great teams consists of individuals who have learned to trust each other. Over time they have discovered each others strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to play a coordinated whole”
The ‘space’ regardless of if it’s on the battlefield or the office can impact your team and how work gets done. McChrystal highlights vividly when they arrived in Iraq one of the first things they did was to occupy an old gutted airplane hanger and opened up the Task Force command center much like the open cube floor plan we have at Fidelity. The commander, McChrystal and his team all operated out of a ‘bull-pen’ – to ensure they were the center of what the team was doing. In addition, communications were open and information flowed quickly to everyone in order to allow them to make team decisions. Anyone in the room – regardless of their position in the org chart’s silos and tiers – could glance up the screens and know instantly what major factors were affecting the mission at that moment.
An open layout and open conversation allow everyone to be on the same page and understand the mission. When it makes sense, it’s always better to have the team together and in the open no matter the rank or position. Another point worth noting was how McChrystal would bring in other members of teams that in the past would not ever be considered. They would embed members of the CIA, NSA and embassy staff with their teams which had never been done before. This was a tough sell and initially didn’t seem to work, however as these dependent teams became more embedded and time elapsed, trust was gained and work began to get done faster and with more accuracy.
In my professional experience, I see trust being earned within several scrum teams I have worked with and observed. It’s never easy and to be honest, we know it takes time to change momentum, but once you get started you should see small, quick victories within these new teams which perhaps you could have only dreamed about previously. In the end, teams cannot continue to work in silo’s, you must have a competitive notion of different groups and individuals working together with a single shared vision.
As you think about the journey at your company and what we hope to accomplish, teams (no matter the org) have to understand the larger mission and goal to ensure we are all aligned. It’s not enough just to align our resources, we have to empower our resources with decision making authority. Whether on a scrum or a Navy Seal team, you must grasp the overall goal and arc of the mission. Only when each of the scrum team members aligns to the larger Fidelity’s strategic vision, can we evaluate risks real-time and know how to react to our teammate to build stronger teams. Purpose and mission affirms trust and trust affirms purpose and together they forge individuals into a working team.
– Hector Perez Jr.