Former leader of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq lends his gutsy insight to the management breakdown of that effort, which ushered in huge changes from the top down.
Replaced in 2010 as head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for his outspokenness, now retired from the Army and teaching leadership at Yale, McChrystal, along with three co-writers, fashions an engaging narrative on how the traditional centralized management style of the American forces no longer worked against the fluid, agile enemy of jihadi terrorist networks. His work is essentially a chronicle of his ability to lead a sea change in military management style between 2003, when he joined the Task Force, and the triumphant assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, in 2006. Frustrated by the protean nature of the enemy, which constantly undermined the rigid discipline and superior force of the U.S., McChrystal and his cohorts had to step back and take stock of some leadership models in history—e.g., British Adm. Horatio Nelson engineered a stunning victory over a superior Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by creating chaos and uncertainty in the enemy command. The authors also examine the ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who initially established the supremacy of the centralized business structure. In a showcase at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, Taylor introduced the art of “scientific management,” by which factory conditions moved like clockwork, where there was “the one best way” for production and all causes and effects were predictable. However, by the first Iraq War, the military had boxed itself into an outmoded Maginot Line rather than rewarding fluidity, agility, resiliency, and adaptive thinking. Creating teams and lateral trust altered an entire military culture.
Despite some boggy, unspecific acronym-speak, the authors offer useful examples and takeaway advice.