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John, Old Problem - It's why we had the Goldwater Nichols act.. Why DOD Special Operations command has it's own budget, and is effectively it's own branch of the military. Because a highly flexible, constantly adapting and innovating team of teams (to borrow from Stan McChrystal) - is a different animal with different skills sets and a decentralized structure where decision making is pushed down to the lowest level possible. A bureaucracy built on processes and trained monkeys that eliminates variables (Six Sigma) also eliminates decision making. Yeah, BPE made us efficient, predictable and heavily structured. For better and for worse. And then a bunch of kids wrote the Agile manifesto, and built a software driven world changing so fast that half the businesses out there need to change instead of optimize. Part of why "change management" is the new consulting meme. And people hate change. If the organization has a tribal knowledge of 30 years of BPE and optimizing the same processes - you are talking a cultural problem. Sure you have intelligent individuals and resourceful teams. But the tribal knowledge of those large optimized organizations is to do a few things in an optimal way. They get fired when they go outside the box. I've worked there. Not adaptable social structures. You are mirroring a BPE version of the agile strategy trend I've seen growing in ASP, which is a blatant steal from the Agile project management; which is again a nascent and easily misunderstood innovation for software development that recognized that software and construction are different animals that benefit from different project management methods. This goes back to Cambrai, Herman Balck, John Boyd, minnie ball rifles in the civil war... The military has been dealing with fast cycling performance improvement at the speed of death in the face of disruptive technologies for a few centuries really. Evolve or die is a literal statement for the military. If you want to study real time performance improvement during a quickly escalating arms race - this is a very familiar and old problem in military science - where the mavericks and innovators are always at the edge of cultural change while fighting the old guard. Getting better faster over time. I think the US Marines have the trademark on that. Yeah, most of the innovation happens as needed during war. But I'd seriously look at USMC and US SOCOM at how quickly they have changed many times in the last 30 years. I have books that are 12 years old that are gross anachronisms now. Overall it's a cultural thing, a tribal knowledge thing, a different animal thing. And I would not call the military "good" at it - it's a niche there. But improvise, adapt, overcome - is not what they teach in Business school, last I checked. I've been told "Team of Teams" talks about this sort of thing, but haven't read it yet and can't comment. Unique in big business sure, but the startups I've played with enjoy fast cycling front line performance improvement as a do or die kind of thing; not terribly different from the military realities. As far as methods; it's decentralized decision making, trusting your front line people, trusting tactical OODA loops over institutional OODA loops. Train skills, judgment, adaptability, values, schwerpunkt - minimize rigid policies, procedures, compliance. What SOCOM and to a lesser extent the USMC doctrine try to do. The devil is in the details of the specific organization - but if you want you be adaptive and innovative study World of Warcraft Guilds and how they teach their teams of players to constantly change and challenge their skills sets to beat the next level. So I guess I'm saying I see solutions to you problem existing in Military History, Military Science, Start Up businesses, and MMO Games that require collaboration and teamwork like World of War Craft, and to a lesser extent Dice and paper RPG's and wargames would be instructive - but hard to find useful documentation on. The theme you are going to find is Sun Tzu 101. The habit of constantly studying and adapting to the current challenges, looking for patterns, and be empowered to takes calculated risks to develop new tactics on the move. Let each team innovate onto it self, and share lessons learned, see what is individual specific talent, and what lessons can be replicated. Lather rinse, repeat. You have to teach your front people as teams to think like scientists, analysts, engineers, to think critically to solve new problems to achieve understood strategic goals with operational and tactical discretion. Communication, trust, decision making pushed down to the lowest possible levels. Which depending on the organization and it's culture - could be completely impossible. Look at the organizations that are good at that - Special Operations command, Marine Corps, WOW guilds, and I'd add certain sport teams that let the QB call the plays - you are talking a minority of the more competitive subcultures within their respective organizations. So while yeah, It can and has been done; it's no magic bullet and even the organizations that are good at constant performance improvement have the normal change management problems, and the occasional Leeroy Jenkins. You have to right size and calibrate it to the organization and problems in question. Start as small as you need and build out, hope it goes viral. Thanks for a fun one. I owe you 2 now. Let me know if you'd like to chat more. Thanks for getting my attention.
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