As many Fort Meade organizations made adjustments during the recent period of “operations in the absence of available appropriations,” commonly called the government shutdown, I thought about the layered problems we might face if a shutdown combined concurrently with a bad weather event, cyber attack and physical attack.
It might seem nearly impossible that Fort Meade — home to some of our nation’s most powerful and talented teams — could ever be seriously affected by a complex attack.
Unless the teams didn’t work together.
In his book “Team of Teams,” retired Gen. Stanley McChyrstal examines relationships in organizations and the value of real teamwork. He considers a wide range of influences on organizational effectiveness. They range from the influence of Frederick Taylor’s scientific reductionist methods — readily apparent in today’s line-and-block organizational hierarchies — and John Boyd’s “Destruction and Creation” discourse to the coarse SEAL logic: “The squad is the point at which everyone else sucks …”
McChrystal’s epiphany was that inferior cells of loosely organized terrorists adapted faster than superbly trained and equipped — but stove-piped — hierarchical organizations. Beating the terrorists required a team of teams minus standard hierarchy — preserving the strength of each team’s identity while sharing the best ideas and capabilities with the larger whole.
In many ways, we already demonstrate the team of teams concept well at Fort Meade. We enjoy tremendous volunteer support to many family programs, the partner unit support to historic events like Massing of the Colors, and the incredible generosity of our Community Covenant Council to our service members, civilians and families.
We are blessed to have so many partners support our community events such as National Night Out, the Red, White & Blue Celebration, and our ethnic and cultural observances.
Strong relationships, not rigid hierarchy, enable our community to conduct these enjoyable events year after year.
The teams at Fort Meade share a common desire — to attract the best talent in our nation. I am proud of our excellent Public Affairs Office and its superb efforts to communicate on multiple media. But our six-person team is dwarfed by the powerhouses of DINFOS and the Defense Media Activity.
Connecting the expertise of the DMA and DINFOS with partner units through a “Meade-ia Group” could provide incredibly effective, coordinated messaging focused on attracting the nation’s best talent to Fort Meade.
Similarly, Fort Meade is home to extremely powerful organizations like U.S. CYBERCOM, DISA and the NSA, but we cannot yet claim the world’s best cyber programs in our post schools. We have good schools with dedicated educators and strong programs. We are learning to code in grades K-5, and Meade High has an excellent CyberPatriot program.
Imagine the convergence of great cyber curricula, partnership with our military cyber professionals, and focused resource support from our amazing community partners — a student experience unmatched anywhere in the world and a talent pool locally developed. We have taken the initial steps on this path to excellence and look forward to continued support.
There are more opportunities for our team of teams to grow stronger. We should be wary of what McChrystal described as “MECE” (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) constructs, meaning that many individual silos of excellence perform without interaction or co-dependence.
Consider the success of Ford CEO Alan Mulally, whom McChrystal spotlighted for rescuing a floundering corporation in 2009 by crashing silos and sharing purpose. As Mulally noted, “Working together always works. It always works. Everybody has to be on the team. They have to be interdependent with one another.”
In truth, our 118 partner organizations at Fort Meade at times resemble silos of excellence with their disparate mission sets, layered security and tribal differences.
But our collective strength — and attractiveness to the nation’s best talent — relies upon some degree of sharing strength and ideas for the benefit of all teams.