Alexis Monville (en)

accomplishment ceremony education graduation

Chief of Staff Academy

A few weeks back, I attended McChrystal Group Chief of Staff Virtual Academy. I was looking to stretch my thinking to further grow in the role. Since then, I keep a copy of the Chief of Staff four quadrants on my desk to remind me where the focus should be depending on the topic, and who I am talking to.

Source: One Mission: How Leaders Build Team of Teams by Chris Fussell

The quadrants come from Chris Fussell’s book One Mission: How Leaders Build Team of Teams. A follow-up to the book he co-wrote with General Stanley McCrystal, Team of Teams, relating their experience transforming the U.S. military’s Special Forces into a sum of cohesive small agile teams crossing the silos.

“No plan of operations extends with any degree of certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy force.”

Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the Prussian General Staff, 1857

It took sometimes for military organizations to move from a detailed plan approach to a mission approach. Ironically, within enterprises, people who have never been in the military, justify their big detailed plans driven from the top using military vocabulary. Maybe, they could benefit from reading those books?

Being sarcastic will not help if in your Chief of Staff role you aim at becoming a true thought partner to your principal.

And this is exactly where the quadrants and the training help. Becoming a true thought partner is only the third step.

The Virtual Academy is organized in three sessions, each of them covering a step:

  1. Bridging the Organization
  2. Optimizing Decision Making
  3. Becoming a Thought Partner

What I liked about the training was the combination of knowledge sharing from Chris Fussell and others from McCrystall Group, with interactive learning sessions in small groups of Chiefs.

We discussed how our focus, our impact on the organization, our role in the information flow, and the way we communicate have to be adjusted depending on the step we are currently in.

It was highly valuable to me as I was changing role at that time from a global Engineering focused organization, to an EMEA Sales and Services focused organization. I assume it would be as valuable if you are taking on a new role, or to push yourself to grow in your current role.

Happy to discuss it further if you are interested.

If you are or were in a Chief of Staff role, I am interested in knowing the three questions you would ask to replace you!