Three strategies to help Clinton build 'Team of Teams'
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Hillary Clinton touts student suspended over crowded hallway photo: 'John Lewis would be proud' MORE and her seasoned campaign team are poised to head triumphantly into the Democratic National Convention, but she is going to need a team of teams to defeat Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE in November.

A "team of teams" is how Gen. Stanley McChrystal described the military’s Joint Special Operations Command during the battle against al Qaeda in Iraq. McChrystal quickly realized he was fighting a non-traditional enemy in an environment characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). To defeat his opponent, he would have to bust his organization’s silos to create one big, committed team that operated with a shared consciousness and clear vision.

In battling her own unconventional enemy, Clinton needs to adopt the same model — and fast.


The strong primary challenge from Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic MORE was a wake-up call to the Clinton team about the unorthodox nature of this campaign cycle. Now she faces an opponent who appears to be deceptively weak based on the disorganized nature of his campaign. But like a conventional army fighting guerrilla warfare, Trump’s unpredictable style has led the Clinton campaign to respond haphazardly. As one Clinton supporter said, “If you’re responding knee-jerk, you’re going to need knee-replacement surgery by November.”

How can Clinton build her own team of teams as she sets her sights on the presidency? We offer three strategies that work as well in a corporate office as they do on the campaign trail. The goal with these strategies is to give enough autonomy to your people on the ground to anticipate new trends while staying connected and unified enough to execute the overall strategy.

Open up

In a true team of teams, the information flows both directions. One of Michael Bloomberg’s first actions when he became mayor of New York City was to create a “bullpen” in the middle of city hall where he and his staff worked side by side. One staffer remembers how much trust this created on the team: “When you see the mayor hosting high-level meetings in clear sight of everyone else, you start to understand that this open-communication model is not BS.”

Fair or not, Clinton has developed the reputation of being overly guarded, as well as having a tin ear when it comes to picking up on voters’ concerns. To build her own team of teams, we suggest the campaign show more openness and transparency to create an even stronger connection with the public.

Offer a compelling vision and keep it simple

Quick test: summarize the vision of each of the major 2016 candidates in a few words.

We all know that Trump wants to “make America great again,” while Sanders has been fighting for the little guy against the “millionahs and billionahs.” But what is the compelling narrative for Clinton? It makes sense that she has leaned heavily on her understanding of policy details, but wonky pronouncements have failed to produce a vision of what she will do. Her campaign badly needs to articulate a simple compelling purpose to overcome many voters’ negative perceptions of the former first lady.

Campaign communications guru Mark McKinnon faced a similar challenge in 2004 when he needed to convince the country to reelect an increasingly unpopular president. He realized he would have to tell a simple, powerful story to break through the noise. In his case, the narrative was: “George Bush keeps us safe.” It helped him beat John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Biden faces balancing act Budowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE despite the fact that more voters favored Kerry’s actual policies. To unite the competing factions of the Democratic Party, Clinton has to offer a positive vision. As Sanders staffer Arun Chaudhary put it, “To just be the anti-Trump is not going to be enough.”

Use small data to stay ahead of big trends

Big data analysts and campaign pollsters have admitted to being caught off guard by the success of Sanders and Trump against more conventional candidates like Clinton, Jeb Bush and others. But reporters on the ground have known that this would be an unconventional election at least since 2014, when established politicians like former House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorTrump taps pollster to push back on surveys showing Biden with double-digit lead Bottom Line The Democrats' strategy conundrum: a 'movement' or a coalition? MORE (R-Va.) were being stunned by upstart rivals. By getting out and listening carefully to voters, shoe-leather reporters saw that many were open to fresh candidates from either party who could speak to their needs.

The importance of this “small data” is the real story of the 2016 election, and the Clinton campaign will have to start paying closer attention to stay in tune with the mood of the electorate. She might take a cue from her former rival Sanders, who tapped into the power of small data by giving volunteers considerable autonomy to decide how to organize and communicate with one another while letting their on-the-ground insights percolate upward.

Both the business and political spheres are increasingly becoming VUCA worlds, where adaptability and free-flowing communication beat efficiency in determining success.

Traditional organizations like the Clinton campaign will need to shift their top-down structures toward the more open "team of teams" model to avoid being trumped by unconventional competitors.

Moussa and Newberry are the authors of "Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance." Moussa teaches in the executive programs at Wharton School of Executive Education. Newberry is a lecturer at the Wharton School. Connect with Moussa at, and with Newberry via Twitter, @derekonewberry.

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