Among various grassroots governance practices adopted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), few have proven more adaptive and effective than the deployment of work teams—ad hoc units appointed and directed by higher-level Party and government organs and dispatched for a limited time to carry out a specific mission by means of mass mobilization. Yet, perhaps because work teams straddle the boundary between formal and informal institutions, they have received scant analytical attention. While work teams figure prominently in narrative accounts of the major campaigns of Mao's China, their origins, operations, and contemporary implications have yet to be fully explored. This article traces the roots of Chinese work teams to Russian revolutionary precedents, including plenipotentiaries, shock brigades, and 25,000ers, but argues that the CCP's adoption and enhancement of this practice involved creative adaptation over a sustained period of revolutionary and post-revolutionary experimentation. Sinicized work teams were not only a key factor in securing the victory of the Chinese Communist revolution and conducting Maoist mass campaigns such as Land Reform, Collectivization, and the Four Cleans; they continue to play an important role in the development and control of grassroots Chinese society even today. As a flexible means of spanning the center-periphery divide and combatting bureaucratic inertia, Chinese work teams, in contrast to their Soviet precursors, contribute to the resilience of the Communist party-state.