• Alan Prowse

What are your thoughts on using Commanders Intent in today’s business environment?

If you are not sure where Commanders’ intent comes from, it’s from my days in the Army. When the Commander was giving orders, it was more about the what need to be achieved and less about the how to do it. Let me give you an example to drive this point home, the commander would tell the section leaders that the goal was to capture a certain strategically important position by a certain time and hold it for so long. e.g., "I want you to capture Knapp Hill that overlooks the enemy supply route and hold the position for the next three days and report back any movements. Do this until 42 Div. move through the area". Notice the Commander doesn't tell them how to achieve the mission as that is done at the lower levels. Why is this important? if the commander tried to tell the troops how to achieve this mission the minute something changed, for instance the left flanking section come across a machine gun post the plan is "out the window" and the section leader must make split second decisions on how to overcome the problem while still achieving the overall mission. Like Mike Tyson once said, "everybody has a strategy until they get punched in the mouth".

So, in today’s business can you provide the "Commanders Intent" and not be overly descriptive on how to achieve the goal? I think you can. I also think by giving your teams the latitude to decide how to achieve the goal, it will provide ownership and help engagement. If necessary, you can always make adjustments along the way. What are your thoughts?

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