by Manish Bardolia on November 10, 2008

I recently came across a term called Commander’s Intent (CI). I briefly mentioned it in a previous post.

The core idea behind CI is:

  1. The commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation
  2. The end state with respect to the relationship among the force, the enemy and the terrain
  3. The enabling of subordinates to quickly grasp the successful end state and their part in achieving it

To put it more plainly, it’s the military’s version of the KISS principal.  There are too many variables that will dictate the actions taken by the forces on the ground.  There is no way every action can be planned out.  This is where the CI comes into play.  Each person has a clear understanding of the overall objective. Each person will do what needs to be done in order to achieve that objective.

I think that the business world can learn from the concept of Commander’s Intent. The CI defines the where and the why; a finite objective, a way of behaving, or a desired result.  This is significantly different than a  vision statement that is difficult to pin-point.  It’s a leader’s job to provide clear directions/goals for the business and to ensure that his/her team understands those goals and why they are important.  It’s then up to the team to execute and achieve those goals.

Using the concept of CI instead of a vision statement also aligns the goals of the different teams, departments, and organizations involved.  Because the objectives are more concrete.  Any time you align the goals and motivation of a group of people, you achieve significantly better results.

When a business leader tells you what the desired goals are and then lets you go and do it, they are letting you know that they have trust in your abilities to get the job done.  Trust between people is the foundation on which effective organizations are created.

The continual communication about the CI is critical to every business.  You can/should modify the means of the message, but not the message itself.  Aligning everyone’s goals sets the stage for success.

176 Comments

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