Commander’s Intent: 5 Pillars to Decentralize Decision-Making in your Company
In military parlance, Commander’s Intent is a succinct expression of the overarching objective of an operation or mission, providing a clear direction for subordinates to follow even in the absence of specific orders or guidance. Essentially, it is a guiding principle that helps teams understand the end goal and make decisions that align with that goal.
In recent years, the concept of Commander’s Intent has gained popularity in the business world, with many executives and managers using it as a tool to align their teams and achieve their strategic objectives. In this blog post, we will explore what Commander’s Intent is, why it matters, and how CEOs can use it to drive success in their companies.
What is Commander’s Intent?
The Commander’s Intent is a clear and concise statement that outlines the overall mission and desired end state of a project or initiative. It provides guidance to team members by explaining what they need to achieve, and why it is important, without dictating how they should do it. In essence, it is a way to empower subordinates to make decisions in line with the overall goal, without micromanagement.
Why is Commander’s Intent important?
There are several reasons why Commander’s Intent is an important concept for CEOs and business leaders to understand and use. Some of the key benefits include:
Alignment: By setting clear objectives, Commander’s Intent helps ensure that everyone on the team is working towards the same goal. This can reduce confusion, conflict, and wasted effort, as team members can make informed decisions based on a shared understanding of the end goal.
Empowerment: By allowing subordinates to make decisions in line with the overall goal, Commander’s Intent can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment among team members. This can lead to increased engagement, creativity, collaboration and initiative, as people feel more invested in the success of the project.
Adaptability: Commander’s Intent is designed to be flexible, allowing teams to adapt to changing circumstances or unexpected obstacles. By focusing on the end goal rather than specific instructions, team members can make decisions in real time, without waiting for guidance from higher-ups.
Accountability: By providing a clear sense of direction, Commander’s Intent can help ensure that everyone on the team knows what they are responsible for and what is expected of them. This can help prevent misunderstandings, finger-pointing, and missed opportunities.
How can CEOs use Commander’s Intent in their company?
CEOs can use Commander’s Intent in a variety of ways to drive success in their companies. Some of the key strategies include:
Setting clear objectives: Before starting any new project or initiative, it is important to set clear objectives that align with the company’s overall mission and vision. By articulating these objectives in a concise and memorable way, CEOs can ensure that everyone on the team knows what they are working towards.
Communicating effectively: Once the objectives have been set, it is important to communicate them effectively to the team. This may involve using visual aids, storytelling, or other techniques to ensure that the message resonates with people on an emotional level.
Empowering subordinates: To make the most of Commander’s Intent, CEOs must be willing to empower their subordinates to make decisions in line with the overall goal. This may involve delegating authority, providing training and support, and fostering a culture of trust and collaboration.
Encouraging feedback: To ensure that Commander’s Intent is effective, it is important to encourage feedback from team members. This may involve soliciting input on the objectives themselves, as well as feedback on how well the team is aligning with them.
Recognizing success: Finally, it is important to recognize and reward success when it is achieved. This may involve acknowledging individual and team accomplishments, providing incentives and bonuses, and celebrating milestones along the
How to Develop your Commander’s Intent Statement
1. Make it ME/CE (Pronounced: MeeCee).
ME/CE is consultant speak for Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive which is a very obnoxious way to say “one thing and nothing else.”
Too often leaders give instructions that can get lost in translation. Making a message ME/CE means making the message so clear that it can’t be mistaken for anything else.
2. Make it Concrete.
Concrete in this regard doesn’t mean hard or strong it means tangible. Use language that can be bound to specific things that someone can see in their mind.
Saying “We pride ourselves on outstanding customer service” is nice but it’s also cliche and it leaves out how we actually serve the customer.
Being cliche makes the statement easy to forget and since it’s not concrete it doesn’t help a customer service rep make a decision about how to treat a customer.
A more concrete way to say the same statement is “We provide our customers with Concierge-level customer service!”
As long as everyone on your team knows what “Concierge-level” references then they will also know to treat your customer as if they were a guest at a fine hotel.
A statement like this allows them to ask themselves “ What would a concierge at a fine hotel do for this customer?” thus it empowers them to make a good decision, and delight the customer, which ( as research suggests) will drive up your Net Promoter Score and reduce your Customer Churn Rate.
3. Keep it Simple.
The average American reads at a 7th-grade level. Complex language can be confusing in the midst of everything someone may have going on. To make the message easily memorable you have to make it short and sweet.
“Give Them the Pickle” – Bob Farrell
“Give them the Pickle” is both a rallying cry and a simple decree to please the customers.
It’s easy to remember and explains everything Bob wanted his team to know about how to interact with his customers in one easy-to-remember proverb.
4. Avoid Sponsorship Gaps.
Make sure that you’ve given your team everything they need to actually accomplish the tasks you’re asking them for.
It means talking with team members and getting rid of ambiguities in processes and blindspots.
Ambiguities are points in processes where a decision needs to be made and the right choice is unclear.
Left unchecked, ambiguities worsen and drive up costs and reduce productivity. They can also hurt employee retention as they make an employee’s work more difficult and are usually unknown to senior leaders (blindspots).
5. Help them tell their own story.
Everyone is telling themselves a story, and they are the hero of their own story. Any messaging that is counterproductive to that hero’s story will cause friction in the organization.
Too much friction causes losses in productivity and in the long run costs more money.
Your Commander’s intent statement should emphasize how the hero achieves more success by working within the system.
By helping them tell themselves a better story you create a workforce that is achieving company success by also achieving personal success.
At L(E)arner Market Group we help our clients develop their own Commander’s Intent Statment as a part of our 14-Day Surgical C-Suite System. We work with CEOs to develop their statement by interviewing key stakeholders and working with them to clarify exactly what needs to be communicated so that CEOs and the team can decentralize decision-making so that they can spend up to 14 hours more time per week focused on work that only they can do that can’t be delegated.