Thursday, March 26, 2009

Commander's Intent

Commander's Intent is an interesting notion in the military that is often used as an example for businesses as well.

Essentially, commander's intent allows the unit to operate within a given set of rules to accomplish an objective. The commander's intent must be specific enough for someone to know what needs to be accomplished and what tools are at their disposal, but left general enough to allow for improvisation and adaptation.

A common way to provide a mission is through the standard 5 paragraph Operation Order which includes the commander's intent, as follows:
  1. Situation (Enemy, Friendly, Terrain, Weather, Civil Considerations, Attachments)
  2. Mission (5W's, who what when where and why)
  3. Execution (Commander's Intent)
  4. Service and Support (Logistics)
  5. Command and Signal (How to communicate)

The commander's intent in this format generally contains the following subsections:
  • Concept of the Operation (overall general view of what should occur as an end-state)
  • Maneuver (the infantry, the people generally executing the mission on the ground)
  • Fires (Heavy arms to support the maneuver)
  • Air Support
  • Other support
In a business environment, commander's intent can be used essentially the same way, though of course often less formally. It might be a slightly more complex version of:

"In ___________ (given situation), with ____________(certain tools), you need to accomplish __________________________ (a given end-state) using _________ (materials). If you need additional help, contact ____________(IT, secretary, legal, etc). "