Why Commanders Intent is Important for Business Strategy

I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of Commanders Intent, and why it’s an important concept to keep in mind when thinking about how you service your customers. None of this is new, but it’s one of those ‘always green’ concepts that I thought bore importance to mention again. Chip and Dan Heath explained the concept of Commanders Intent really well in their first book, Made To Stick.

Here’s how I define it:

It’s pretty simply the highest level of action you need to express to get a job done.

As an example, instead of an army Commander saying “we need to get the tanks, load your guns, run 20 meters, confront this enemy, plant the flag” etc etc, it simply says: “We need to take the hill.”

It then assumes that the people on the ground will know best how to take the hill, and that they’ve been trained to efficiently do that. How to train and coach your staff to be that autonomous is a topic for another day. That’s pretty much what I’ve been blogging on for the last 4 years🙂

Here’s how wikipedia explains Commander Intent:

“Commander’s Intent (CSI) plays a central role in military decision making and planning. CSI acts as a basis for staffs and subordinates to develop their own plans and orders to transform thought into action, while maintaining the overall intention of their commander. The commander’s intent links the mission and concept of operations. It describes the end state and key tasks that, along with the mission, are the basis for subordinates’ initiative.”

To me, it’s important because the reality is nobody completes the same task the same way every time. And the truth is, robots will do tasks like that soon anyway. Things are too complex and to chaotic for any strategy to survive contact with any customer and that’s the way it should be. Providing value to your clients and customers through understanding the intent of their relationship with you is the core responsibility of your organisation.