Leader’s intent is the first of the ‘Foundational Five’ key elements I believe will help teams achieve success. As a reminder, the additional four items are 2. Creating S.M.A.R.T. Objectives, 3. Creating a functional organization, 4. Requesting and coordinating resources and 5. Communicating effectively up and down the chain of command.
Commander’s intent to me is the predecessor of the non-military focused Leader’s intent. To quote Maj. Richard Dempsey, U.S. Army, and Maj. Jonathan M. Chavous, U.S. Army who I use as one of my references in this episode, “Commander’s intent, when used properly, should bridge the gap between the mission and the concept of operations.” I think this is a great summary of what Commander’s intent is and what is should provide. There is a lot more from their article Commander’s Intent and Concept of Operations.
Many of the leadership and organizational practices from the U.S. Military were adopted by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). Among these include Leader’s intent. Similar to how the authors in the previously mentioned article talk about the key elements of operational purpose, key tasks and conditions that define the end state for mission success, the NWCG also summarizes key elements of Leader’s intent. NWCG prompts leaders to let their teams know their intent through the three key elements of Task, Purpose and End state. Not far from their military brethren right? With the NWCG, Task is outline as, “the objective or goal of the assignment“. Purpose focuses on “why the assignment needs to be done” and End State is defined as “how the situation should look when the assignment is successfully completed“. More about this can be read in the NWCG Lead Time publication from November 2020.
As we read these articles or listen to this episode, we begin to see some common themes. Helping our teams know the “Why” and the “End State” are critical components. This is also true in the Lean process process improvement space. As part of this episode’s research I reference a great Lean terminology directory from Velaction, a continuous improvement company. Within their directory is a reference to “Commander’s Intent”, then also how Leader’s Intent is applied to Lean processes and great guidance on the pitfall of setting unrealistic Leader’s Intent, e.g. demanding high quality but expecting the same high output. One may negatively impact the other and the leader’s message may be confusing.
Hopefully this high level reference peaks your interest as I break down these concepts more and highlight the interconnectivities as well as provide my perspectives on how Leader’s Intent should be more practical than political or grandiose for our team’s to be able to take action.
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Kevin Pannell, PMP | Creator & Host, ‘People, Process, Progress’ | Connect and subscribe at https://linktr.ee/peopleprocessprogress
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- Commander’s Intent from U.S. Army: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20131231_art011.pdf
- Leader’s Intent from NWCG: https://www.nwcg.gov/committee/6mfs/leaders-intent
- Leader’s intent in Lean project management: https://www.velaction.com/leaders-intent/