Commander’s Intent.

I have been reading lately about the concept of Commander’s Intent. This is a military concept that facilitates communication of purpose and goals across all levels. Leaders focus on explaining what they want achieved and why, the lower levels and then responsible for the how.

This is important in war because of the concept of the fog of war, where you often have limited information about what is going on, and so the people best placed to make specific decisions are the ones closest to the action.

Unlike commander’s intent, organisational bureaucracy relies on hierarchical structures, standardised processes, and divisions of labor to manage complex organisations. This often leads to people going “by the book” doing things that are obviously incorrect, because they are following the rules. Common sense goes out of the window, and the rules are followed regardless of the consequences.

Often, and especially in large organisations, these rules have been layered over decades, and nobody is responsible for how the system works, it has grown organically into a bureaucratic beast. This then means that nobody feels empowered to change the rules.

Of course, we need rules and regulations, but they need to make sense for the reality on the ground, and so this means that they need to be regularly reviewed to ensure that they do indeed make sense. How can we simplify? What can we cut? How can we ensure that process does not run amok and become an unintelligible bureaucracy?

I think this may be the secret to effective management in large organisation.

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