Commanders Intent

Commander’s Intent (obviously from military origin!) is the definition and description of what a successful operation will yield. Its purpose is to provide a clearly communicated vision of what a successful outcome will look like. It allows employees and teams to contribute towards finding new and better ways of working; ensuring, all the while, that their ideas will fit with long term business goals. Basically, it means that you are communicating your aims for your company with your employees.

I was talking to a friend, Alice, the other day who asked me how she could encourage her staff to become more involved in the running of the business. “I really want them to feel part of the business” she said. “After all they are all fantastic at what they do. Creative and innovative; there’s no shortage of ideas or experience.

But when we have a team meeting to talk about the direction of the business or the challenges we are facing, there’s silence. If I ask, what could we do differently? Nothing – just a roomful of people looking at their feet. So, I end up making all the decisions! It’s a real problem but, if I can solve it, it could make the business so much more successful”.

I asked Alice how long this had been going on (her feeling like she has to make all the decisions). “Oh, as long as I can remember” she said.

And there was her problem. For as long as anyone could remember the boss came up with all the ideas and final say on every business decision. All her staff assumed that she wanted to be ‘in charge’ because that was the behaviour she was demonstrating. All they had to do was wait to be told what to do next and everything would be fine.

Reflecting on our conversation, Alice could now see that suddenly asking for ideas in a team meeting probably wasn’t the best way to get her staff involved in the way that she wanted. It was just too risky for them; no-one wants to look stupid or, worse, come up with an idea the boss didn’t agree with.

I discussed the idea of Commander’s Intent with Alice. So that at the next team meeting she could explain where she wanted the company to go. Then we followed this up with setting a challenge for the staff. “Ask them to think of a problem that affects them or their customers that they would like to fix. Then give them space by getting out of the way and let them fill the gap. Just ask them to come back with their ideas”.

Doing this gave the staff an understanding of where the business was heading, and the space to think about how they could be part of that. If Alice hadn’t discussed her intention with her staff, they would never have come back to her with ideas for how to get there.

The result? A business transformed. Customers have noticed the change and are happier and staff retention has gone up in an industry notorious for people moving from job to job every six months or so.

Alice is happier too. She doesn’t to make all the decisions all the time and doesn’t feel isolated like she used to. She’s still the boss but part of a team. And that team is now capable and ready to come up with ideas to keep improving things and make sure they stay ahead of the competition for a long time to come.

Would you like your business to feel like that? Come to us and together we will make it happen. Call Efficient Thinking Solutions today on 01905 380008