Commander’s Intent

“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

You had the best of intentions of carrying out your plans. You strategized meticulously but something got in your way. Your plan's gone to pot. Now you're in a scramble to grab your towel so you can throw it in and be done with it. "Oh well, the plans didn't work out... it probably wasn't meant to be.”

If you think ineffective plans are a consequences of unworthy goals, it's time to reconsider.

We've all given up on something. Sometimes, the going gets too tough. But what if some of the goals we've given up on came as a consequence of our rigidity? What if we were just too inflexible to see the other paths?

If you give up on big goals often, I would dare to say you are in the majority -- the vast majority that prefer the comfort zone over the work of moving past your limits.

And, since we're being honest, it makes sense! It’s hard to even see one's potential, let alone try to reach it. It can be tiring and demotivating to fight for big, difficult goals, and since failure is as much a part of success as winning, it can even be humiliating at times. So if you like to settle for the status quo, that's fine. You can stay there -- there's nothing wrong with it. But if you feel compelled to surpass average, then this one's for you.

I just learned the term ‘Commander’s Intent’. I’d never heard of it before, but it was a case-in-point example of the power of your WHY. In "The Why Is the Way," I talk a lot about the importance of clarifying the why of things - why you are doing what you are doing and why it matters.

Apparently, this is, to a certain degree, the same concept behind Commander’s Intent. We know what the mission is, we know what we want to accomplish. In other words we work hard to work on the how. We set out to create a plan around what needs to be done to accomplish the goal.

Then as soon as there is an obstacle or two, we forget that plans are meant to change. We start to wonder and question and reconsider if we really wanted to accomplish what we set out accomplish. You know what, YES, yes you do want it -- you’re just wussing out.

While planning is part of the accomplishment of the goal itself, plans are meant to change and your commitment must always be to the goal, not to the plan. Give yourself some license to find an ‘alternate’ route - to shift where you must without losing focus of the end goal.

This is what Commander’s Intent is all about. These soldiers go into battle with the best laid plan to ‘take the hill’ if you will. If they are met with unexpected resistance or if the plan couldn’t be executed exactly as they’d intended, guess what, it doesn’t matter because their why was very clear - to take the hill. While the original plan didn’t work, they know to shift, improvise and do what it takes to still take the hill. You get it?

Here’s a great article by Josh Kaufman about it and how it applies to business. I think you’ll find it very interesting.

Commander's Intent - The Personal MBA

The point is, commit to the goal, commit to the planning but know that every plan is subject to change.

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