Explicitly stating intent

Explicitly stating intent has brought significant benefits to my work life and beyond. Articulating the intent of my actions makes my thinking clearer, as writing does for me. More importantly, it helps improving communication, collaboration and alignment in a group.

While I don’t advocate command and control style leadership in the enterprise, we can at times learn from the military’s long leadership experience: Wikipedia summarises how different military organisations view and use intent. Chip & Dan Heath describe the concept of Commander’s Intent in a less martial context in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Random House, 2007). I think I read about the concept there first.

It seems to me that a complete service concept will discuss many of the aspects found in a military statement of intent, minus some of the violence. When pursuing multiple competing objectives, it is beneficial to explicitly state the trade-offs between or priorities of these objectives. For an example, see Alistair Cockburn’s discussion of a mission statement with trade-off priorities in Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams (Addison-Wesley, 2005, p. 146-147).


Cockburn, A. (2005)  Crystal Clear: a human-powered methodology for small teams. Addison-Wesley.

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2007) Made to stick: why some ideas survive and others die. Random House.


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