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Commander's Intent - Mission Planning

May 29, 2019 9:37:43 PM / by Travis Jacobs

the plany plan


Commander's intent is the description & definition of what a successful mission will look like ... 

What is the end state?

What does winning look like?


5 W's & 1 H

What ...

Why ...

How ...

Who ...

When ...

Where ...


A successful plan consists of 4 parts

  1. Strategy 
  2. Tactics
  3. Logistics
  4. Contingency plans

  - A minimum of 3 contingency plans & options when things go sideways.



Is the what & the why

The what ... 

What are we going to accomplish ... What is the mission?

What is the goal ... 

What is the objective ...

This is the big picture view


Where is the goal/finish line?

How do we know we've won ... scoreboard


The what is composed of two parts

Where are we going ... Why are we going there


The why must be explained in simple terms that the team can understand


Drop the jargon

Drop the acronyms

Drop buzzwords


Explain it simply so a 5th grader can understand it


This is one of the most important parts ...

Explain the why and how it affects the individual person ... what they can do individually to accomplish their piece of the mission ...

Why they should care ... 

How accomplishing the mission will benefit them ?

... more freedom

... more flexibility

... more pay

... more opportunity

... promotion

... learning & training


What's in it for them if they help you get there?

It has to be something meaningful to them ... which requires understanding on a personal level 

If the goal or objective is primarily about you as the leader and your bonus ... and only something that you care about and benefits you ...

Then why should your people care at all if there is no benefit to them?

From their perspective they get a paycheck either way ... 

They can sit at their desk & pretend to work ... you probably won't even notice ...

It all pays the same ... the only thing that fluctuates is the frustration and the nonsense. 

They will seek to minimize the frustration & the nonsense ...

There is no reason for them to care about your bonus ... they don't see a penny of it ... no benefit to them whatsoever

If you are thinking they should do what I say because I'm the boss and I sign their paycheck ... "My Way Or The Highway"

... So when a third or half of your staff gets up and walks out the door ... without notice or warning ... then what do you do?

What impact would that have on your ability to take care of your customers?



Is the how we are going to achieve the what or the strategy

What are the rules of engagement?

What we can & can't do

What we should & shouldn't do


What is the standard of performance

... Behavior 

... Actions 

... Results


What resources do we have

What resources do we need

How do we close the gap between the two



Who does what by when?

Where are we now?

Where are we going?

When do we need to be there?

From x to y by when?


Contingency Planning


... Threats ... Risks ... Obstacles

... Hinge Assumptions

... Blind Spots

... Waste


Plan ... but don't over/under plan ... you can't just sit and talk ... talk ... talk

You will never have complete or perfect information ... but you still have to take action ... and you can't just wing it & shoot from the hip blindfolded in the dark.

It's a tricky balancing act .. & a team effort


You can't develop a plan in a vacuum... 

The way Moses did with the Ten Commandments


Utilize Decentralized Command ... the person who sweeps the floor should chose the broom ... as well as develop a plan to clean the place. After all they know more about it then you do.

Have the team develop the overall plan and give each man a piece of the plan to be responsible for & execute.


So why shove a plan down their throat & tell them how to do their job ... when they know far more about it then you ever will? Because that's the way we've always done it ... and the huge ego part ...


Use the Black Hat to identify the threats & the risks

The Charcoal Hat ... hinge assumptions & blind spots

The Brown Hat ... waste

The White Hat ... information & intelligence

The Red Hat ... intuition & experience


Utilize the thinking hats to assess the risks ... using qualitative & quantitative data ... be careful not to get caught in the trap here ... you will never have perfect or complete information.

Create a risk matrix ... on a whiteboard ... with pen and paper...

keep it simple!

A sharpie & a notebook is all you need ... anything more is too complicated.

This can be done quickly ... 15 minutes or less.

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Once the team has completed the plan you can review & approve .. as well as make suggestions ... improvements ... recommendations ... ask questions.

You can be the wise general ... that can take step a back and looks at the big picture ... from a distance ... add your wisdom ... experience ... expertise ... to make your team that much more successful



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Topics: Leadership, Communication, Design, Innovation, Execution, Strategy, Tactics, Team, Winning, Planning, Why, Discipline, ExtremeOwnership

Travis Jacobs

Written by Travis Jacobs

Travis is the president of JA Simulations, a product design & development firm in Denver Colorado. We help clients solve problems & get to market faster with innovative & high quality products

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