Kayaking 6,500 Miles Across the Pacific

Just for fun, bring up Google Maps and ask for directions from the USA to China.  I know it sounds silly, but humor me.  You’ll notice around step 31, Google Maps suggests you paddle a kayak from Seattle, Washington to Hawaii and then again from Hawaii to Japan.  That’s about 6,500 miles of paddling and you’re still not in China!

The US Army and Marine Corps have a doctrine called “Commanders Intent.”  Put simply, Commander’s Intent is a clearly stated goal made at the beginning of an engagement that holds, no matter if the situation changes, and we know it will always change.

So instead of describing in detail your trip from the USA to China, you simply say “We will arrive in China in 3 days”.  (Evidently, kayaking will take 38 days and 3 hours!)  This leaves autonomy in the hands of the field level leaders, the people who know a lot more about the situation as it changes.

Becoming comfortable with a concept like Commanders Intent will take a while if you are used to barking out detailed orders (not just the what and why, but the how),  but you’ll be surprised and rewarded by the creativity of your team.

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