No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Leader's Intent

Unless you want to micro-manage, the most critical piece of communication to your team is your intent statement. If you tell your people what the job is, and then state your intent, in many cases you can leave everything else up to them. That's empowerment at its best. 

Intent is a combination of the reason and the desired end state. The easiest way is to start with the actual words: My intent is . . . no interruption of service to the customer. My intent is . . . to cut 20% in utility costs. My intent is . . . to deny the enemy the use of that road.

The intent statement lets your team use judgment and initiative. They can innovate. If conditions change and the plan won't work anymore, they can make decisions that will still get you where you want to be.

I recently jammed a batch of paint into the schedule, setting the due date for the next day. I stated my intent that the customer's paint line would not shut down for lack of paint. My production supervisor chose to split the batch in two, get a small batch done quickly and without overtime, and then do the rest at a normal pace. His solution didn't follow our process, but it was effective, less costly, and met the intent.

Your intent statement frees both you and your team: you don't have to work through all the details, and they don't have to follow a script.

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