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Commander’s Intent

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I meant to start reading Made To Stick when it first came out, but damn Father Time disrupted my plans once again. But, I’m thrilled to say I’m in the middle of it right now and it’s already catapulted towards the top of my “Super Useful Marketing Books” list. Note the “useful” tag. There are some books that are inspirational, some that are informational and some that exist merely to state the obvious in 300 pages or less. Not this one. It’s useful and then some. I’ll definitely plan an in depth book review once I finish, but I simply had to call out an amazingly simple yet powerful notion discussed within.

Commander’s Intent (CI) is “a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order, specifying the plan’s goal, the desired end-state of an operation”. This is a concept the US Army began using in the 1980s.  You’d assume the Army would have extremely in-depth, detailed, minute-by-minute plans for every single action taken by its many team members. And you’d be right. However, the Army also understands that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. In other words, when things go to shit (and they almost always do), most plans fall to shreds. The world doesn’t work according to step-by-step assumptions and instructions. That’s where the CI statement comes in to play. When all the X’s and O’s become useless, everyone can still remain on task by reading the CI. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s clear and it drives action.

HUGE potential here for marketers, both in external communication and internal direction.


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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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