QUICK TIP: Staying on Track in Times of Turbulence

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It’s easy to forget guiding principles during a crisis. Professor Paula Caproni shows how to keep everyone focused in tough times.

When faced with a customer challenge or crisis situation, employees may not always remember principles that should guide their decision making, such as company mission statements and strategies. As a leader, you can help your teams stay aligned, focused, and inspired by giving them a commander's intent statement, says Michigan Ross Professor Paula Caproni.

 

What is a Commander’s Intent Statement?

This tactic — used by the military for decades — boils complex objectives into a memorable statement that teams can understand, care about, and act upon. It should be:

• Aligned with a mission or strategy

• Simple, clear, and short

• In your own words (no jargon)

• Concrete and actionable

• Meaningful and emotionally resonant

 

Examples and Applications

MEDICAL: Our goal is to eliminate pain and suffering.

RESORT: We will always provide the best vacation experience possible.

AD AGENCY: We exist to be a place where creativity thrives.

 

What are the Outcomes?

A commander’s intent statement anticipates the unexpected and recognizes that employees’ actions cannot be scripted. It gives them the flexibility to accomplish what needs to be done while staying true to the spirit of the goal, especially when they face situations in which the official strategy is insufficient. When teaching executives how to create and lead teams, one of the first things I have them do is write down their commander’s intent statement. This simple activity can have a profound effect on both executives and the teams they lead.

 

Media Contact: michiganrosspr@umich.edu