Management by Intent

Securing decesion making on the right level in the organization

Story category: Leadership

Story tags: Intent-based leadership


How to get people to accept authority and make decisions on the lowest possible level. Not pull information up to where authority is, but to push authority down to where information is. To create a team of thinking and acting people instead of a situation in leader which directs a group of people who’s job it is to be complient with requests from management.


We started our journey in old Prussian military manuals which were developed as a reaction to losing from Napoleon (yes, that far back). The original name of the system, which was developed in the beginning of the 19th century, was Auftragstaktik; often translated to Mission command in English. The Prussian army decided after the defeat in Jena that they wanted to create an effective force which could react fast, did not have to wait for orders (what to do, how to do it, what to think and how to think it), had a bias towards action and a bias towards autonomous problem solving.


The idea is to create company wide understanding, competence and a to create a way to deal with risks that come along with redesigning the organization to have decision making authority on other levels than management level; its basically creating a leader to leader structure instead of a leader to follower relationship.


Working on all of this we came across David Marquet, retired submarine commander, who has actually developed and implemented a modern version of Auftragstaktik which he also calls Leadership by Intent. He was able to succesfully turn arround the ship on the crew of the Santafe to which he was assigned last minute; the ship and crew went from bottom-of-the-list scores to receive the best scores ever awarded within the US Navy.


Although inventing the wheel can certainly be an important process to go through as a team, it is also helpful to have a proven structure in which experimentation is possible. The work of David Marquet is that structure which will be used to move a head faster, as it provides answers to problems we were running into.


One of the things that was an eye opener is the use of language, another are the concepts of bluework and redwork, but also principles ceneterd arround the pillars of control, clarity and competence.


More to follow on Leadership by Intent!

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