Commander’s Intent: Living Out the Most Important Part of Life

I’m in the middle of a vacation where I’m spending most of the time on an Air Force base, visiting with my son and his family. Although my head knowledge of military life is substantial, nothing can substitute for actually seeing and living in the experience.

CannonAFB

During my observations this week I was reminded of a phrase from Chip and Dan Heath’s first book, Made to Stick: Commander’s Intent. Here are a few excerpts that explain the concept:

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.

The CI never specifies so much detail that it risks being rendered obsolete by unpredictable events.

Commander’s Intent manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders. When people know the desired intention, they’re free to improvise, as needed, in arriving there.

A commander could spend a lot of time enumerating every specific task, but as soon as people know what the intent is they begin generating their own solutions.

According to the Heaths, the Combat Maneuver Training Center, the unit in charge of military simulations, recommends that officers arrive at the Commander’s Intent by asking themselves two questions:

If we do nothing else during tomorrow’s mission, we must ___________________________.

The single, most important thing that we must do tomorrow is ______________________.

When an officer understands this, and is able to communicate this core idea to his troops, the probability of success increases.

When an officer is vague about this, or fails to communicate the core idea to his troops, failure is inevitable.

Unlike the officers and airmen I’m observing this week, most of our daily lives don’t have national security ramifications.

It doesn’t mean that our core ideas have any less significance for our lives.

What Commander’s Intent are you following?

Does Your Church Make Straight A’s When It Comes To Volunteers?

How does your church bring new volunteers onboard?

Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating, and accelerating new team members, whether they come from outside or inside the organization. (“Onboarding“, Bradt and Vonnegut)

There’s actually another “a” word that is a perquisite: align. Here’s how the authors of Onboarding define the key processes listed above.

  • Align- make sure your organization agrees on the need for a new team member and the delineating of the role you seek to fill
  • Acquire- identify, recruit, select, and get people to join the team
  • Accommodate- give new team members the tools they need to do the work
  • Assimilate- help them join with others so they can do the work together
  • Accelerate – help them and their team deliver better results faster

Now that’s a list of “straight A’s” I will take anytime!

Though this list comes from a business book, there are great correlations for ChurchWorld as well.

For example, if your church values your volunteer team members, then they would make sure something like the process above is a part of your volunteer leadership development program. The role of bringing new volunteer leaders onboard shouldn’t be an afterthought.

My church considers the role of a team coordinator to be a volunteer staff position. In that role I may not receive a paycheck, but the importance of my role in the total scheme of what we do is not diminished one bit.

What’s it like at your church?

 

Remembering Truett Cathy

iceberg1

The iceberg represents your leadership. The 10% above the water is your skill. The 90% below the water is your character.

 

It’s what’s below the surface that sinks the ship.

Weak character will eventually destroy your ability to lead.

 

It’s what’s below the surface that supports the tip of the iceberg.

Strong character will hold you up long enough to use your skills.

 

Truett Cathy knew the difference, and he chose wisely.

We should ask ourselves what’s important and what’s not important. When you live by your character, people respect that.

TruettCathy

photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A

In memory of Truett Cathy

1921-2014

 

 

 

This is One Secret that is Not Meant to be Kept

Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller’s 10th Anniversary edition of The Secret is definitely not meant to be kept to yourself!

An updated version of their classic business fable, The Secret captivates the reader through an intriguing narrative centered around a simple but profound secret: “great leaders serve.”

Some of my earliest professional training during graduate school was based on the writings of Ken Blanchard, and his works continue to both line my shelf and inform my leadership activities.

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In much the same way, for the past few years Mark Miller’s writings have been an influential factor in my ongoing leadership development.

With The Secret, the authors have once again crafted a learning device that is not only a pleasure to read but filled with practical helps applicable from the volunteer team leader to the C-suite. In addition to these helps, the self-assessment included at the end of the book is a quick, useful tool to use at both the beginning and end of any mentoring or leadership development program.

The “secret” to The Secret is a simple acronym that successful leaders follow:

See the Future

Engage and Develop Others

Reinvent Continuously

Value Results and Relationships

Embody the Values

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Your continual journey as a developing leader developing others will benefit greatly from practicing the “secrets” from The Secret.

 

A Successful End (to whatever you’re doing) Starts by Beginning with Everything in Its Place

Yesterday, we saw Poetry in Motion by looking at efficiency – today, it’s all about a successful end to whatever you’re doingby starting with everything in its place.

In the culinary world, it’s called “mis en place.”

French for “put in place”, this is what allows all the actions described yesterday to take place. It is the hours of work that start before the first meal is fired: washing, cutting, peeling, pre-cooking, weighing, portioning, and positioning of all the ingredients that go into the wonderful final product.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

Taken broadly, it is the slow simmering of the soups for the night; the baking and preparation of individual items that comprise the wonderful complexity of desserts. It even goes to the preparation of the wood fires that will later cook the wonderful meats that anchor the meal.

Mise en place doesn’t get any attention in the final review, but you wouldn’t have anything without it. It’s all those things that aren’t noticed till they’re not there. It’s the sauté’ chef reaching in the cooler knowing that he has all the right ingredients to prepare the dish just called out. It’s the pastry chef preparing 3 different kinds of ice cream for the desserts on the menu. It’s the fry chef making sure the oil is fresh and hot, ready for use. It’s the salad chef having everything ready to assemble a variety of salads from the same few ingredients, differing in presentation and dressing.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

It’s the dishwasher, knowing if he doesn’t get the dirty pans out and clean ones back, the whole kitchen grinds to a halt.

Mise en place is all about the knowing everything that is required to produce the finished meal, and making sure all the ingredients are ready to use when needed. It’s about thinking through things before they happen, so that when they happen, you’re one step ahead.

It’s all about being prepared.

Our evening at Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen was delightful on so many levels. The front of house staff were gracious in working with me to make sure we could have a front row seat to all the action; the wait staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive; the chefs prepared wonderful food while displaying their skills to an audience.

But it was more than just a meal – it was a demonstration of excellence from top to bottom, one that any organization could learn from.

Whatever your end product is – a worship experience, sermon, leadership class, playtime with kids, etc.

…it all starts with making sure you have everything in its place before beginning.

Poetry in Motion: Efficiency Defined by a Fine Dining Experience

Recently my wife, son, and I were treated to absolute poetry in motion. A group of trained professionals were executing their craft, each one knowing his specific responsibilities as well as supporting the rest of his team. Months – no, years – of practice was evident in their graceful moves, focused intensity, and clarity of purpose. We had front row seats, and the show was excellent.

No, we weren’t watching a ballet or dance company, or an athletic event – we were eating dinner, celebrating a special occaision.

This was not just any restaurant, but Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, where the “open kitchen” concept reigns.

 

Roosters3

courtesy of Rooster’s Kitchen

The kitchen is right in the center of the restaurant, and we had reservations in the prime observation spot – the Chef’s Counter – where all the action was just a few feet away.

The food was excellent: fresh ingredients, prepared in such a way to bring out the natural flavors, served by a warm and friendly wait staff. But this isn’t about the food, as good as it was. It’s about two fundamentals of the restaurant business that can be applied to your organization: efficiency and mise en place. Today let’s look at efficiency; tomorrow, mise en place.

Rooster’s doesn’t have a large kitchen, but it is designed to function with efficiency. The sauté station anchors one half of the center; this is where constant motion is an understatement. Sauté is where the chef is juggling eight or ten pans at a time, making flames, making things jump.

Around the corner at the rear of the kitchen is the namesake of the restaurant: a wood fired grill and oven. The chef here grills all the meat dishes called out, sending them to the front to be paired with side dishes – some from the saute’ station, others from the other half of the kitchen center – the salad, soup, and fry station. To call these dishes “sides” is an injustice – any one of them (we had five among the three of us) could stand alone as a signature dish.

The front area is grand central station: here the expediter calls out the orders as they come in, checks on orders in progress, and makes the final touches as they head to the guest. The final touch is important – it may be the finishing touch of sauce, or a garnish, or a quick wipe of an errant splatter on the plate.

The corners of the kitchen: pastry chef, preparing delicacies to finish out a wonder dinner; meat chef, taking larger cuts prepared on the grill and finishing them to order; and the support staff, taking out dirty pans and bringing in clean ones and bowls, plates, cups and saucers for the chefs to cook and plate food.

A picture doesn’t do this justice – you would have to have a video camera to catch all the movement involved above. But I want to drive home the point:

courtesy of Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy of Rooster’s Kitchen


It’s all about efficiency: no wasted movement.

Everyone in the kitchen knew what was going on, what their job was, and how they can support the rest of the team as needed. The pastry chef would slip around the sauté station, helping the chef plate items as they came off the stove. Once, she literally held out a plate to her back, out of sight, and the chef plated the dish, while she was moving another one with her other hand.

The sauté chef helped out on the grill; the expediter helped out on saute'; the pastry chef started an item on the grill when that chef had to step away for a moment.

That is more than efficiency – it’s the solid work of a team that knows individual and team roles, to the point that they are one.

Can you say the same about the teams in your organization?

Process Practice: Do You “Get” It?

An exceptional concept depends on good process as well as pure inspiration.

courtesy unknownmagicwithinwaltdisneyworld.com

courtesy unknownmagicwithinwaltdisneyworld.com

One of my favorite shows at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s PhilharMagic. Notice the music notes in the background circling around the showcases in the gift shop at the exit from the theater. They’re not random. If you hum them, you will get the opening to Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – one of the most memorable sights and sounds from Disney’s Fantasia, and the core idea in Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

That’s the magic that “Process Practice” can produce!

Being aware of the design process and knowing what phase the team and the idea are in is a big part of the show producer’s job. You probably aren’t a producer, but all leaders have a role in pulling various people and resources together in creating something – which is the role of a producer.

Inspiration generates ideas, and the process helps to shape efforts in a way to keep the team moving towards a fully developed idea.

It’s time for you to “get” it…

  • Get going. Toss a bunch of ideas out. Direction often comes from joyous chaos.
  • Get excited. Brainstorm. Dream. Take tangents. Notice where ideas go, what’s cool about them, and incorporate this into the design.
  • Get committed. Set up a regular project meeting time, discuss ideas, or just sit and stare at the wall. Ideas will come either way.
  • Get doughnuts or cookies and some toys. Brainstorming sessions go better when food or toys are around.
  • Get different opinions. Listen to someone else’s point of view and listen for things that improve the design.
  • Get confused. Ask yourself hard questions that you can’t answer.
  • Get unstuck. Try a different direction. Throw out an impossible action. Debating a wrong answer can help reveal the correct one.
  • Get your hands dirty. Build a rough model or stage a reading. You will learn more from this than from any debate, and you’ll learn it in time to fix things.
  • Get reactions. Show the idea to others. Listen to what they say, especially if it isn’t what you want to hear.
  • Get it on paper. Take everything you’ve learned and write a description of the goals and details of the design. If you write convincingly, you’ve probably got a good idea.

If everyone is comfortable with the process, the team members have the freedom to generate the best ideas for their project.

part of a series of ideas to shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

Imagineering logo

The Disney Imagineers

Sue Bryan, Senior Show Producer