Concept of Intent | Podcast Episode 7



February 14, 2019

Have you heard of Intent? It’s a single understanding that leaders who want the best from the teams communicate. It’s a very brief written statement which combines your mission statement, your company objectives, your culture and values – distilled into 100 words that outlines what the future looks like, how we’re getting there, some of the steps along the way, why we’re doing it and with whom.

In this short podcast we are complementing the two earlier communication techniques, Empowered Delegation and Closed-Loop Communication, with Intent.

Quirk Solutions Managing Director Chris Paton outlines how trying to communicate all the things we are trying to achieve to team members can sometimes be like throwing multiple sized balls at them. They might catch one or two but they won’t catch them all. Using the concept of Intent, we can help them understand the job at hand and align them to the same compass bearing.

Listen to the podcast:

Full Podcast Transcript can be found here:

Good morning folks and welcome to another of our podcasts where we are going to be discussing ways in which you can hopefully use some of the techniques and tips we’ve been giving you over the series of what we are doing to improve business performance, to engage people more and to get people to buy into your achievements and what you are trying to achieve.

It’s been really interesting having some of the feedback from previous podcasts. One of the last podcasts that we sent out was all about ‘How do I try and get people to buy into my objectives’ and looking at the concepts of freedom in a framework or empowered delegation and the closed loop communication. But one of the pieces of feedback that came to us was, “I get the fact that I want to try and explain to people what I’m trying to achieve in the broadest possible sense without being too prescriptive and you put that down as being something we ought to do but how do we actually do it?”

So, I thought today we would have a quick look at a concept called Intent. It’s something that the military use a lot, in fact the military would say that if everybody that has been given some instructions forget everything they’ve been told but remembers the intent, they will still be okay. And it’s certainly gaining traction. There is a really useful article called ‘Strategic Intent’ in the Harvard Business Review written by Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad from 2005. It’s quite a lengthy article but it goes into how this concept can be used and it’s all about mapping things out and trying to bring it into a single place.

I’ve been having a think about how I could best describe this and I think the easiest way is to imagine it as a bunch of different shaped and sized balls. So, if I have my mission statement, if I have my vision statement, if I have my cultures and values, if I have the objectives I’m trying to achieve, they are often all written down into a single document, but they are all slightly disconnected. And so, the people that you are communicating those to are trying to grasp them all at the same time and it’s the equivalent as if you took all of those four or five balls, threw them to somebody and simply said catch. They might catch one, they might catch two, but they won’t catch all of them. And what an Intent is trying to do is to pull together little bits from each of those areas into a single piece of writing that gives people a single understanding of what the future looks like, how we are going to get there, some of the steps along the way, why we’re doing it and who we might be doing it with.

It’s quite a difficult thing to do, to be honest. To try and distil down everything that you are trying to achieve and how and why and where, into a really short, pithy paragraph, not much more than 100 words maximum is quite a challenge. And certainly, when I used to be in the military we would have exams, believe it or not, on how to write them. We would be set problems and be told to write an Intent for it and it’s considered quite a skill. So, when you first have a go at this, don’t worry if you find it extremely difficult. Don’t worry if it starts to become too lengthy. Use the people in your organisation as a sounding board to see what they think about what you’re producing and whether it helps or not.

But my own view is that if you do get that little snippet of a vision, a bit of a mission, a little bit of the style that you want to achieve it in and some of the objectives as well as an outline idea of how you might get there, people will really align towards that compass heading that we spoke about before. People’s ability to grasp information is inherently limited and if you give them too much, in too many separate statements it’s difficult for them to try and connect it all together. But if you use Intent and you try to boil it all down to one single piece of writing that they can look at and think, ‘I’ve got it’, then as soon as you start to add that into the freedom in a framework and the closed loop communication tools that we spoke about the last time, you could really start to accelerate the ability of your organisation to act independently, innovatively and within the risk tolerances that you’ve already identified.

I look forward to hearing back from people as to whether they feel this has made a difference or not and how difficult or how easy they found it to map out. Good luck and I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

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