Don’t run away! I’m going to use the military doctrine of Commander’s Intent to highlight a project management issue. I’m not a big fan of using military example as they are often gung-ho, misdirected, chest beating exercised to make a writer feel like they are king of the hill. Disclaimer aside, the doctrine of Commander’s Intent is fundamentally about centralized versus distributed decision making and anyone participating in a project can learn from the approach.
The Commander’s Intent, the Agile philosophy and New Product Development approaches share a lot in common. At their heart they embrace that a highly complex and uncertain environment requires decision making to be distributed to the team so that teams can dynamically adapt to new situations. In old fashioned management speak we’d call this delegation and delegation requires trust.
“confidence in subordinates stems from the superior’s intimate personal knowledge of each one.”
“Trust between superior and subordinate is the cornerstone of mission-oriented command. The superior trusts his subordinate to exercise his judgment and creativity, to act as the situation dictates to reach the maximum goal articulated in his mission; the subordinate trusts that whatever action he takes in good faith to contribute to the good of the whole will be supported by his superior.”
In a software delivery context I could read this as “Get to know your team, let them do their jobs and trust that they want the best outcome.”
When I read the Manifesto for Agile Software Development I see it as a worldview based on trust. Three of the four points listed revolve around trust.
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – trust your people and keep communication flowing.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation – trust can be built by delivering working software
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – work together to build trust and empathy and contacts wont be needed as much.
In my followup article I’ll discuss how the Commander’s Intent proves that Big Upfront Design hindered successful outcomes.
Please take the time to read the full paper.