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Commander’s Intent: Military Agile

I got this insight on lean and agile techniques in military context when reading  “Ideas Made to Stick” book.  The workflow of the military was described there as an example of how important it is to make messages as concise as possible to accomplish tasks.

The evolution of the military strategy with dates and sources is not a subject of this blog :)
With no extra details, here’s the core of the point I’m trying to make:

First the Army’s approach was to make sure that every single action is planned down to smallest details. But, as they found out, “enemy bears no plans”. An unexpected move could destroy the whole set-up so  “all king’s horses and all king’s men” could not make the Army function again. Effectively, I mean.


So, they reverted to something very similar to agile technique of creating user stories - Commander’s Intent. Commander’s Intent is the commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation, the end state with respect to the relationship among the force, the enemy and the terrain; it must enable subordinates to quickly grasp the successful end state and their part in achieving it”.

Do you see the resemblance? It’s a replica of lean production principles, only in military, not in civic, context. And it’s exactly like the agile principle of engaging people and encouraging their creativity to achieve one common goal.

I will not go into quoting sources on the web on Commanders’ Intent and military doctrines to find more analogies and similarities in military setup and lean/agile methodology.  I just outlined the idea.

There’s a misconception related to this topic: Some people think that agile works all OK for lazy folks. It’s all about freedom, about looseness, no obligations. Not at all. Agile is less conventional, it does not care about being in the office at 9 am sharp, or about wearing a tight business suit. But agile projects do have their Commanders’ Intent and they require genuine responsibility and engagement from the team - the soldiers.

Now, as  the Army follows agile principles, would you need any better proof on the effectiveness of agile and lean methodology?


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