Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Commander's intent

Recently, I attended a seminar facilitated by an ex-Marine. He told us a couple of stories from the first Gulf War in Iraq.

A take-away I won't soon forget had to do with what he called "Commander's intent."

In battle fronts like Iraq troops face situations that are both highly volitile and filled with uncertainty and chaos. The Marine told us that every soldier was trained to understand the irreducible mission and intent of their leaders. Simply put, when in doubt, follow this clear command:

"Go north and always defend the river."

In this case he referred to the historic Euphrates River.

If separted from the larger force, if distracted or attacked, no matter what, this was the one command everyone knew they could fall back on as a mission statement for next steps type action.

This information left me wondering about our mission and work in the city.

There are so many distractions, so many setbacks, so many interruptions, so many great opportunities and so much chaos.

What would be an equivalent statement for me and for all of us who work in urban renewal organizations, no matter what our specific functions or our unique objectives?

"When in doubt, remember the poor and always stand with the community."

That's a statement that has been rumbling around in my head since I heard my Marine buddy talk. I know there is more here to think about.

I'd love to hear what you come up with.



Janet said...

When in doubt, solicit advice from and ask the commmunity to teach you.

SeriousSummer said...

Doubt? What's all this about doubt?

The whole point of a mission statement like this is that you don't need to worry about doubt. You've been told what to do when you don't have other instruction.

Let's just shorten this to:

"Remember the poor; stand with the community."

Greg said...

It probably goes without saying, but I would slightly revise to "Remember how Jesus dealt with the poor and oppressed, do likewise, and stand with the community."

Karen Shafer said...

All the above. What Janet said...

1) "Ask the people you want to help what is going on in their lives TODAY. Base your actions on that."

Especially with my chronically homeless friends, that picture can change daily, depending upon what the city is doing with them and what they encounter on the street.

When I ask my friends who are homeless what’s happening in their lives and what they need, I don’t always get the answer I expected.

2) “Don’t turn away.” Henri Nouwen says, “We ... must ... keep listening and ... keep looking [and] not run away from this painful sight...enter into the chaos surrounding situations of poverty.”

This from Larry’s post resonates right now: "There are so many distractions, so many setbacks, so many interruptions... and so much chaos." Also, many voices saying contradictory things about the same problems.

I think the powers that be and those of ‘darkness’ count on us to be overwhelmed by the chaos surrounding poverty.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea, we follow it where I work, but you "intent" is much too broad.

The point of the commander's indent is to give someone something to fall back on, a goal. "Remember the poor and always stand with the community" isn't a goal. It's a mission statement.

Commander's Indent is for a smaller scale. If you use it on a large scale, it needs to be backed up with more commander"s indent down the line.

The Marine's "Go north and always defend the river." was the indent at one level. Higher up the indent may have been "Clear all areas south of river" above that it could have been something else.

Try "reduce poverty in our city by 20% in 3 years" You need something hard that you can measure against and move towards.