The Higher Intent 2- Adding Value

Posted on December 2, 2009


In this second installment of the ‘Higher Intent’ series, we shall discuss about how thinking in the frame of ‘Higher Intent’ could potentially create opportunities even in the face of mission failure.

Most of us leaders and managers take the tasks we’re assigned to at face value. In other words, we accept what we’re told to achieve word for word, whether it is to hit a sales target of a certain amount or to see to the completion of a certain project by a given date. As such, we execute exactly as we’re told. Nothing wrong with this, right? Definitely, not since we achieve what our team was assigned. At the same time, it would help to read in between the lines, to derive the higher intent behind the given task. This way, we can add value to our mission, enhancing its success or limiting its failure.

Allow me to illustrate. Christine is a director in a sales team of a company selling mobile phones, and her team was tasked to distribute flyers of the latest phone model. Taking the task at face value, Christine could choose to position her team at various locations of the city, hand out the flyer, and consider it a job well done. On the other hand, she could examine the higher intent of the task given- to raise awareness of a new product. By doing so, the definition of mission success would change completely, from merely giving out flyers to informing the public. As such, she could enhance the mission by maximizing the current means, such as choosing locations that the target crowd for the mobile phone would frequent, or to add on other means to the same end, such as e-mail marketing or work of mouth.

Another case in point. Captain Walls is the Company Commander of a rifle company which has been tasked by higher command to secure a knoll which overlooks the enemy’s main supply route. In other words, Captain Walls was tasked to occupy the knoll and take out anyone who passes the main supply route. While this would likely go smoothly, mission success would be jeopardized should the enemy troops manage to over power his forces. In the event of this, Captain Walls’ judgment and ability to think in the frame of ‘Higher Intent’ could mean the difference between success and failure. Taking the mission at face value, Captain Walls could stubbornly defend the knoll, possibly resulting in the total annihilation of his forces. A fight to the death. Taking the mission at the intention of his higher command, which may be to deny enemy passage along the main supply route, Captain Walls could choose to relocate his forces and take the enemy out from another location. Here, we witness how the mission can fail at face value yet still satisfy the higher intent.

Leadership Lesson- A task may be solved at face value or the higher intent. Often, the face value serves as a benchmark that a higher intent is achieved, but it should nevertheless not be taken to be the higher intent. As leaders or managers, we should recognise how thinking in the frame of higher intent could add value to the task assigned and in the case of failure, salvage the situation.

See also:

The Higher Intent 1- Flexibility

The Higher Intent 3- Communication

The Higher Intent 4- Success Strategies