The Commander’s Intent
What is the Change in thinking or behavior that you need someone to make? If we’ve already figured out our Goal of an irresistible outcome for the audience, the invisible Problem of perspective that’s getting in the way, and the Idea that makes inaction impossible, the Change is what it all adds up to.
A lot of times, when you’re working on your Red Thread, you actually want to start with the Change. However, a common pitfall is to focus on the actions you want people to take, rather than the Change you need them to make that drives all those actions. The difference is between plans and intent. Your audience needs to understand what the overall purpose of the Action is if you want them to follow through and be flexible if (for some reason) that action can’t or won’t work for them.
The Change isn’t just the thing that Goal, Problem, and Idea add up to; it’s also the overarching shift in worldview that the Actions add up to. As you’re going through your Red Thread, make sure that your Change has three characteristics: first, that it’s an intent, a shift in thinking and behavior from where your audience started; second, that it’s the Problem plus the Idea, not just the reverse of the Problem; and third, that all the specific Actions you have can all be summarized by the Change you’re recommending.
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
- EP053: Focus on the GOAL: Why Your Audience Needs an “Irresistible Outcome”
- EP054: Focus on the PROBLEM – Why Your Audience Needs Both Context and Contrast
- EP055: Focus on the IDEA – The Difference Between “Understandable” and “Inevitable”
- The Red Thread Worksheet
– What is the change in thinking or behavior that you need someone to make? Well, that’s the question you need to answer with the Change, the fourth piece of your Red Thread and the fourth in this series on find the red thread of all the basics you need to know. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com.
If we’ve already figured out what is it that the audience is going to want as a result of this message or this product, that’s the irresistible outcome we talked about with the Goal and we figured out what the invisible Problem is that’s getting in the way, that problem of perspective, and we’ve added in that incontrovertible truth, that Idea that makes inaction impossible on that Problem, well, now we find ourselves saying what do that all add up to? That’s the Change.
Now, that seems like a pretty simple thing to answer and in fact, a lot of times when you’re working on your Red Thread, that’s where you might want to start. What is the thing that I want to do differently? Here’s the thing, though: a lot of times what I see people do is focus on the actions they want people to take rather than the Change and they are different.
So, how are they different? Well, think of it this way. It’s the difference between plans and intent. Okay, what does that mean? Well, I’m gonna borrow here a story from Chip and Dan Heath’s wonderful book, Made To Stick, where they introduce the concept of what’s called the Commander’s Intent.
And they go through and they explain that, once upon a time, the army, when setting up its battle plans for a particular engagement with the enemy, used to just indicate, “Do this, then that, then this other thing.” They gave these step-by-step battle plans and that was fine except, to also borrow a phrase from the army, that no plan ever survived contact with the enemy. And so, what the army started to do was at the top of those battle plans, they still did the battle plans, they still gave people actions but at the top of those battle plans they put what they called the Commander’s Intent, something like “capture the hill,” and after that would be the step-by-step instructions of what they wanted people to do. But ultimately it was all about that thing at the top, the Commander’s Intent, what all of those actions rolled up to, what they would turn into if somebody did them.
Now, the reason why that was so important to understand is that it’s intent that drives action. If I understand what the overall purpose of the Action is, I’m much more likely not only to follow through with that action because I understand the Why of that action but I’m also able to be much more flexible if for some reason that particular action can’t or won’t work for me. And that’s what the army found too, that when no plans survived contact with the enemy, once soldiers started to understand what the Commander’s Intent was, they would continue and they would be much more successful in achieving that intent.
So, what does that have to do with you and your Red Thread of your product, your business, you, your message? Well, the Change is that Commander’s Intent, it’s the thing that the Goal, the Problem, the Idea add up to, but it’s also the thing that the Actions add up to. It is the overarching shift in worldview, and here I’ll remind you of Chris Andersen’s definition of persuasion, that it’s replacing someone’s worldview with a better one and the Change represents the sum total of all of that.
So, as you’re going through your own Red Thread, make sure that your Change does a couple things. Make sure that it’s in fact an intent, it is a shift of thinking and behavior from where your audience started. Second, make sure that it’s not just the reverse of the Problem. Make sure it’s not just, “Hey, the problem is you weren’t doing this and now I want you to do this.” Make sure it’s the Problem plus the Idea that results in the Change and third, make sure that all the specific Actions that you have listed, your seven steps to success for instance, that they all can be summarized by the Change that you’re recommending. When you have that, then you’ve got not only your Commander’s Intent, you’ve got the heart and the purpose, the inevitable Action that your Red Thread is designed to create.
Thanks so much for listening. This is Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share it. Sign up and subscribe to it on YouTube and give us a review on iTunes. Sure would appreciate it.