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byJamesGwertzman 2015-09-18

Commander's Intent: Managing Through Uncertainty

The 2015 IGDA Leadership Summit earlier this month brought together a great group of dynamic, diverse speakers to talk about leadership in the games industry, and I was honored to be among them. My presentation focused on how to leverage the military concept of "commander’s intent" in game companies.

What do game studios have in common with military special forces? They both depend on empowering creative individuals to take initiative and make autonomous decisions, often under stress and uncertainty, while staying aligned with overall goals of an organization. The difference is that elite military organizations have been explicitly training their leaders how to do this for over a century whereas game studio leaders rarely, if ever, get formal training in effective delegation. It’s time to change that!

Commander’s intent describes what a mission’s success will look like, and why the mission matters, without overly proscribing how it is to be carried out. It empowers people at every level in the chain of command to make independent decisions that will ensure they meet the end goal when they are far from the commander’s watch. You can view the presentation here and download the accompanying worksheet (.docx) here.