Leading through Intent

    Striking the optimal balance between autonomy and alignment.

    A range of factors makes strategy execution difficult:

    As human beings, we have all sorts of biases and personal interests that influence our actions.


    Furthermore, when we operate within complex circumstances, emotions and stress contribute to the unpredictability of our behavior. If we also operate in complex environments where shared references are lacking, misunderstandings are likely to affect both our conversations and decisions.


    When we add to this the challenge of operating in a changing environment, strategy execution becomes even more formidable.

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    In an ideal world, executing strategy is easy:

    First, you decide what outcomes are important. Then, you plan how to achieve those outcomes.

    And finally, you execute the plan by taking actions.

    Easy, right? Wrong!


    The concept of friction

    The traps and gaps of strategy execution


    The gaps


    The traps

    1. The knowledge gap:
      The difference between what we would like to know and what we actually know.
    2. The alignment gap:
      The difference between what we want other people to do and what they actually do.
    3. The effects gap:
      The difference between what we expect our actions to achieve and what they actually achieve.

    If we fail to address the gaps, we will increasingly find ourselves frustrated and susceptible to falling into one or more of the traps.


    Trap 1: Seeking excessive detail. In response to the knowledge gap, we tend to seek additional information. However, since perfect information is rarely available, this often results in unnecessary delays.

    Trap 2: Overloading with detailed instructions. In response to the alignment gap, we often burden tasks with overly detailed instructions. However, this approach can discourage independent thinking and creativity, which is rarely our intention.

    Trap 3: Impose more detailed controls.When faced with the effects gap and the failure to achieve desired outcomes, we tend to tighten control processes and potentially introduce more Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This can divert people's attention towards navigating reviews rather than focusing on customer needs and working towards achieving meaningful outcomes.

  • The Leading through Intent approach


    Leading through Intent is based on a well proven fact: Most people want to make a positive difference in their work and are willing to invest all their skills and efforts if they get the opportunity.


    Sadly, in most organizations, a lot of this human potential is wasted. Either because our processes have grown too complex and hard to relate to, or because people do not really feel psychologically safe and empowered.


    Leading through Intent is designed to get more people involved in making decisions close to their work. The approach offers true empowerment by moving the responsibility to the people who do the work.

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    Working with the dynamics of autonomy and alignment

    Autonomy and alignment are usually seen as opposites that we must choose between: Either we choose high alignment, or we choose high autonomy.



    But there is a better way of addressing this. Under the right circumstances, we can have high alignment and high autonomy at the same time. If this is achieved, everyone is working towards the same outcomes, while using the freedom their autonomy gives them to make independent decisions. This is what Leading through Intent is all about.


    If all team members fully understand the intent (the what and the why), we can loosen up operational control, allowing team members to take responsibility for how things get done.

  • Try it out!

    Recieve a copy of the "Leading through Intent Playbook"

  • Learn from the master

    Stephen Bungay

    The foremost global expert in "Leading through Intent" is Stephen Bungay, author of the renowned book "The Art of Action".


    Over several years CultureDrivers has worked closely with Stephen Bungay to turn Bungay's theories and practices into processes, well proven templates and digital tools that can be scaled out broadly in large organizations.


    You can inquire about Stephen Bungay´s availability via info@culturedrivers.com 

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    Team & Leadership dilemmas

    Leading through Intent involves a lot of dilemmas where you as a team need to make trade-offs between conflicting interests.


    We have developed a range of team and leadership dilemmas that helps turn the theory into practice.

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    The Leading through Intent toolbox also includes a TeamDriver assessment and a 360 leader assessment corresponding with the framework.


    Feedback from different respondents are reported for Intent, Support and Playfield seperately and helps identify the areas where behavioural change would be most valuable.

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    Change Cards

    Becoming great at working with the Leading through Intent practices often involves a need to adjust some of the existing colaboration habits.

    For this purpose the team change cards can work as a valuable tool.

  • Becoming intent driven high performers in only one year 

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    The TARGIT case

    Read the story of how TARGIT, a leading business intelligence Software as a Service company, moved from below average to high performance on both team collaboration and leadership quality in only one year.


    And more importantly: How they became an intent driven organization with a high degree of autonomy, involvement and strategy alignment.


    The Leader responsibilities

    Learn more about the leaders responsibilities when Leading through Intent