April 13-15, 2007
Anderson Ranch Fire — August, 1997
Communicating Intent and Imparting Presence
Salida Chamber of Commerce Visitor
Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence G Shattuck, U.S. Army
Imparting Presence to
Recent technological advances have made presence a popular concept.
The term normally suggests using technology to display and interact with
a remote (or constructed) environment. The concept of imparting presence,
however, has a different connotation. Multiple environments cannot
be brought to commanders—they cannot be everywhere all the time.
Instead, what they can do is to impart to their subordinates a sense
of themselves. Imparting presence is the process of developing subordinates’ decision-making
framework so that they respond the same way the senior commanders would
if they were able to view the situation through their
factors contribute to the ability of commanders to impart their presence
to subordinate commanders.
begin to impart their presence from the day they assume command.
They need to
establish a healthy command climate and explicitly
state what they value and why—both in garrison and in tactical
situations. Reward structures must reflect this value system.
Start early. Commanders should begin to impart their
presence from the day they assume command. They need to establish a healthy
and explicitly state what they value and why—both in garrison and
in tactical situations. Reward structures must reflect this value system.
Establish acceptable operating limits. In most cases, commanders should
tell subordinates what to do, not how to do it. At the same time, however,
subordinates usually are not free to accomplish the task in any manner
they choose. Certain constraints and restrictions limit the possible
ways subordinates can accomplish a task. By establishing the operational
boundaries, commanders provide subordinates the freedom to act and the
knowledge of what is acceptable and what is not.
Explain your rationale. It is not enough to tell subordinates what to
do and why. When situations permit, commanders should explain how they
arrived at the decision. Explaining the rationale helps subordinates
understand and develop similar patterns of thought. Frequent interaction—formal
and informal, professional and social—will provide subordinates
additional opportunities to learn how their commanders think.
Get feedback often. Commanders must ensure that subordinates clearly
understand their orders. The potential for misunderstanding is great
when the commanders and subordinates do not agree—and are not aware
that they do not agree—on the meaning of doctrinal terms. When
appropriate, commanders should use doctrinal terms and ensure that subordinates
agree on their meanings.
Recognize individual differences. Silva wrote, “A superior’s
confidence in his subordinates will be high or low as a result of his
intimate personal knowledge of each gained through his personal responsibility
to train and develop them. The superior knows whom he can trust with
more latitude and who needs more detailed instructions.”9 Commanders
must recognize individual differences among their subordinates and interact
with them accordingly.
How do commanders and their subordinates formulate, communicate, interpret
and implement intent effectively on the battlefield? They start by imparting
their presence to subordinates. They establish healthy command climates
and make themselves and their decision-making framework accessible to
subordinates. By all accounts, 21st-century battlefields may be volatile,
uncertain, complex, ambiguous and lethal. Although technology will provide
unprecedented ability to communicate and visualize the battlefield, the
pace of events will, as in the past, drive subordinates to make decisions
without checking with their commanders. Even though the concept of intent
has been in our doctrine for many years, empirical evidence suggests
that we do not successfully use it to guide tactical decisions. The unit
intent training described here will help commanders and subordinates
coordinate their responses to tactical situations. But like all effective
training, it must be embedded in a larger, systematic program to impart
commanders. presence to their subordinates.
It is not enough to tell subordinates what to do and why. When situations
permit, commanders should explain how they arrived at the decision. Explaining
the rationale helps subordinates understand and develop similar patterns
of thought. Frequent interaction. formal and informal, professional and
social. will provide subordinates additional opportunities to learn how
their commanders think.
reading—Communicating Intent and Imparting Presence, An Empirical