We achieve this harmonious initiative in large part through the use of the commander’s intent, a device designed to help subordinates understand the larger context of their actions. The purpose of providing intent is to allow subordinates to exercise judgment and initiative — to depart from the original plan when the unforeseen occurs — in a way that is consistent with higher commanders’ aims.
Source: MCDP1 Warfighting P. 4-19
A commander’s clear, concise articulation of the purpose(s) behind one or more tasks assigned to a subordinate. It is one of two parts of every mission statement which guides the exercise of initiative in the absence of instructions. (MCRP 5-12C)
Source: MCDP 1-0, P. Glossary-9
Commander’s intent is the commander’s personal expression of the purpose of the operation. It must be clear, concise, and easily understood two levels down. It may also include end state or conditions that, when satisfied, accomplish the purpose. Commander’s intent helps subordinates understand the larger context of their actions and guides them in the absence of orders. It allows subordinates to exercise judgment and initiative—in a way that is consistent with their higher commander’s aims—when the unforeseen occurs. This freedom of action, within the framework of commander’s intent, creates tempo during planning and execution. Source: MCDP 1-0, P. 3-15