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Orders for victory! “If our chapters do nothing else, they must ____?”

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This is a VERY important post—so important that staff will be meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 16 to discuss your replies. It’s a little long, but worth it.

If you can fill in the above blank without hesitation, you probably misunderstood the question. Read on, your answer will require some pondering. Your answers could also help focus staff, Society, district and chapter efforts for years to come. We look forward to some thoughtful discussion!

Commander’s Intent

To paraphrase past Society president Roger Lewis, Men don’t join or leave the Society, they join or leave chapters. Helping our chapters become more successful supersedes all other missions—everything else depends on it. We’re asking you to generate a clear declaration of how we’ll accomplish that mission—deciding what “hill” our chapters must take NOW so we are all in the strengthened position we need to win the rest of the war.

Since 1980, U.S. Army planners have posted a Commander’s Intent statement at the top of every order: Brief, clear language that essentially means, “If you accomplish nothing else, you must _____.” For example: “The Fourth Battalion must remove the enemy from Hill 204 or leave only ineffective remnants remaining so we can protect the Fifth Brigade’s flank as they pass north through the line.”

Soldiers must understand the Commander’s Intent so that during the heat of battle, they can generate their own solutions to achieve it. A CI statement is not a slogan or mission statement. They are marching orders specific enough to define victory, general enough to be adapted to individual circumstances.

A Society-wide CI for chapters would essentially declare, “The common characteristic of all thriving chapters is that they are successful at _____. Success at _____ is so vital to strengthening our chapters that we barbershoppers must focus on it ahead of all other objectives at this time.”

Commanders Intent for chapters – one example

Here’s my CI and my explanation, given only as an example so you can generate your own:

Commander’s Intent statement: If a chapter does nothing else, it must offer every member personal fulfillment and growth—every week.

My explanation: Whatever else a chapter aspires to achieve, men come to get their “itch” scratched every week. Musical growth and fraternity are important but should not, and in most cases cannot, rest on the talents and charisma of the chorus director or a small team of “doers.” Men receive more fulfillment in a culture that gives all chapter members weekly opportunities to share and develop their talents in fulfilling roles. The combined efforts and variety lead to an overall more fulfilling chapter experience for all. Fulfilled men give their chapters their best time and efforts; chapters that know how to offer greater fulfillment will sing better, fraternize better, serve their communities better and recruit more men.

Your turn: Commanders Intent for successful chapters

That’s only one example—I’m hoping your CIs and rationales are entirely different. But do you see how useful a Society-wide CI could be? Let’s generate some discussion! Please answer:


“If we do nothing else within our chapters, we must _____.” EXPLAIN!

Caveat: What a Commander’s Intent statement is not

An army CI wouldn’t state that the objective is to “defeat the enemy” or “establish peace in the region”—that’s already understood. Likewise, “Preserve barbershop harmony” or “growth” or “have fun singing,” all strike me as desired ends rather than focused marching orders. (Singing barbershop harmony is what Society chapters do by definition. But what is the key feature of a chapter that is thriving while it does this?) A CI summarizes a meaningful HOW—a high-impact objective we can focus on NOW to build stronger chapters and a growing Society.

(I told you that you were probably mistaken if you thought you could answer this without pondering!)

We know there are some great answers out there. Please offer your proposed CI then EXPLAIN! Staff will formally discuss your answers on Sept. 16 and report back on this blog.

Fire away!