The military uses the SMESC format for giving clear and authoritative direction.

SMESC stands for: Situation, Mission, Execution, Support, and Command and Signals. I’ve modified it for business and organizational use. Whether you’re giving formal direction or informal guidance, this format can be used as an aide mémoire to frame it. It is also a very useful means of organizing and presenting formal written plans.

SITUATION: Relevant background information for those executing plan

Market information (if relevant)
Competitor information (if relevant)
Company information
Company intent and mission (include vision and strategy if relevant)
Higher intent and mission
Actions of other elements within organization (if relevant)
Other stakeholder information (if relevant)

MISSION: Succinct statement of the purpose and aim of the current operation or project

EXECUTION: Detailed discussion of plan, including tasks and responsibilities

General intent

  • Centre of gravity
  • Desired end state
  • Concept of operations
  • Overarching plan

Scheme of manoeuvre

  • Main and secondary objectives
  • Major and supporting thrusts
  • Main effort
  • Phases of operation

Task assignments (for subordinate elements or participants)

  • Who?
  • Doing what?
  • With what resources?

Coordinating instructions

  • Schedule and milestones
  • Progress review
  • Performance measurement
  • Supporting plans (if any)


Budget and or financial plan
Travel and logistical matters
Other support arrangements


Key responsibilities
Reporting relationships
Succession plan
Organizational structure (if relevant and necessary – especially for complex projects)
Scheduled meetings and reports

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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