What Is an Implementation Intention?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Implementation intention is a type of business strategy that is based on the concept that if a certain set of circumstances should develop, a pre-planned approach to address those circumstances will be pursued. Sometimes known as an if-then plan, the idea is to identify a contingency plan that can help to address issues that can manifest while in pursuit of a broader goal. A strategy of this type can go a long way in terms of dealing with variables that arise and keep the forward movement of a project or activity more or less consistent, rather than allowing circumstances to hinder the activity.

The basics of an implementation intention are very straightforward. The first task is to define something that could happen at a certain time in the life of the project, then determine what steps would provide the most productive response to those events. The response will often involve a clear step-by-step process that can be initiated or implemented without delay. Under the best of circumstances, this activity can be conducted in conjunction with the day to day processes that are part of the project or task, effectively preventing any costly delays that threaten to undermine those processes.


This means that an implementation intention will first address the “if” — what could possibly happen. The next phase has to do with the “when,” defining at what point or points in the activity those circumstances could develop. The last stage addresses the “then” portion of the process, identifying the actions that will take place in order to deal with the situation and continue moving forward.

One of the greatest advantages of an implementation intention is preparedness. Assuming that the project team has done a good job of identifying the most likely ifs and when associated with the project, and also created viable processes to address those contingencies, this approach can save a great deal of time and money. The effects of the contingencies are contained, making it possible to address the issues quickly and decisively. As a result, the project does not come to a halt, but can continue to progress with only minimal adjustments to the project time line.

While somewhat simplistic in nature, an implementation intention can be somewhat comprehensive in terms of identifying possible scenarios that would require decisive action, and in creating responses that are clear and concise, logical and effective in terms of dealing with the events, and highly likely to minimize any difficulties that could undermine the pursuit of the project goals. The simplicity of the basic model allows this approach to translate into just about any business setting. Companies ranging from locally owned businesses with a single location to multi-national corporations can effectively use this strategy to keep tasks on track and move closer to achieving its goals.



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