Have you ever experienced mission drift? If so, I wonder if you have not also noticed there was low morale among the organization, the culture being despondent and/or negative. Perhaps you noticed this for yourself when you have lost your way?
When an organization or person is being mission focused and mission driven it leads to having a healthy culture. When you are focused on that mission than you make choices based on that. Your passion is incited which leads you to be excited for the day, for your part in meeting that mission. Your focus becomes on what you can do to meet the mission, rather than on what others are not doing. People work together because you have a common cause, rather than against each other.
I can tell you from my experience that when I was with a mission-focused organization we had incredibly low turnover, staff always going above and beyond and working collaboratively together, and a jovial atmosphere. It was a fun place to work. However, when I worked for a company that seemed to be adrift, so was the culture. Turnover was high, there were claims made against the them, constant personnel issues, and a general feeling of dissatisfaction in the air.
Being and remaining a mission-focused organization is good for business and good for yourself. When morale is high, productivity is up and when productivity is up than you are going to be more successful. So take time every day to remember what that mission is and what you are going to do that day to meet the mission. Stay mission focused and you will be successful.
As life goes on, we can get off track from our mission. This happens for any number of reasons, whether becoming overwhelmed, a shift in funding, a lack of coherency with your direction or the outside world’s direction, a poorly executed plan or a lack of one all together. For whatever reason we get off track, the question is: How do we get back on track?
One step is to make sure your mission stays relevant. As time goes on, the world changes. One of my favorite quotes is “The only thing that is constant is change” by Heraclitus. Check in on the mission and make sure it is still relevant. A mission should say what benefit you are providing and who you are providing it to. If you have had the same mission, either personally or for your organization for the last 20 years, it probably needs an update. If your mission becomes irrelevant than either you are focusing on the wrong objectives or you aren’t focusing on anything and then you are going to drift and start making decisions based on the moment rather than the vision and the purpose of yourself or the organization. Sit down with your board or your circle of support and take a serious look at your mission, have a discussion about whether it still fits and change it if not. I caution though that a mission should not be a fluid that changes on a whim. If a mission statement is going to be changed, it should be a well thought out process that makes sense.
Another step when you are not meeting your mission is to be transparent about it. I cannot stress this enough! Talk about it, do not hide it, or pretend it is not true. If you do that, than you will not be able to take the steps to fix it and get back on track. You will continue to drift and if you drift long enough it could become almost impossible to make your way back. We all make mistakes and lose our way sometimes. It is OK and it is the sign of a good leader or strong person when you can claim your mistake and then create a plan on how to fix it and make sure you do not repeat it. Talking about it will help you brainstorm how to get back on track, it will bring people together to help make the plan about how to get back on track and assess how you got off track in the first place. You need support to be successful, so do not be afraid to hold yourself accountable and then ask for help. Plus, the old saying holds true: “Two heads are better than one”.
Finally, as mentioned, the best way to stop drifting after you have realized that you are is to create a comprehensive plan. Analyze how the drift began and possibly continued. Use that information to create a plan about how to get back on track and then how to stay there and not make the same mistakes again.
Does anyone else have suggestions about how to stay on track with your mission or to get back on track?
There are times as a business or for your own self that you get off track of what your mission is. “Mission Drift” is the term and it can be detrimental to having a successful business or reaching your goals. Therefore, how do we ensure that:
- We stay on track
- If we get off track, get back on track
In this post, we will discuss how to stay on track. In the next post, we will focus on getting back on track.
Obviously, the first thing is to make sure you actually have a written mission and vision, and that it is clear. Having a plan on how to meet that mission is very helpful; using a strategic planning process is a great tool. This advice is often talked about in numerous books, conferences, educational material, etc. The following tip I have heard in my career; however, in my experience, it is quickly forgotten or done ineffectively: Talk about it… all the time!
Talk about your mission every day, at the start of every meeting and at all levels. This will keep it in everyone’s mind as they get lost in the day to day. It will help to remain the focal point and keep people remembering, especially on those very “taxing” days, just why they are with your organization or it will keep you focused on your mission and you will form a natural circle of support. Talking about it is not just reiterating the mission statement. Talking about it means having discussions on what the mission means to form a true understanding, about the philosophies behind the mission, and ideas on how to better meet the mission. It should be meaningful conversations that could take all of 5 minutes. However, if it is happening every day the mission will be ingrained into your culture. That is a company I would want to work with… how about you? Moreover, it isn’t just your front line staff that are seen as the mission achievers, if everyone is talking about it, than everyone from top to bottom, side to side will be mission focused. If you are looking at your own personal mission, than by talking about it with everyone, you will become more clear on what that is, what it looks like, and you will make connections with people who can help you get there.
I have recently found myself in a place where I had the opportunity to explore what my personal mission really is. I was feeling lost and unsure of what my next steps should be, while I am extroverted and a change agent, I like to have a plan, even if and when that plan does not happen exactly as I had laid it out, I feel better because having a plan means I have an end result I am trying to achieve. I realized during recent changes in my life, that I did not have a clear outcome in mind for my life and certainly no clear plan. I had touched on it here and there, I had a whimsical view of what that might be, but I had not created a mission statement for myself.
So, here it is (at least a beginning version):
VISION: I will create positive, sustainable impacts on the community and the people in my life.
MISSON: I am a catalyst for society to take that next step by focusing on human development, building innovative and adaptable systems, leading or inspiring initiatives that generate organizational and personal excellence, and championing necessary change that creates lasting sustainable results.
Having analyzed what my values are and what incites my passion and drives me to get up every day, I realized that the above statement was it, essentially changing the world and being a support to those who are a part of my life. Saying it is declaring it, and now I have declared. What is your mission?
Perhaps we should start off by discussing how I define mission. Mission is the purpose for why we do what we do, why we have sleepless nights, have a passion, drive others crazy. More importantly, mission gives us a focus as we move forward in life and in business. Perhaps you think your mission is to make a lot of money, or perhaps it is deeper than that and you are hoping that gaining xxx amount of money along the way is an added benefit. For businesses, yes, the idea is to make money, no matter what kind of business for profit, community benefit, social enterprise… as a friend of mine says, “Cash is king.” However, if our mission is simply to make money than we don’t really have a clear focus on how to do that. Having a clear mission and purpose will give you the means to be successful, whether making money or changing the world. Personally, I would like to do both, but creating last social change is my mission at heart.
Let’s look at Starbucks. Their mission statement is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” We all know how well Starbucks has done and for those of us who are Starbucks fans, you also know that it can be a little community within a community when you go to one. In fact, for me, it was Starbucks that inspired me to try out the mom and pop coffee shops where you can get that same experience, perhaps even a little more so. So, as of now I would say that Starbucks has been successful and its mission has done well to serve the caffeine addicted and make Howard Schultz a whole lot of money. But, what happens when we start to drift from that mission. Starbucks recently put in timers at the drive-thru window to make sure that the baristas are moving as fast as possible… this changes the dynamic a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I hate sitting in that line but I wonder what kind of impact that will have and if that runs over into the in-store experience. It will be interesting to see if they can stay focused on that mission and if not how that will influence the success of the business.
I believe that mission is at the core of what we do and why. Whether you are running a community benefit organization, for profit business, or in your own personal life. I’d like to use this blog as a conversation about “mission”. I have worked in the community benefit sector for 14 years and am a mission driven leader. Mission is what incites my passion and keeps me moving. I do not believe I am alone in this. I would love to hear your story about how mission has impacted your life. As the posts go on, I will be focusing on how being mission driven can lead to success and when we drift from our mission we may experience set backs or even failures.