Five Ways to Fight Mission Drift

mission nomissionnomargin Oct 12, 2019

Five Ways to Fight Mission Drift

Are you or your organization losing touch with your mission? Mission drift is all too common, even in organizations whose sense of mission should continually inform every choice made especially in hospice. Without clarity around our mission and full commitment to it, we can also lose sight of our purpose, and ultimately fail to serve the people or cause for which our organization was created. Once that happens, it’s as though we’re swimmers caught in a powerful riptide that pulls us further and further off course.
Photo by David Iskander

Mission drift doesn’t happen overnight. More often it’s a sort of death by 1,000 tiny cuts.  A bad executive hiring decision is made by the board or by upper management because we’re so blinded by the resume that we’re willing to ignore the new hire’s lack of understanding of or commitment to the mission. Our frontline workers may be handed a copy of our mission statement when they’re hired along with the rest of their HR paperwork, but nobody really takes the time to discuss it with them, or helps them see how their work supports it. Sometimes we take on board members whose credentials are stellar in other areas – they may be great fund raisers, for instance – but who don’t really “get” our organization’s purpose. In making important decisions about how we operate going forward, that new board member may inadvertently steer us away from our mission in pursuit of some other goal. Perhaps they want to shore up our margins, but don’t understand that the choices they’re making undercut the reason we’re there in the first place.

Or maybe the one enabling the drift is you. Perhaps as much as those noble words resonated for you when you started, the challenges and distractions of leadership have undermined your fidelity to the mission you came onboard to serve. It’s all too easy to put mission last when we’re trying to juggle regulatory demands, staffing shortages, and funding shortfalls. Our practical side looks at the problem and makes an executive decision that takes our organization one small step – one tiny cut – further from our purpose. 

How do we steer ourselves and our organization back to that north star?
Photo by David Iskander

It takes a concerted, continuing effort, and it starts with leadership. I work with leaders every day who are feeling the effects of mission drift, and I’ve seen wonderful things happen within both those individuals and the organizations they serve when they rediscover their passion for their work through reconnecting with their mission.

  1.  Hold discussions at all levels about mission; make sure that your employees can recapitulate your purpose clearly, in their own words. People can’t buy into what they don’t understand. Be sure that they do understand, and can see how their daily work contributes to its fulfillment. This isn’t a one-and-done, but should happen annually at a minimum. Call it Mission-Palooza and make an event out of it!
  2.  Use your mission as a measuring stick; in any meeting at any level, make sure it’s applied to whatever decisions or options are being discussed. If the option you’re considering doesn’t fit, look for another way that does.
  3. Recognize and celebrate those front line employees whose commitment to mission is evident in their work.
  4. At every staff meeting, encourage and incentivize managers to present their ideas on how to move the organization closer to mission. What is rewarded, is repeated.
  5. Embody the mission every day, out loud and in front of people. Is your mission about caring for others? Take the time to talk to – and listen to – those who are tasked with the hands-on work. Show your care for them and appreciation for what they do. Is it caring for your clients, patients, or customers? Share great customer service success stories with your managers and staff; show them what the mission looks like in action.

Do this,and the margins will follow!

Remember: No Mission, No Margin TM.


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