Our commitment to creating and maintaining change for our community requires us to juggle two different, equally important missions, or purposes.
Mission 1 is the reason why our group or organization exists. Mission 2 is all the things we have to do to keep the group together or the organization’s doors open. We usually combine these two missions in our minds. We assume that if we do something to support one of the missions, it automatically supports the other.
In the back of our minds, though, we know this isn’t true. If our change work goes on long enough, eventually we will find ourselves sacrificing one mission for the other. Often, we believe that we have no choice. Commonly, we sacrifice our core mission (Mission 1) to keep the doors open (Mission 2) in one way or another. We may not want to do this, but it isn’t clear how we can serve both of our Mission Masters all the time.
It is true that Mission 1 and Mission 2 can pose opposite demands on us. But, the relationship between Mission 1 and Mission 2 is not as simple as that. Throughout an organization’s evolution, Mission 1 and Mission 2 pose unavoidable challenges. Sometimes the two missions reinforce one another, sometimes they interfere with one another, and sometimes (mostly) they pose complicated questions to us about the best way forward.
Some basic ideas:
- A change effort that is solely focused on Mission 1 is like a firecracker. There is a lot of meaningful noise and then silence.
- A change effort that is solely focused on Mission 2 is like a zombie. There is a lot of action and noise, but no meaning.
- Mission 2 demands occur daily. Mission 1 demands are rarer. Since we tend to value what we do most often, Mission 2 will tend to dominate Mission 1 over time.
- Hierarchical management values Mission 2 over Mission 1 both in terms of day-to-day work, and, as each new manager gradually becomes a member of management culture, in moral terms.
- Boards almost always value Mission 2 over Mission 1 and view their fundamental purpose as maintaining and expanding Mission 2, with only a proforma commitment to maintaining and expanding Mission 1 9especially if that expansion of Mission 1 undermines Mission 2).
- Government regulation is entirely focused on Mission 2, for all the IRS noise about educational and charitable purposes. As a former boss of mine once said, “They never get you for not doing your mission; they always get you for the money.”
Given all this, is it any wonder that organizations and groups gradually lose their focus on Mission 1?
I wish I could tell you that there is a simple way to manage the collisions of Mission 1 and Mission 2, but there isn’t. In fact, we must struggle to manage each collision as a singularly unique challenge to our commitments to our core purpose and keeping our doors open.
I will be addressing aspects of this continuous struggle in future posts, but if you have the time, review my presentation on this issue.