Protecting your mission is top of mind for all leaders of mission-driven organizations, but protecting it from what, exactly?
There are obvious threats, of course, such as financial solvency, reputation, and quality-control. However, other threats are often overlooked but are no less deadly. Here’s a look at them and what you can do to protect your mission from their dangers.
Protecting Your Mission from Focus Degradation
One of the most deadly threats to any organization is a slowly-dulled focus, one that isn’t noticeable day to day but denigrates your work’s reach and impact over time. We all tend to focus too long on the squeakiest wheels and not the entire machine. It’s hard not to, right? Especially in times of unprecedented needs and demands.
Despite that, protecting your mission depends upon having a laser-sharp focus on what you do best and what is needed most. Making exceptions, even little ones, can dilute your impact little by little.
The fix? First, periodically step back to recommit your organization to the core pillars of its focus. What do you do better than anyone else that has the most significance?
Second, create a litmus test for taking on new challenges. It’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do. Having a litmus test or decision tree can help you say no without guilt. Our Focus & Messaging Framework, created in the Build phase of our methodology, is designed to do just that.
Similarly, if you see the same kind of distractions coming your way on a regular basis, have a process for referring them to other organizations whose focus better aligns with the need. Or, if it looks like these distractions are where you actually should focus, take a step back and consider reframing who you are as an organization.
Protecting Your Mission from Assumptions
We live and breathe our work day-in and day-out and forget that not everyone understands the issues we address at the level we do. It’s like we’re recapping season 3/episode 12 of a Netflix series to someone who has only seen season 1/episode 1. Assumptions such as these present a real danger to your mission. Here’s what protecting your mission against assumptions looks like:
First, create personas for the people most important to your organization’s success. For more information on the power of personas, check out How to Create a Buyer Persona. But, don’t let the word “buyer” limit you. This exercise is a powerful one for understanding everyone vital to your success—including employees.
Second, apply the reporters’ “who, what, when, where, why, and how” to the communications you create for others. If you answer most if not all of those questions, your audience is certain to understand everything you need them to.
Third, stop and ask yourself, “What wouldn’t they know about my work?” before and during your conversations. You can also level-set at the beginning of conversations by asking them about their current familiarity with what you do.
Protecting Your Mission from Routines
We all like things a certain way. After all, routines can provide comfort. However, routines can leave us marching in place while new ways of working propel others forward. That can spell real danger for you and your mission. If you cannot imagine life without a particular piece of software, Microsoft Outlook, for example, or you can only communicate with your team through email, your routines may be holding you back.
Not only will you and your colleagues work less efficiently in the long run, but you will also have a harder and harder time recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent when you need them the most.
Since it’s essential that your organization stays current with how the rest of the world is working, here are some ways to ensure you don’t fall behind.
First, network with your peers to learn what they’re doing that you may not be and vice versa. We all have plenty to teach and learn.
Second, if change is not your thing, give someone the unofficial job of staying current with the latest technologies and workflows. However, make certain these new approaches are here to stay and not just the latest fad.
Finally, think of change in increments, not massive, time-consuming overhauls to your entire workflow. Small changes every month can help you move forward.
Protecting your mission from focus degradation, assumptions, and routines can make the difference between spinning your wheels and truly driving your mission.