Author: Martin Davies
One of the most important parts of leadership is being able to achieve a goal without getting lost along the way. A mission statement is helpful to not only the leader themselves but the whole team for keeping things in perspective.
Firstly what is a “Mission Statement”? Well, it’s made to serve several purposes. It has to explain what you are about and give you some sort of identity, this usually involves explaining what you are doing now and leads into why you do it. A mission statement can be seen as a map or collection of objectives that can be put into practice. It is important to have a mission statement as we can often get so carried away finding the best way to the target that we end up quite far off-course. A leader can use a mission statement to reflect on the overall goals and as a motivation/leadership tool.
How Leaders Deal With Mission Drift
Mission drift occurs often when one activity or part of a project becomes the main focus, or mission. People become so submerged and immersed in one thing that they loose sight of the overall mission, in-fact that thing can become the mission. It takes good leadership to keep sight of the actual mission. A good mission statement is a valuable tool for a leader to reference back to, keep goals and objectives in perspective of the overall mission.
Why Things Don’t Always Work
It’s hard to solve a problem if you don’t know about it. So how can a good leader become self aware and identify where things go wrong?
- The plan was over-ambitious and incapable of success.
- The plan was huge and needed breaking down into accomplishable steps.
- The plan needed some quick wins to build momentum and keep people enthusiastic.
- There were no milestones, so people were vague about what needed to be done when.
- The organisation lacked confidence, so copied other organisations’ plans. Even very similar organisations will still have unique, unrepeatable features.
- Poor research.
- Poor choice of management tools. The right choice may be down to trial and error.
- It was not clear who was responsible for what.
- The plan focused on satisfying the vanities of the organisation rather than the wants of its stakeholders.
- The goals were muddy. An emphasis on narrative does not mean having no numbers at all.
- Finance and budgets drove all the decision-making.
- Decision-takers could not wait for the analysis to be done properly; they jumped ahead on hunches, early results, and prejudice.
- Assuming that either the best or the worst scenario is the likeliest.
- Poor understanding of key success factors.
- No monitoring of outcomes, and therefore no feeding back of corrective actions.
- Over-reliance on the plan – ducking blame for things going wrong by using the plan as a defence. The plan is neither a substitute for sound judgement nor a faultless predictor of the future.
- Not enough detail.
- No room for flexibility.
How Leaders Can Problem Solve
By having a clear outline of the steps you can take to reach your target, as a leader you can avoid many of the major pitfalls listed above. Good leadership should have an emphasis on keeping a clear path to the target and identifying when people are becoming effected by mission drift. It is important for leaders to identify problems like that, as well as having the tools to problem solve (eg a good mission statement). It is important for leaders to be as self aware as possible so they can identify not only others potential pitfalls, but also their own.
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