Mission Creep

There is a term I first heard and read about during the Vietnam War. It was called “mission creep”. It meant that we began something with a certain goal in mind, but over time we wound up doing something else. Our mission had drifted and we had forgotten it. If we had purposely decided the goal needed to change, and communicated it, that would be different. But, that is not what happened. It is difficult to recognize that if we are in the middle of the battle.

This happens in other settings as well. In churches, we often begin with noble ideas, but eventually get distracted. There is a wonderful parable of a modest lighthouse that served to rescue hundreds of sailors over the years. At some point, a group of people began to make improvements to the structure, and the overall comfort of the place. They continued making such improvements to the point they had the best lighthouse in the area, but fewer people were saved. Their energies had been diverted and the mission had been lost.

This also is true for organizations who claim to be greatest, best, or world-class. To make such a claim, there must be a constant attention to the quality and dedication to that level of service. If not, the mission will slowly lose momentum, and the claim can wind up doing more harm than good. Of course, no enterprise would claim to be mediocre, but to claim world-class requires asking when doing any part of the mission, “Is that world-class?” It’s a question that must be asked frequently and consistently.


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