Mission creep happens when a commitment strays beyond an original agreement. It is the gradual broadening of the original plans and objectives of a mission or organization.
High performers constantly seek clarity. They work hard to sift out distractions so they cannot just focus, but continually re-focus, on what really matters. Jeff Haden Unquote
Oprah Winfrey starts every meeting the same way: She says: "What is our intention for this meeting? What's important? What matters?" She says this because it’s all too easy for a meeting to get derailed. To stray off topic and flounder. Great meetings result in decisions: What. Who. When. Clear direction. Clear accountability – and that’s much easier to achieve when you start a meeting the right way: By clearly stating intentions -- and then sticking to them. That's how Oprah gets things done.
Today I want to raise your awareness of mission creep and although you may not recognise the term, I’m sure you will recognise its effects. Mission creep happens when a commitment strays beyond an original agreement. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization." The term was originally applied exclusively to military operations, but has recently been applied other industries that involve people with a vested interest in a stated goal or desired outcome.
Mission creep will pull your time and resources away from any goal which you have agreed to work towards. For freelancers working in the creative fields, this can result in real frustration as we are asked to do more and more work on a project for the same money and to the same time frame - I’d point out too, that as we work on our own creative projects, we can easily become side-tracked if we are not careful. Avrum Lapin points out that “Mission creep can become a charismatic hitchhiker whose outstretched thumb is hard to resist.” Unquote
I should mention too, what mission creep is not. It is not a strategic decision to change plans, after discussion or serious thought. It is called creep for good reason. It creeps up on you and it can be very difficult to shake off.
Benjamin Franklin’s saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true today as it was when it was written.
Preventing mission creep is easier and often less costly than fixing problems it causes once they arise.
I find that a strong and focused mission is the best defense against mission creep. When you agree to work on a project be very specific about where your responsibilities begin and end. Then, if mission creep starts to occur, you will be in a strong position to renegotiate or pass on those new responsibilities or costs to someone else. I’ve known many a slippery employer who has led me down a rabbit hole of increased workload for no additional pay. It’s an awful position to be in, so set out the terms before you start the work, or believe me, YOU WILL BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF.
I’ve also known many a slippery collaborator, who will pile more and more of the administrative or less creative work onto me whilst they enjoy the more creative work and treat me as some form of secretary. If you set out your stall at the beginning of a collaboration, and be careful what creeps up on you or what is piled on you by selfish workmates, you will again be in a strong position to work around it. Look to my earlier episode on Collabo-haters for more on that topic.
Even if you are working on your own project as I said, setting out in writing the specifics of your task or goal, may be the only way to keep you focused and on track. So when you begin a new project, make a plan based on your vision, and set out a specific goal. Without that, you will wonder, certainly also prolong and most likely fail in your endeavor.
Saying NO is your most valuable weapon when it comes to mission creep. Be careful what you are being asked to do, and with whom you do business. If you are aware that things are being side-tracked, then bring things back on target and say no to anything that leads you offtrack.
To finish here, I’ll just add that mission creep is kinda inevitable, so expect it to keep surfacing. There are countless external and internal pressures that will cause mission creep in the absence of strong and intentional pushback. Stay focused, stay on target and keep asking yourself the questions raised by Oprah Winfrey. What is your intention? What’s important? And, what matters?
Thanks for joining me again here today. If you like what you hear then don’t forget to subscribe and if you have the time, and the inclination a review on your favourite listening app would be greatly appreciated. In the next episode I’ll be talking about the SMART system of goal setting. I’ve talked about it before, but it comes up so often that I feel we need a wee refresher. That episode will go into it in greater detail than ever before and look at how it can be implemented successfully.
I’ll end with the words of Nina Johnson “In project management, scope creep is the number 1 killer of success.”
Now take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’, don’t let your mission get sidetracked or expand and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!
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Thanks: Petra Kolb & A Himitsu
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