Is Your Organization Mission-Driven?

Tom Asacker Is your organization mission-driven? If so, you’re probably experiencing some serious “top-line” challenges. Because being mission-driven is a guaranteed way to inhibit your organization’s growth.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having a clear and compelling mission: one that inspires employees and volunteers and engages customers and donors. But being driven by one’s mission – whether it’s to safe-guard the planet; protect the inherent rights of animals; educate our youth; or build health of spirit, mind and body – is an inside-out strategy that is designed to fail.

Ask yourself (and really think about it): “Is my organization producing the growth in customers, members, revenues, donations, etc. that it is designed to produce? Like it or not your answer has to be “yes,” because the design determines the results. So, instead of blaming the economy or the competition, or trying to change your people’s behavior, change the design. And you must start by accepting the realities of the marketplace and transforming your organization’s mindset and activities from inside-out and mission-driven to outside-in and prupose-driven.

Management guru Peter Drucker put it best when he said that the purpose of an enterprise is to “create a satisfied customer and deliver all of the parts of the enterprise in the service of the customer.” It’s not about fulfilling a mission, making sales, garnering donations, or even making profits. Those will come naturally when you create customers and keep them motivated to return and to bring their friends. It’s about being other-focused and making the discovery and fulfillment of your customers’ desires part of everyone’s daily work routine: from conversations and meetings, to presentations and quality improvement activities.

years ago when I was running my own mission-inspired business I visited with Gary Hirshberg, president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm’s, today’s fastest growing yogurt company and one which oozes its mission of advocating for organic food and more sustainable agriculture. I’ll never forget what Gary told me when I asked if he ever donated his company’s money to help support other people’s causes: “Of course,” he replied. “When they can show me how donating money to their cause will help me sell more yogurt.”

Gary’s answer was both pragmatic and purpose-driven. He was intimately aware that to advance his mission, he must make strategic and tactical decisions that appeal to the desires of his customers and help his company sell more yogurt. It works like this: Purpose (on-going stimulation of customer demand) drives decisions and activity, which in turn drives growth and fuels mission attainment.

Picasso had it right when he wrote: “Success is a very important thing! It has often been said that an artist should work for himself, out of love for art, so to speak, and hold success in contempt. But that is wrong! An artist needs success. Not only to live but to be able to create his art.”

What mission-inspired organizations need in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace is strong leadership to redirect the organization and keep people constantly focused on success: continued growth of passionately engaged customers, members volunteers and donors. Without a strategic obsession on the external needs of your audience, your mission will slowly bleed to death as more successful purpose-driven organizations attract away your means of support.

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