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Stay On Point

July 13, 2020

  • James Leavelle
    Senior Certified Business Advisor
Mission Creep.  Merriam-Webster defines mission creep as “the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization.”  

Wikipedia says it “is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes.”  And, Urban Dictionary “mission creep happens when extra and often unnecessary details that [sic] are added to a project usually causing the project to spiral out of control.”

Mission creep happens in business when the business is successful in what it originally started out do or be, but became distracted by other opportunities or obstacles.  What would be an example of mission creep?  Let’s look at a restaurant supply company.  Their mission, their purpose of being in business is to sell foodservice businesses of all types and sizes utensils, prep tables, ovens, stoves, griddles, large mixers, and more.  It is their mission to supply any equipment or supply item to help a food service be successful.  If they are a small business, they will limit their business to a certain geographical area.

For them, mission creep could set it when they decide to open a bakery in their store just because they have the right equipment. Or, it sets when they decide to operate outside that established geographic area.  What’s the problem with either of those?  Baking is not their specialty.  Operating a bakery is way different than operating a supply store.  There are different risks.  It will end up costing the business dollars and possibly reputation.  Operating outside their geographic territory, could end up being too costly and cause them to over-promise on what they can deliver. 

Kim Jonker and William F. Meehan III say in their article, ‘’Mission Matters Most” published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that “mission creep can stretch an organization so thin and so far that it can no longer effectively pursue its goals.  Many small businesses can get by, initially, without a mission statement.  But as it grows, it becomes more important to have a good mission statement. 

Mission statements, according to Patrick Hull, a Forbes contributor, answer four questions.  What do we do?  How do we do it?  Whom do we do it for? And, what value are we bringing?  The statement should be clear and concise.

Any time a business has an opportunity to do something or take on something that is out of their experience and/or comfort zone, they need to hold the project up to their mission statement and see if the project fits in the company’s mission statement.  If not, it needs to be tossed aside.  Do you have a mission statement for your business?  Are you suffering from mission creep?  I hope not!  Stay on point!

“Business Tips” was written by James Leavelle, Senior Certified Business Advisor of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center.  For more information on the topic of this article or the services of the ASU · SBDC, contact him at