Friday, April 29, 2011

On Mission Creep

Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. The term often implies a certain disapproval of newly adopted goals by the user of the term. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs.

In many respects, we are fast arriving at a point whereby the administrative duties that are required to run a BCSSFA program in a fashion that is compliant with the rules set-forth by our leadership will be untenable over the long haul. 

There is a tipping point that will be reached where the joy of coaching and quite frankly, the time to coach is outweighed by "mandatory requirements" from on high.  I do not use the term "mandatory requirements" derisively as they are well intentioned at their source.

The great challenge our organization faces is to apply uniformed standards that must be complied with to a membership that is anything but uniform in terms of time, resources, organization and human energy.  With each additional element added to the cumulative "mission creep" the fractures are becoming more pronounced at the bottom end.  There is a growing disconnect between what the "haves" find to be reasonable and sustainable and what the "have nots" can manage.  A blunt analogy is the notion of an even, sustained pressure placed upon a object with an uneven ability to bear said pressure.  The danger however, is uniform as when the cookie crumbles, the entire cookie is lost, not just the weak parts.

I have used the term "great challenge" deliberately because getting the formula right is a challenge as opposed to a futile task.  Our leadership must make every reasonable attempt to frame its individual decisions/directions taking into the broader context the impact of these decision on the whole entity.  Good solutions are oft better than great solutions when "good" is uniformly accomplishable and "great" in practice falls short of universal implementation.

Ignoring mission creep and its real-world impact on the organization as a whole in the blind pursuit of ideals no matter how noble and merited can give rise to a Pyrrhic victory.

Pyrrhic victory  The phrase comes from King Pyrrhus of Epirus, a Molossian general during the Hellenistic era (About 290 BC). His army, strapped with wooden spears and towering elephants, defeated the Romans at the Battle of Heraclea but lost too many lives and resources to continue their military campaign. To this day, a "Pyrrhic victory" is used to describe any victory won at too great a cost.

In our context, what could/does a phrrhic victory look like.  Firstly I'd venture to say: "widespread disillusion" followed closely by "widespread apathy/indifference".  In tanglible, concrete form this is muted communication bottom to top, non-complience or compliance only under threat of sanction as opposed to compliance out a sense of duty and enthusiasm.  A sense of otherness at the bottom leading to resentment of "the top" being a co-symptom.  As unyielding pressure continues to build, a caste system will entrench itself, growth will stagnate and ultimately, leaves will fall from the tree so-to-speak.  The Darwinists amongst us will say, hec, the herd has been culled and is now healthy.  In the short term perhaps, that will be so, but the original mission creep mindset and dynamic will not have gone away and the cycle will continue until the cannibalism finishes off all but an inbred elite.  Hey, look gang time travel is possible, we are back in the early1980's.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about the whole thing and would like nothing more than to be wildly disproven.  We shall see.