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.


thehoodie said...

I think you've hit it on the head with the survival of the fittest mentality that many coaches have. They feel threatened by the possible success of others and therefore the desire to see the growth of high school football in BC is replaced with their own self-interest of maintaining an elite program.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more, G.I. But it doesn't matter anyway because nobody cares what I think, do they?!

BC Gridiron said...


Not sure about them feeling threatened, but I do feel that there is a disconnect between the vision of some at the board level and what they seek to accomplish. I would like to hear what our long-term strategy and mission are as an organization at our next AGM.

Anon, pen what you think and post. If your Ideas have merit one way or the other, folks will care. Silence is consent/status quo.


thehoodie said...

ah, I see, the classic definition of mission creep.

What I would like to see is perhaps a scholarship fund that helps in getting people (former players) into coaching. As I see it, the lack of coaches and especially teacher/coaches is what is preventing the game from growing and the cause of some programs going under.

Anonymous said...

Hoodie- you are right. There does not seem to be any young teacher/coaches with football backgrounds. Lets face it- the money isn't great, the hours coaching are long (and free of charge), the support can be very little and pile this on top of wives having to work nowadays, kids in daycare, etc. and I think it's fair to see there is a problem. The amount of work involved in teaching/coaching football can be daunting and if someone is in the wrong situation (ie-no support in terms of coaches/school support/resources) and at the wrong time in their life (ie-young family) then is it reasonable to expect them to want to carry on under the current status quo?

Coach said...

The mission creep is not about paid coaches or scholarships. What GI is referring to is the extra mandatory burdens caused by the BOD. The forced film trading by DSV, the forced medical person, the forced use of Baden footballs when we all have tons of Wilsons. It all sounds good in part. The problem is the sum total of all the responsibilities would overwelm most people, and keep people from ever wanting to get involved. When you go back to when the present day coaches played their HS Football, I remember 1 jersey not 2,Fundraising (what was that), you wanted to scout an opponent you got off your ass and went to their game, playoff games did not have to be played on an aritifical surface. It did not matter who manufactured your game ball. Now you have to be a Coach/Fund Raiser/Medical Person/Equipment Person/Videographer/Field Striper/Chain Person/Carpenter.../. It is not just the BOD but also School Districts who faced with shrinking budgets slough more off on coaches as well. Teams are seen as a source of revenue, as they explore ways to have you pay for heat,light, and maintenance. A lot of this has gone from voluntary to mandatory and the problem is there is just too much.

thehoodie said...

IMO, it absolutely has everything to do with getting coaches and getting more people into the teaching profession who want to coach football. Don't you think that DSV and having film exchange is a good idea? Don't you think having a medical person at all varsity games is a good idea? Did you watch Football High on PBS? Last I checked, we're in 2011, we're not playing caveman football in the 1950s anymore.

Are some of the things being asked too much for many teams to handle as Coach Stevenson is suggesting? Yes, especially for those teams that rely mostly on non-teaching volunteers. I think the intent is good, but we need to work on the implementation, and that starts with manpower. We simply cannot get to where we want to go without as many coaches as possible who work inside the building.