Pulling Weeds: Applicable Lessons for Your Organization

“Weeds are bound to spring up one way or another, but we can react to such weeds by being able to recognize them, pull them, and finally, repeating the process as often as necessary to ensure that your organization is truly living out its mission.”
Hyemin Bahk

Since it’s spring and some of you may have already gotten your hands dirty from gardening, let us remind you that pulling weeds is part of the process. This is as true in an organization as it is in a garden, especially when it comes to mission drift. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you may wonder, “what is mission drift?” Read on as you’ll soon find out.

At Least a Few Times a Week: What is Mission Drift?

Mission drift can happen to any of us, and it’s defined as wandering away from core beliefs, as Peter Greer and Chris Horst explain in their book Mission Drift. It’s important to recognize that it doesn’t happen overnight, which makes gardening a perfect metaphor for it. After all, if Jesus shared at least seven parables pertaining to fields and vegetation, surely gardening holds invaluable lessons for us to learn from.

If you search “steps to gardening”, the last step they recommend is to pull weeds at least a few times a week. Now, when’s the last time that you pulled weeds from your organization? It’s not something we’re actively thinking about, right? This is precisely how mission drift may start. As we become engrossed in the work that we do, we may become so focused on the day-to-day tasks that we lose sight of what exactly it was that we were working so hard for.

As you read that, you may have thought, “Nah, I’ve read Writing a Foolproof Vision Proof, and my organization’s set.” First of all, thank you for reading it; secondly, even with a foolproof vision, we may slip occasionally if we don’t take the time to reflect to remember where it is that we’re going and why.

To Abandon or to Anchor: How to Prevent Mission Drift

If you realize that your organization’s resources and activities have diverted from the original goal, then mission drift gives you an opportunity to seize this opportunity as a way to reflect on your overgrown organization rather than to abandon ship. Or, to return to our gardening metaphor, it’s like realizing that the wrong crops are growing in your garden. Mission drift isn’t necessarily outgrowing but rather an overgrowing that needs to be tended to. 

It’s easy to view these changes as a crisis to avoid. You may be tempted to search, “how to prevent mission drift”, but we’d like to present an idea to help you deal with a mission drift, especially if you think that your organization may already be experiencing one. Will your organization anchor down to reassess what goals, values, and beliefs it lives out, redefine the goal that your organization wants to communicate, or act as if nothing is happening and continue on in its way, drifting further and further away from the original goal? Would you prefer to replant vegetables that you’d originally planted, or are you satisfied with the unplanned weeds taking over?

Before you make any changes, you must be able to recognize whether your organization is experiencing mission drift. In their book, Greer and Horst recommend starting by defining your organization’s mission. After all, what is mission drift without a mission? Can you clearly define the vision and core values of your organization? This step will help to recognize whether you’re still aligned in the direction that your organization is headed towards. Having clarity and key metrics that are specific to your organization will start the process of removing weeds from your organization’s mission. 

Secondly, protect your organization’s mission by setting clear boundaries to help create a guardrail to prevent future mission drifts. In order to protect what you stand for, your organization must unashamedly make decisions to prevent slow death, or any death, for that matter. Changes may be required for your organization to grow, but it shouldn’t alter the identity or the mission of your organization. Create some guardrails that can proactively identify slips and falls that your organization is prone to.

Lastly, championing your organization’s mission reaffirms your organization’s commitment. Think of the characteristics that you want your organization to embody: how would you like your organization’s culture to move the members of your organization? Whether it’s from top down or bottom up, each person within your organization should be aligned to exemplify the mission that your organization exudes. What would be considered excellent in your organization, and how is your organization applying that in the work that people put in day in and day out?

It’s All Part of the Process

If you’re ready to get your gardening gloves out, here are some questions to consider as you think about your own organization:

  • How clear is your organization’s mission?
  • How closely does your organization embody your organization’s mission?
  • Do you notice any mission drift taking place in your organization?
  • If so, in what ways?
  • Has your organization outgrown the initial mission?
  • What distinctives would you like to protect within your organization?

If you suspect that your organization may be experiencing mission drift, don’t fret, and if mission drift isn’t imminent, don’t get preoccupied trying to figure out how to prevent mission drift. Like we mentioned earlier, mission drift is prone to occur in any organization. If it’s something that’s inevitable, how can you seize it as an opportunity to reexamine your organization rather than to fall into despair? And even if your organization may not be experiencing mission drift, are there any proactive measures you can take to prevent it?

Weeds are bound to spring up one way or another, but we can react to such weeds by being able to recognize them, pull them, and finally, repeating the process as often as necessary to ensure that your organization is truly living out its mission.

Hyemin Bahk
Content Strategist
For Hyemin, writing is a kind of conversation, and the goal is always for people to feel known and understood. Outside of Amenable, Hyemin is a biblical counselor both vocationally and at her church, and we can see that same attention to others through her work here.
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