In truth, the ‘worst case scenario’ for any organisation would have to be the death of one of its people…and if that were to occur due to the actions or inactions of the organisation, well…that just makes an already-tragic situation even more terrible…

But, for the purpose of today’s article, I am thinking about ‘worst case scenario’ from the point of view of an organisation’s fundamental Purpose – that for which the organisation was originally established – not being achieved.
From a Good Governance point of view, delivering Purpose through Strategy has to be one of the headline responsibilities of a Board. So if an organisation fails to deliver on the Purpose for which it was established, you’ve got to begin to question whether the board is actually doing its job.

Could this really happen?
You bet it could! You don’t have to dig too deeply in some organisations to see that what the organisation was set up for is not what it is actually delivering – just delve into the Rules or Constitution (or equivalent) and have a read of the Statement of Purpose.
A surprising number of organisations have that fundamental guiding tenet (the Statement of Purposes) seemingly sitting off to the side, unseen (and potentially unknown), while they inadvertently devise strategy that takes them off in a different direction.

What are the causes of this misdirection?
I think the number one cause of this ‘scope creep’ is a lack of visibility of the original Purpose, resulting a lack of front-of-mind clarity about what the organisation was intended to focus on and deliver.
This is why I believe it is so, so important to shout from the mountain tops (as it were) the Purpose, Values, Vision, and Mission of your organisation.
I am sure people have heard me bang on about this before, but it really is important that these core elements for your organisation are not just things that sit deep within your strategic directions documents. Rather they should be promoted via all your marketing and communications materials, platforms and activities; they should hang on walls across your organisation where people both internally and from outside the organisation will see them; they should sit in the footers of your documents where they are getting more eyes upon them daily; and they should be profiled in a whole bunch of other visibility-increasing ways…so that time and time and time again people are seeing them, and having those ever-so-important and fundamental building blocks that underpin your organisation reinforced to them over and over and over again.

Why is ‘scope-creep’ a problem?
Primarily, this is a problem because those who your organisation was set up to serve, won’t be getting the supports or services or benefits they seek or require, which is a travesty.
And further to this, if you are not delivering on your organisation’s Purpose, you may actually be breaking the law under which your organisation is constituted; you may be risking deregulation – for example, as a charity or as a certified provider of services; or you may be risking defunding – such as, if the purpose of your contracts with government or other funding bodies aren’t being met.

How do we fix it?
If you notice this is a problem in your organisation, flag it with the rest of your board immediately, and as a board commit to an urgent back-to-basics review, where you revisit, refresh, and refocus on your guiding principles of Purpose, Values, Vision, Mission.
Follow that up with a strategy refresh to ensure your strategic priorities and your organisational Purpose are aligned.
Then develop more effective monitoring and promotions strategies, to ensure your Purpose doesn’t stray from front-of-mind again.

Better still, how do we prevent it in the first place?
1. Let Purpose be your compass. In everything you do, come back to your Purpose. And if a proposed direction doesn’t align with your Purpose, don’t pursue it.
2. Keep it visible – do whatever makes sense in the context of your organisation to keep your Purpose in the minds of your people at all levels throughout your organisation…and that includes your end-users.
3. Monitoring – you know that old saying: ‘what gets measured, gets managed’…well, set up processes for continually checking the outcomes you deliver against the Purpose for which your organisation exists.
4. Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome (i.e. getting distracted from your Purpose by the latest ‘great new thing’ you could be doing) – and this includes avoiding chasing funding that doesn’t align with your organisational Purpose too.

But what if our Purpose really does need to change? 
If that truly is the case, and the need to change Purpose has come about consciously and strategically and intentionally, then make sure you go through the proper legal processes, to ensure that your change in Purpose reflects the wishes of your members, and that your Rules or Constitution (or equivalent) are updated to reflect the desired change.

Worried that your organisation has lost its way in relation to its prescribed Purpose?
Perhaps you’re not even 100% sure what your organisation’s official Purpose is…
If you need some help to get your Purpose back at the heart of your strategy, I can help!
Get in touch with me on or 0421 525 048 to talk about how.

And if you’d like to receive my fortnightly Good Governance E-newsletter, with regular news, views, information, and events, just let me know.

I hope to hear from you soon!