Mission One, Mission Two
Why Our Peer and Consumer Organizations
Get Off Track
I’m Norm DeLisle and I’m the Executive Director of Michigan
Disability Rights Coalition:
Our Mission: “MDRC is a disability justice movement working to
Our Motto: “ With Liberty and Access for All”
Our Attitude: “Feisty and Non-Compliant”
I have been working in the disability community since late 1970,
and I have a long history of depression, anxiety and PTSD
symptoms. Right now, I am doing as well as I ever have in my life.
I’m happy to have this chance to talk to you about a very important
You should feel free to take care of your needs when they arise,
and ask questions when you think of them.
Why is it so difficult to keep our consumer organizations on track? It
is because we can’t serve just one master and still have a
successful organization. And the fight between those two masters
Is Your Purpose Fading?
Is it getting tougher to see where you are heading?
We start off strong, full of passion and advocacy fervor. Over time,
that passion fades as we come to grips with the reality of running
an organization. Eventually, it seems as though we have lost our
way, our purpose, and we are overwhelmed with paperwork,
human resources problems, funder political issues, and sheer
The short answer is that organizations, just like people, forests,
cars, and mountains, age.
This presentation is the story of how organizations age, and what
you can do to slow and redirect the aging process.
How Organizations Age
Organizations age (some would say, “mature”) because of the
relationship between two obligations they must fulfill. Sometimes
these two obligations support one another, and sometimes they
conflict. The small everyday choices made about how these two
obligations interact are the force that ages the organization.
I call them Mission One and Mission Two.
Mission One is the purpose of the organization, the original reason
why it was created.
Mission Two is the sustaining of the organization; basically, all the
ways the organization maintains, repairs, and grows itself.
Mission One is the purpose for which the group or organization was
created. Mission One reflects the valued outcomes for your staff
and members, the people who benefit from your existence.
Mission One motivates board and staff members, or
participants/members because the valued outcomes of Mission
One are so powerful, especially in social justice groups. Mission
One (not the PR version of mission one) always contains elements
that can be expressed in moving and meaningful stories by your
Mission Two is the continuation or expansion of the group or
organization. Continuation is so ordinary an aspect of group or
organization work that it is readily confused with Mission One. But,
Mission Two is not Mission One, and can either support or destroy
This tension between Mission One and Mission Two is what drives
the aging of the group or organization.
Sustaining your organization is not just about money. It is about
paperwork, reports, performance appraisals, maintenance, repair,
skills, capacities, experience, commitment, morale, policies, hiring
and firing, and the rest of what we take to be the ordinary day to
day tasks of any group or organization. All of these can be thought
about and implemented without reference to Mission One.
While we often believe (correctly) that Mission Two is necessary for
the survival of Mission One, it is also and always true that every
minute, every dime, every anxiety spent on Mission Two is taken
directly away from Mission One.
An obvious example is the organizational provision of funding
reserves. Reserves are funds that are deliberately not used for
Mission One in order to secure the ongoing survival of the
organization or group in the face of future funding uncertainty. The
time spent building these reserves, planning for their stability and
growth, and their exclusion from consideration for use to provide or
reach Mission One are all examples of how Mission Two detracts
from the achievement of Mission One.
A "Concrete" Example
Creating and Maintaining the American Freeway System:
I grew up in Midland, Michigan, but the rest of my family lived
Pre-Freeway, the trip to visit Detroit was 4 hours on two lane
roads traveling through many little towns
When the freeway was finished, the first trip was one hour
and 15 minutes
Then repairs and maintenance started, and traffic use
Now, if there is no gridlock, the trip is 2 and a half hours
And its getting worse as more maintenance is required
The purpose of the freeway is becoming (more and more) an object
for repair and maintenance and the money that can be made by
doing that, and (less and less) a tool for rapid comfortable
Some More Examples
New Humans: Brand new humans are full of possibilities, but
as we age, we spend more time maintaining ourselves and
less time learning and exploring possibilities
Government: Programs start out with one purpose and
gradually add rules and additional purposes, until they
sometimes end up doing the exact opposite of what they
started out to do.
Large Corporations: When businesses start, they typically
have one outcome-a product or a service. As they get bigger,
they may go public and suddenly have shareholders who
don’t care about the product, only how much money they are
making. Often, the largest enterprises are only about money,
and we find financial services corporations betting against
their own customers in order to make money for individual
brokers and managers.
Seeing the Tension
In our ordinary work lives, it can be hard to see the tension
between Mission 1 and Mission 2. Generally, there needs to be a
crisis before that tension is revealed. The crisis can be large, but
doesn’t need to be.
A crisis doesn’t guarantee that we will see the tension between
Mission 1 and Mission 2. We tend to meld the two missions
together and see the crisis as one for the organization, not one for
the conflict between Mission 1 and Mission 2. We try to solve the
crisis without any deep consideration of the impact it is having on
our version of Mission 1 and Mission 2.
I am going to give some examples of crises that point to the tension
between Mission 1 and Mission 2.
In the very early life of a new organization or group, it is often
possible to focus only on Mission One-at least for a time. But
eventually, issues related to how the group or organization will
continue arise and begin to dominate the attention of stakeholders:
● Financial Crises
○ Financial Controls
○ Low Level Embezzlement
○ Employee Equity
○ Fundraising flaws
● Governance Crises
○ Board membership stability
○ Board focus on micromanagement
○ Autocratic founders
○ General Political/Social conflicts
● Resource Crises (funds, skills, work demands)
○ Example: A Crisis of Capacity for Mission One
■ MPAS individual advocacy model: I worked at
Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service for 13
years. In the first few years, I was an advocate for
individuals in a 6 county area in the Thumb. About
half of my work was representing families and
students in conflicts over special education
At first, because we advocates knew the law and
regulations regarding school education
obligations, it was very easy to win these
conflicts. In addition, because we quickly became
good at winning, it was always easier to just solve
the student’s issue by ourselves rather than
involving the family in deep learning about how to
advocate for themselves. This produced two
consequences. One was that the school district’s
gradually got better at understanding special
education rules, and they hired attorneys on
retainer to handle conflicts that came up. They
were smarter about the issues over which they
fought with us, and the issues themselves
became much more complex, requiring more of
our time. The second problem was that once we
helped a family, we could expect them to tell their
friends and show up the next year expecting us to
advocate for their son or daughter again.
This led inevitably to an inability on our part to
respond to the advocacy demands, though it took
several years to reach this point.
This problem of advocacy strategy (Mission 1)
and resources (Mission 2) caused a strategic
crisis. How could MPAS handle this overload?
● Simply increasing funding might slow the
emergence of the crisis, but wouldn’t
change it fundamentally. MDOE estimated
that 10% of education planning meetings
were contentious and would require an
advocate to sort them out, a total of roughly
20,000 a year, requiring roughly 200 full
time advocates who did nothing but special
education advocacy. This was and is out of
● Changing the culture of the education
system was an option, but hasn’t moved
much off the dime in the last quarter
century. It would require the commitment of
the organization to a new Mission 1 that
would take decades. However useful such
an outcome would be, the time and funding
required were unrealistic over that long
● We could shift to a community organizing
model in which each advocate would
operate as an organizer with families in their
geographic area to create local advocates
and serve as a support system and a
facilitator of skill development for that
● We could keep the basic mission and
change the model to target priority cases for
advocacy and use an I&R model for the
■ MPAS chose the last of these because it
preserved the special legal skills accumulated
over the previous decade. Personally, I would
have chosen the community organizing model,
but, then, I’m not an attorney who had committed
their career to disability law, nor someone who
had worked for decades to create accessible legal
services for people with disabilities.
■ But this strategic choice dictated the future of
MPAS-how it supports and continues its activities,
how it judges the issues that its customers bring
to it, how it allocates all of its resources.
■ So, this one crisis required a complete
reformulation of organization’s strategy.
Reaching a limit in a critical resource is a very common
problem (a Mission 2 problem) that requires a
reformulation of Mission 1. If you haven’t run into your
version of this yet, you will, if you are successful.
So What Can We Do?
Here is what we can’t do:
Drop either Mission 1 or Mission 2
Come up with an artificial balance between Mission 1 and
Mission 2 (maybe mission 1 days and mission 2 days)
● Create Rules to Ensure Our Commitment to Mission 1 (noting
mission focused activities on our time sheets and reporting
the amounts to the Board)
These are all Mission 2 ways of dealing with the problems of
Mission 1 capacity issues. They will undermine Mission 1, even
though they might well support continuation of the organization.
So, Really, What Can We Do?
Some Places to Start:
Create Separate Mission Statements for Mission 1 and
Board members perform Mission 1 critical activities
Managers perform Mission 1 critical activities
Mission 2 staff perform Mission 1 critical activities
Undermine creeping Mission 2ism
Mission 1 Advocacy when making Mission 2 policy changes
A common pattern for mission statements in nonprofit organizations
is that they become more general and less meaningful over time,
as the focus of the organization shifts from their original purpose to
marketing the organization to stakeholders and funders who do not
necessarily “get” the original purpose.
Think, “Our organization will become the best (definition of
services) provider in this (region, state, national, global, or cosmic)
I am not implying that we shouldn’t try to make our mission
understandable to people who aren’t deeply involved in our
community, and who don’t understand our code words and jargon.
What I’m really saying is that purpose (Mission 1) and marketing
(Mission 2) are different worlds.
I’m suggesting that organizations have two mission statements:
● One for deep purpose
● One for communicating your work to the truly outside world
Making use of a concept like this would require you to decide
whether a message or communication is for Mission 1 or a MIssion
2, and then use the appropriate statement. It also requires you to
create two mission statements, and we all know how frustrating it is
to create one.
On the other hand, going through the process of making two
mission statements allows those who participate to clearly see the
difference between Mission 1 and 2, and incorporates that
difference into their thinking about what work they do and why they
do it. This is equally true for board members as well as staff-even
for volunteers if you include them in your mission statement
Board and Mission 1
The Big Picture
Boards are often overwhelmed by their Mission 2 responsibilities,
and have a very abstract notion of what Mission 1 is for the
organization they govern. Over time, Mission 2 displaces their
focus on Mission 1, making it distant and largely irrelevant to the
immediate demands of funding and human resources issues.
Finding effective and enjoyable ways for board members to
participate in truly Mission 1 activities is difficult. But it is the only
effective way I have seen to sharpen the difference in the minds of
board members about the real distinctions between Mission 1 and
Mission 2. Note that lived experience, while helpful in maintaining
the distinction between Mission 1 and Mission 2, is no guarantee
over the long term. Constant and unremitting exposure to the
demands and crises of Mission 2 will whittle awareness of Mission
1 down to nothing over a few years. As Kurt Vonnegut said of his
novel, Mother Night, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must
be careful about what we pretend to be."
Managers and Mission 1
Managers, regardless of their background or commitment to
Mission 1, have their work lives gradually taken over by Mission 2.
Managerial work is a lot like making sausage-attempting to make
the best tasting concoction you can out of largely unpalatable
components-and the “vision thing” is often degraded into trying to
avoid various kinds of Mission 2 disasters.
This kind of managerial reality has a corrosive effect on
commitment to Mission 1. A manager’s day consists of interruptions
and crises from above and below. Managers become cynical about
the possibilities of genuine change, and feel caught in an economic
trap by the need for a job that pays as well as the one they have.
Managers also need to perform Mission 1 critical activities. They
must actually help a constituent of the organization achieve a
valued outcome. They must keep the link they once had with the
day to day lives of those they serve. This link to the lived
experience of a person is the distinction between empty activities
that look like Mission 1 outcomes and real Mission 1 outcomes.
Mission 2 Staff and Mission 1
In all but the smallest organizations, some staff focus exclusively
on Mission 2 outcomes. A typical example would be staff who focus
on financial and accounting tasks. You want these staff to be
honest and direct about the impact of decisions on the organization’
s finances. You certainly don’t want to discourage them from
At the same time, senior managers need to make decisions about
Mission 2 problems with Mission 1 in mind. This doesn’t necessarily
mean that you would choose Mission 1 over Mission 2 in a financial
crisis. More likely it means that you have to work harder to come up
with a solution that doesn’t undermine either Mission.
In addition to this basic managerial strategy, you need to find a way
to help Mission 2 staff understand your Mission 1 less abstractly. A
way to do this is to have occasional opportunities for Mission 2 staff
to “shadow” Mission 1 staff in their direct work with the constituents
who are invested in your Mission 1 outcomes. The contact with
lived experience of those who benefit from your Mission 1 will
deepen staff understanding of why you do what you do. It is also
possible (and has been done in Michigan’s CMH system) for
Mission 2 staff to build communication materials that tell
constituents what the financial rules that impact constituent lives
actually mean. The process of struggling to make financial
concepts and rules, easily understood by financial staff, equally
understandable to persons with no financial background, will go a
long way to building a better understanding of Mission 1.
Creeping Mission 2ism
This house is no longer a home.
For this house, Mission 2 has replaced Mission 1, at least until it is
As our earlier discussion shows, the replacement of Mission 1 by
Mission 2 is not really a single choice. It is many, many choices
generally made over a long period of time, and resulting in Mission
2 gradually becoming the most important, maybe even the only,
valued thing that the organization does.
An example of a common choice point occurs when a staff person
pursues a valued Mission 1 outcome, but undermines a valued
Mission 2 outcome (maybe by spending money not allocated to a
specific budget line).The common response of managers is to
punish the failed Mission 2 outcome, giving the clear message that
Mission 2 is more important than Mission 1.
Other examples would include the use of a policy to deny or
exclude a Mission 1 outcome; refusing to advocate for a Mission 1
outcome because of the political consequences; fudging your
Mission 1 values to a funder either to obtain or keep funding.
Note that these actions are not necessarily bad or even avoidable.
Rather, they are sacrificing Mission 1 to continue the organization
Mission 2ism arises because we have to make many many Mission
2 decisions or choices for every Mission 1 decision or choice we
Advocating for Mission 1
Diogenes and His Dog Looking for an Honest Man
A person with a good understanding of your Mission 1 can be given
the responsibility of advocating for Mission 1 values when Mission
2 decisions are made, a sort of devil’s advocate. This responsibility
will anger people who are trying to produce valued outcomes for
Mission 2, and the devil’s advocate will need protection and a clear
organization wide understanding of the purpose of their advocacy.
Any final decision on any issue is the responsibility of senior
managers, but those decisions are supposed to be informed, not
arbitrary, and making sure that the implications for Mission 1 are
public and transparent is an organizational obligation.
No magic formulas here-just some ideas to provoke your
● Automate every aspect of Mission 2 outcomes you can, so
that staff don’t have to think about them or develop anxiety
about them. Anxiety makes any triggering event more
important than it really is. Technology has great possibilities
for supporting this process.
● Make Mission 1 outcomes a standard part of the discussions
in every staff meeting, and put them earlier on the meeting
● Give higher point values to Mission 1 outcomes in
performance evaluations and put them earlier in the
evaluation than Mission 2 outcomes. Better yet, get rid of
performance reviews, which are always biased toward
● Avoid creating personnel policies for low incidence behaviors.
Use progressive discipline instead
● Produce HR policies through full staff consensus as much as
Use “nudges” instead of policies for HR compliance issues
“Efficiency” is a Mission 2 value, and it is only useful when
applied to an outcome where you can predict the future. So,
many of your financial outcomes can be viewed through the
lens of efficiency. This won’t work for many of your Mission 1
outcomes, like, say, self-determination plans. Forcing
efficiency in outcomes that are marked by the uncertainty of
life will destroy the purpose of such outcomes.
Copper Mining in the UP
Online Versions of the Slide Presentation:
Slideshare (PDF): http://www.slideshare.net/ndelisle/mission-onemission-two-25775965
SAMHSA (value-driven resources): http://www.samhsa.gov/
World Institute on Disability (value-driven resources): http://wid.
Mind Tools (general resources): http://www.mindtools.com/index.
Strategic Vision (general): http://goo.gl/bnfODF
Idealist (a combination of general and value-driven): http://goo.
Rethinking Behavior: Change, Nudge-style: http://goo.gl/jkg4t3
Nudge blog: http://goo.gl/qWo30E
What is Progressive Discipline?: http://goo.gl/Rx6Gr7
10 Reasons to Get Rid of Performance Reviews: http://goo.
I am Norm DeLisle, Executive Director of Michigan Disability
Short Bio: hubby2jill, 2dogs, advocatefor40+yrs, change strategist,
trainer, geezer, pa2Loree, gndpa2Nevin
Recovery Michigan: http://recoverymi.posthaven.com/
Intentional Change: http://changeintent.posthaven.com/
Disability Futures: http://normdelisle.posthaven.com/
Health and Disability: http://ltcreform.posthaven.com/
Economic Justice: http://economic-justice.posthaven.com/
Don’t forget to fill out the evaluation form!
Justice is the set and constant purpose which gives every man his due.
--Marcus Tullius Cicero
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
--John F. Kennedy
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not
attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a
consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.
Hold to the Mission 1 that means the most to you.
Thanks for Participating
I Appreciate Your Interest!
Further Along The Road...
The slides that follow will show you information that goes beyond
the presentation but will expand your understanding if you want to
The focus of the following slides is on the more general problem of
having two purposes that sometimes support and sometimes
conflict with each other. A visual guide to this notion is to connect
the two complements with a ~, as in Mission 1 ~ Mission 2. The
tilde indicates that the two purposes sometimes support and
Mission 1 ~ Mission 2
It is obvious that sometimes Mission 1 and 2 support each other
and sometimes they interfere with each other. How should we
understand their relationship? After all, I hope I have made it clear
that you can’t simply ignore one or the other and have a viable
Pure Mission 1=Explosion, which dies out quickly
Pure Mission 2=Zombie, with no meaningful purpose (except of
course, eating brains!!)
The real issue is how to manage the coordination of these
complements in our day to day organizational lives.
Some of the ways that have been tried in the past to understand
relationships between partly incompatible processes like these
One is good and one is bad
One is more important than the other
Both are important at different times in some cycle or process
Any of these are true sometimes, so picking one isn’t very helpful
as a guide. You’ll end up being wrong too often. We want an
understanding that is more like the yin-yang model, but less
abstract. Most of us don’t have the time or desire to sit in a cave for
20 years meditating on the philosophical possibilities of Taoism to
discover lessons for daily life. We need a model that is more
The Adapative Cycle
A model of greater usefulness in looking at the relationship
between Mission 1 and Mission 2 was created for understanding
how forests and other ecosystems age and renew. It is called the
Adaptive Cycle. It is a biological model of how Mission 1 and
Mission 2 interact over the life of an ecosystem=organization in a
cycle of four phases:
Reorganization/Renewal: When purpose is the only driving
force (Mission 1), we try whatever seems possible, up to the
point where we run into resource scarcity.
Growth/Exploitation: We find we must develop a strategy
for growth or maintenance (Mission 2), and we begin to view
our resources as assets that must be nurtured, cultivated,
harvested, and exploited.
Conservation: As we bump into the ultimate limits on our
growth, including our capacities, our markets, and our
competition, we begin to view resources (funding,
capabilities, experience) as long term assets that must be
protected, defended, and, often, hidden from scrutiny.
Release: As conservation continues, and we focus more and
more on Mission 2, we become organizationally brittle, lose
our sense of our original purpose, and our assets and
advantages begin to break down and drift away. Our context
becomes ripe for new purposes and less hidebound beliefs,
often done well outside our current organization.
Our ecosystems have a built-in way to remove the no longer useful.
Those biological organisms are simply eliminated, the ecosystem
itself is simplified, and there remains an environment in which new
organisms can make better use of old resources. Unfortunately, it is
entirely possibly for human organizations to genuinely turn into
zombies without this process of release and renewal occurring. We
can individually and organizationally pretend that we are useful.
Advocacy ~ Engagement
Another example of how complicated purpose complements can be
is Advocacy~Engagement. Adversarial relationships often create
collaboration and engagement. Remember that “War makes for
strange bedfellows”. Traditional advocacy is a purely adversarial
process in which we defend a position, as in a court battle over
legal and substantive outcomes. But even there, some level of
cooperation is required to hold the adversarial contest in a court.
I noticed in my time as an advocate at MPAS, that we often used a
strategy I called “bounded collaboration”. Basically, we would
cooperate until some line was crossed. At that point we became
More recently, I have found that simply taking a position as an
advocate has become less and less fruitful over the years, and that
engagement of the other parties in the stakeholder environment is
necessary to move advocacy along. Most policy implementation
problems these days, especially in health and supports, are very
complex and contain structural problems that must be resolved
Another Example of a Complement:
The complement I’ll look at here is Segregated Housing ~
Our value of Inclusion says that people with disabilities should have
affordable and accessible housing in the same communities as
everyone else. At the same time, the stigma of disability can make
real inclusion difficult. And the history of trauma can make acquiring
and using the social skills necessary to actually include yourself in
one of those regular communities difficult.
Two models of creating affordable and accessible housing have
developed (with many variations):
Segregated Housing: All housing units are part of a single
building project with a focus on a single community (say,
vets, seniors, poor, adults with disabilities), with supports
provided in the building by a single provider
Distributed Housing: Each unit is developed and built in the
larger community. Supports are provided to the individual or
family in that individual unit by a provider hired by the
individual or family.
There are specific economic and control reasons why The System
has wanted to create and maintain segregated models of housing:
In the creation of plans for housing projects, it is much easier
to propose a single site, with infrastructure, design of
individual units, tax credit use, and the scaling of supports
through a single provider contract
There are economies of scale with a single site for
maintenance and repair of individual units and the project as
It is much easier to hide and manage unethical use of project
funds in a single site
It is also easier to enforce control over tenants and sanction
them for violations, both of formal and informal rules, making
it easier to serve the interests of the managers at the
expense of the tenants. Scapegoating and bullying individual
tenants into conformity is much more effective when you tie
supports and loss of lease together. Failure to conform
results in loss of housing, a powerful weapon.
There are also social/emotional reasons that perpetuate
segregated housing and segregated community models:
Especially in the early phases of recovery, most people prefer
to spend their social time with persons who are experiencing
struggles similar to their own. The first issue in recovery is
usually feeling safe.
The preservation of the feeling of safety, basically relief from
pain whether physical or social, becomes self-perpetuating in
the same way that any relief from any pain does. Not ever
leaving one’s comfort zone becomes a permanent way of
One accepts the abusive control that project managers exert
as the price for feeling safe.
One’s life becomes permanently constrained
So, segregated housing supports segregated communities, and
One way (one of a huge number of variations) of “complementing”
these two models would be to always separate supports from
residence, so that individual tenants can’t lose tenancy for choosing
a different provider of supports. Another would be to put limits on
the length of time a person can remain in segregated projects. A
third would be to make transition from segregated to distributed
housing a standard part of planning supports and skill building from
the first day of tenancy in a segregated project. All of these would
alter the dynamic of the Segregated Housing ~ Distributed Housing
Some More Examples of Complements Important in Our Lives:
Health Care ~ Health Costs
Support ~ Personal Autonomy
Learning ~ Choices
Relationships ~ Personal Boundaries
Structure ~ Process
If you are really interested in this idea of complements, there is no
better resource than The Natural Complement by Scott Kelso. You
can find it at http://goo.gl/5l8sq2