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Q&A: Peter Greer and Chris Horst on “Mission Drift”

Peter Greer and Chris Horst work for HOPE International (a Christian microfinance organization) as president and director of development, respectively. They are also the co-authors of an important new book, “Mission Drift”:

To provide a window into the book, they kindly answered a few of our questions:

1. “Mission Drift” highlights a wide range of organizations: from Quaker Oats to Taylor University to Compassion International. How did you decide which institutions to research and evaluate?

Our research began with the hope of identifying the very best faith-based organizations in each sector—a similar approach to the one used by Jim Collins in “Good to Great.” We asked a panel of experts and respected leaders to help us identify organizations that had stood the test of time (existed for 50 years or more), recruited substantial sums of funding (a minimum of $50 million in cumulative funding) and demonstrated an overtly Gospel-centered mission.

Researching  a significant number organizations, we highlight remarkable institutions and leaders that illustrate the principles we discovered of how to remain “Mission True.”

2. The book focuses predominantly on faith-based Christian organizations, but are secular organizations prone to Mission Drift as well?

Though we explicitly state that the message of “Mission Drift” is for Christian leaders of faith-based organizations, there are applications for organizations of all varieties.  Already a number of readers are suggesting the book’s application extends into all sorts of businesses, and even personal missions and marriages.

For example, we profile Wells Fargo in the book—a company that started out as a stagecoach company (hence the stagecoach logo)—as an exemplar of remaining “Mission True.” While every other stagecoach company went out of business with the arrival of trains, Wells Fargo’s leaders realized their enduring purpose was the protection and transportation of their customer’s valuables. And they’ve adapted their tactics and methods to fulfill that mission. So, yes, we believe so-called secular organizations have a lot to teach faith-based organizations, and hopefully the book has some principles that hold true no matter the type of organization.

3. The book highlights the vital role an organization’s leadership team and board members play in preventing Mission Drift. What role, if any, do other staff members and employees play in ensuring their organization remains “Mission True”?

Mission Drift happens as a result of many small decisions made by staff and leadership. They play a critical role in shaping the organization’s culture and embodying the values of the mission of the institution. In some of the organizations we researched, we found a major disconnect existed between the senior leaders and the rest of the staff. This disconnect existed because the values and ethos of the institution were not all-encompassing. Hiring, training and educating based on organizational values wasn’t happening. All employees have the responsibility of cultivating identity and strengthening the mission of their organizations.

Part two of this interview will be coming soon.

You can connect with Peter and Chris on Twitter, @peterkgreer and @chrishorst. Their next book—“Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing”—will be published by AEI’s Values & Capitalism Project.