Beware of Mission Drift

Harvard Business School tell us one of the two biggest problems facing non-profits is mission drift (the other is under-utilisation of assets).  In the NDIS there will be a huge range of new opportunities, so how do we make sure we stay on mission and not just chase the next big thing?


While it’s certainly smart to keep the door open to new opportunities you wish to pursue, for a values-driven organisation to stay on course it is critical to ensure your values are what’s steering you.

At a recent conference, we were struck by how vague many providers are about their work. Their booths were stacked with glossy brochures about ‘living life with passion’ and ‘achieving goals’ but you would be hard pressed from all this material to actually figure out what they stood for, who the client group they have set out to support are and exactly how they do it.

Your values and mission should be both descriptive and aspirational, reflecting what is unique about the organisation and inspiring staff to continuously do better. In the face of the enormous opportunity created by the NDIS, values should serve as a roadmap to avoiding mission drift, informing which areas you will pursue and which may be better suited to others in the sector.

At DSC, we challenge everyone we meet to align their work with their mission and values. And not the type of values that are chosen at a retreat that then get laminated and stuck on the wall to languish. The best values are alive and resonate with everyone from the bus driver to the CEO, creating a shared sense of purpose and a clear organisational identity.

So where am I going with all of this? Well the truth is that until recently, our values and mission were all in our heads. As a company, we certainly operated with a strong sense of what we were doing and how, but just like a lot of other organisations, we would have struggled to explain this to anyone who asked.

So here we are, putting our money where our mouth is! We spent many hours over the summer trying to distil who we are into a few short bullet points and we have to say we are proud of the result!

At DSC, our mission is to contribute to better opportunities for
people with disability through:

  • A dynamic NDIS marketplace
  • Inclusive communities
  • High quality, innovative service

Our values are:

1.      We work with, not for

2.      We are real people and we respect that you are too

3.      We focus on what works best

4.      We challenge what needs to change

In the short time since we made them official, these values have already had a strong impact. We have referenced them at lots of key decision points when we have been discussing our 2016 priorities. We are increasingly using them to hold ourselves and each other accountable for how we go about our work.