Keeping A Mission-Critical Focus

mission critical

A few years back I was part of an executive leadership team for a correctional facility. It was an interested position, being one of the few “civilians” working alongside the officers (and inmates) in the goals of the Department of Corrections.

Every Thursday our senior leadership team would convene for a weekly meeting, which was structured to give each department chief a time to review current happenings and improve processes for the daily care and rehabilitation of the inmate population.

One of the regular occurrences of these meetings were suggested programs or initiatives that would commit additional time and resources from the facility. While many times these suggestions sounded great, or were at least proposed as great, they were met with differing opinions as to why we could or couldn’t allocate the needed people of funds to the programs.

It was during these times that our Chief of Programs and Services, Lori, would keep us aligned by asking the question:

“Are we keeping things mission-critical?”

What that afforded everyone was a chance to step back and re-evaluate if the program was in line with our daily care of rehab mission.

Many companies, and leaders in particular, can veer off their core principles and mission through intended and unintended pursuits. For example, when companies buy smaller organizations to delve into other product or geographic markets, many times they waste precious resources because the focus shifts away from what they know to what the company isn’t designed to work towards.

The leaders that keep an organization mission-critical will ensure that the core focus, personnel, and financial means are funneled to the company’s strengths and most important objectives. Consider these examples:

A hospital that wants to increase revenue by developing a catering and wedding business.

A restaurant that trades expenditures for training for new branded SUV’s for their upper management.

A technology company that buys a smaller organization in an industry they barely know and squanders hard-earned profits in building the smaller entity until it finally has to sell it off.

In order to prevent your organization from veering off course, keep in mind those things that might already be in place that will anchor each business decision:

  • Company mission
  • Core Values
  • Who is your customer?
  • What fosters employee engagement?
  • Your market niche
  • What is your core operation?
  • Company strengths, such as in product development, technology, or people skills
  • Your brand image and identity

One company I worked for, a theme park, had outlined 4 core questions that kept every marketing and special event in line with it’s entertainment philosophy. They were:

  • Is it fun?
  • Is it feasible?
  • Does it make financial sense?
  • Is it us?

What guardrails, values, and questions will keep your company “mission-critical”?  Identifying these now will keep your organization relevant in the future.


About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on October.29.2014, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Great post. Especially in modern times where there are so many potential distractions, focus is critical to sustaining business success. Leaders must align resources to business objectives to ensure their teams are not just busy or productive, but rather, working for the long-term good.


    • Thanks Bob. I worked for an organization where the executive director created so many initiatives that they were no more than rabbit-trails that the team went down. These were actually diversions to mask his agenda. Very frustrating and counter-productive and a waste of great resources.

      You’re right, that these resources, like your people, must be in alignment to bring long-term success. Thanks, Bob!


  2. Paul, I’ve done my share of turnarounds and staying “mission critical” is essential. I love the 4 questions from the theme park and starting with “is it fun?” I think we all need to ask that question, too. Life is too short not to infuse it with energy and fun.


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