What should leaders of an organization do if they find their organization’s mission is either obsolete or already completed?
The decision is whether to sunset or reset the organization. Sunsetting an organization can be accomplished using two approaches. Moving the organization into some sort of hibernation mode to preserve access to its deliverables. Making their specifications public could be one approach. Or, a second approach is to legally wind down the organization. Most organizational bylaws have specific clauses that govern an organization wind down and these should be followed carefully. Sometimes, the cost of time and effort to continue an organization, especially one where technology has “outrun” its mission, may suggest that putting the organization to bed is the next best step. While this is often a blow to the ego of founding member organizations, it can be a blessing in disguise as it frees up resources and money to pursue work in a different or new organization with a more compelling and fresh mission and focus.
If an organization decides to "reset" the organization around a new mission, best practices suggest that it should follow three essential steps to determining the new mission.
Step 1 is to determine the organization's "pivot point". A pivot point is a description of an organization’s core strengths from which it could pivot to a related focus. Resetting an organization to a mission far from the core strengths is rarely successful. Even though many technologies have a way of eventually relating to each other, an organization whose strength is in video conferencing would probably not want to reset to a mission in blockchain-based financial systems. Most successful resets are made to adjacent technologies in which key contributors already have a foothold. So, step 1 is to determine the organization’s pivot point.
Step 2 is to explore technology, business and consumer trends influencing the areas surrounding the pivot point. What are the primary adopting stakeholders in adjacent technology spaces talking about? What business problems are they trying to solve? What changes in how they are doing business requires application of a new technology? What products are consumers preferring and why? The answers to these questions should provide organizational leaders with the data and intelligence to make decisions about a new mission and focus for the reset organization.
Finally, step 3 is to re-envision existing organizational leaders and, if necessary recruit new leaders around the new mission and focus. Sometimes, founding leadership isn’t as agile or willing to adjust their involvement around a new mission and just need to move on, suggesting that new leadership that is more convinced of the new mission should take their place. A compelling mission must have compelled leaders evangelizing and contributing to the new mission for the organization to be successful. This is an essential third step to a successful reset.
Many technical organizations have long lasting missions or are able to sustain their activities regardless of technology shifts. While other wake up and find themselves with a mission that is no longer relevant. If your organization is in this second category, decide first to reset or sunset. And if a reset is the decision, identify your pivot point, explore technology, business and market trends in areas adjacent to that pivot point and ensure you have envisioned leaders actively support the mission to make the reset successful.
Reposted with permission from Inventures, a Smithbucklin-owned company.