18 Mission Impossible

You can think of missions as ‘projects with imperative'.

In agile methodology, one might call missions sprints. In other contexts, one might call them (finite) games. Whatever you call them, a few key factors make missions most effective: they need to be compelling, focused and finite.


All missions exist within a meaningful context — a greater imperative that provides a compelling sense of urgency. Missions aren't simply ‘nice to haves' and nor are they ‘should haves' — they are ‘must haves'.

A sense of purpose is a very powerful element of intrinsic motivation. Within a well-defined mission, almost no questioning occurs around how important it is. This may seem to go against the main philosophy of this book, but when it's time to declare a mission, there is no question — this is what we must do.

At its extreme, we see this spirit manifest during times of crisis. Some of my clients are brilliant in such times — they rally together with a shared sense of purpose and focus, taking on insurmountable challenges because, well, they have no other option.[1] It's just what you gotta do.

At times like these, people put in extraordinary levels of discretionary effort, because they know their work matters.

While reaching the same levels of commitment generated in a crisis during non-crisis times may be hard, any effort to impart the imperative ...

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