Mission creep and micromanagement are disorders of a board. The symptoms and cures are different. Both create disruption in an organization.
Mission creep is not a disparaging characterization of a member of the board.
It is the process where a gradual shift in purpose occurs, with or without awareness. In organizations with limited resources, the expansion of the mission will dilute programs and services.
A board that tries to be all things to all people will exhaust resources and reduce quality of programs and services.
From the perspective of the IRS, working outside the mission statement may cause “unrelated business income tax” or UBT. The organization has described its purpose to receive its tax exemption status.
Guided by Governing Documents
documents define the parameters of board work.
At the national level, the IRS has reviewed the narrowly defined purpose of the organization. It is noted in the application for exempt status with a “description of the activity including its purpose and how each activity furthers your exempt purpose.” Expansion beyond the purpose can be troublesome.
At the state level the Division of Corporations issues not-for-profit status. The original incorporators submit the association’s mission.
Bylaws describe the purpose of the organization and the relationship of the board to the membership. In addition to defining the purpose the board’s duties are communicated.
Here is a bylaws example that specifies the board’s purpose:
Exceeding the parameters of board service, or expanding beyond the mission statement, can have adverse impact. Generally the bylaws approve the board approving funds, setting policy, advancing the mission, hiring a CEO and representing the membership.
Curbing Mission Creep
Some ways to curb mission creep:
Micromanagement is a style where a manager, or in the case of an association, board members, too closely monitor employees. It has a negative impact on staff when employees feel they are not trusted and are being evaluated by the board.
An example would be a director that drops by the office and begins to ask questions about workload, efficiency and operations. These are areas outside of governance and not in the purview of board members. The staff answer to their supervisors and the executive director.
Remedies for Micromanagement
Try these cures for micromanagement, starting with awareness:
In summary, both mission creep and micromanagement can have adverse effects on the organization. Awareness is the start to avoiding the problems.
Bill Pawlucy, MPA, CAE, IOM, is founder of Association Options, Inc. a company that focuses on practical strategic planning (corporate and nonprofit), management assessments, Baldrige Award process implementation, AMC search and evaluation, facilitation, and governance modeling. He is also the executive director of the International Association of Interviewers and is an appointee to the U.S. Department of Commerce Board of Examiners for the Baldrige Presidential Award.