Posted by on April 9, 2015

(Winnable Mission Management – putting what we need to do ahead of how we like to do it)

— you may lose a battle and still win the war —

This is a new thought of how to break away from KPI based performance management thinking. And how to achieve agility in implementing and executing strategies and strategic plans.

In #WinnableMissionManagement (#WMM) you break down your strategic objectives into winnable missions. Each winnable mission in some way contributes to achieving your overall strategy.

Competences are deployed to contribute to actually winning the planned missions. One man on one mission, one mission at a time. This offers an explicit mechanism for balancing load to capacity – the most important aspect for ensuring throughput in knowledge work. (You can also think of this as a model where people ‘swarm’ around the most important tasks.)

Everything is broken down to winnable missions. Everybody contributes to winning the planned missions. Every mission contributes to achieving the strategic objectives.


When some missions end, new can be deployed. While missions are being executed, the next missions can be staged. In the staging process missions are continuously formulated and analyzed to get the most out of the next competences to be redeployed.


This is a new way of thinking, where everybody is measured on contribution and you have the freedom to contribute in the way you best can.

This is completely different from the assumptive approach where KPIs are defined to support the selected strategy and you are given your performance targets on the basis of that.

It’s also radically different from the functional/silo organization where people and money are hidden in the hope that someday, something will come out.

With #WMM you have full transparency and can retain full command of the situation. You can do no more missions than you have competences for, but you can change and redeploy instantly at any point in time.



Another way to picture this transition in thinking about agility:

TransparentExecutionIn more traditional form, you allocate money, people, … to business functions (silos) and work somehow gets hidden inside the silos. In #WMM you define missions where people can contribute – and build the rest on top of that.

I believe the #WMM approach can solve the problem of management not having the complete overview, the problem of staff being alienated by irrelevant periodic performance targets and the problem of handing budget out once a year hoping for results in the end.

In #WMM you are measured on actual contributions to actual missions.  These thoughts are compatible with the ‘stretch model’ introduced in an earlier post.

Budget-wise, you can allocate budget on an ongoing basis to the missions where it’s most beneficial. Dynamically. Not just once a year. At company/portfolio level you make everything visible and comparable. You can invest where it makes most sense. In the missions worth winning …

[In addition to being ‘winnable’ a mission must also be ‘worth winning’ – apply cost of delay/opportunity cost to judge and prioritize]

A winnable mission (WM) corresponds to the notion of minimum viable product (MVP), minimum marketable feature (MMF), potentially shippable increment (PSI) etc … it’s something small, yet significant enough to be worth doing, and something with a high degree of likelihood to succeed or fail in a controlled manner. You can call it a minimum winnable mission (#MWM) if you want 🙂

[I think of a #MWM as an ‘epic’ … but with the constraint that it’s ‘winnable’]

The team chartered with a mission is self-organizing. The winnable mission just ensures that what they are asked to do can be realistically accomplished (see more from #MakingWinnable, added May 17th)

The sum of all your ongoing missions is your entire execution.

It’s agile at the essential level:

— managing at the speed you can afford to lose —


Nothing is wrong with KPIs as such. It’s the way they are used. Like that budgets and milestones. Applied unwisely, they foster a non-specific culture of incompetent delegation across layers in especially larger organizations. The original meaning and intent get lost in transition – it’s like playing broken telefone. And then the KPI, the milestone and the budget becomes the meaning and you are in a place noone should be in.


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