What is Mission Creep?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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The concept of a mission creep involves an expansion beyond the original goals and purposes for a given project. Originally associated with the implementation of military and humanitarian strategies, the mission creep has come to be a common term applied in the business community. In most cases, a mission creep is formulated and put in place once the initial goals have been realized, and there is a desire to build on the existing momentum generated by the project.

In terms of business, a mission creep strategy would involve expanding the appeal of a product that was developed and successfully marketed. Often, this may involve the addition of a new ingredient to the already successful product, or promoting new applications for the product. Sales campaigns that tout products as being “new and improved” or that encourage the consumer to purchase the product for use in new ways are excellent examples of the mission creep.

The expansion of a mission generally involves careful planning. When involving existing goods and services, this will involve consumer research to determine what buyers think of the product and how the good or service could be enhanced in some manner. Often, the results of the research can help a marketing department to come up with several ideas on how to add some element to the product and make it even more desirable to a larger share of the consumer market.


After gathering the research, the next phase of the mission creep will involve field testing of the enhancements or new marketing approach. Obtaining constructive feedback about the new and improved product will help the marketing effort refine the campaign, and maximize the chances for a successful expansion of the market share. During this phase, it is possible to refine both the product and the promotion strategy before the actual re-launch of the product.

Not all missions prove to be successful. In some instances, consumers will reject the new and improved product in favor of the original good or service. When this occurs, it is wise to withdraw from the expansion of missions before significant losses take place. At the same time, it is very possible for the enhanced product to catch on and become extremely successful.


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Post 5

@Inaventu-- I completely agree with you. Peacekeeping missions and humanitarian projects almost always experience mission creep.

You gave a good example. There is also the case of Cyprus. The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus has been there since 1964. As of 2014, they've been there fore 50 years. It is the longest peacekeeping mission in the history of the UN and who knows when they will withdraw. It's kind of ridiculous but that's what happens with mission creep. It just goes on and on.

Post 4

@fBoyle-- It can be good or bad. It really depends on the product, what is being changed and what the customer response will be. The customer response can be difficult to predict. And that's why many businesses experience problems when they let mission creep occur. They may think that they are improving a product further, but the customers may not be happy with the changes at all.

I think the best thing to do is to actually ask the customers what they want. I think polls and customer feedback are very helpful.

Especially businesses with a product that has become very popular and cherished should try to avoid mission creep. In my experience, the older and the more established a product is, the less likely that customers will be happy with any "improvements."

Post 3

So is mission creep good or bad? How does a business know if they should continue improving a product or not?

Post 2

It always seems to me that peacekeeping missions always run the risk of mission creep. There are always going to be more refugees than anyone anticipated. I remember the Darfur peacekeeping mission very well, and the area in southern Sudan ended up becoming a nearly unmanageable Tent City filled with thousands of Sudanese Christians.

Those peace operations only ended after South Sudan became its own country and could take over the responsibility of repatriating these people.

Post 1

I think I first heard the term "mission creep" during the last years of the Vietnam War. We were mostly in that region to set up and protect a democratic Vietnam, but the surrounding countries also became problematic. The enemy forces were setting up military bases in Laos and Cambodia, so president Nixon gave the go-ahead to secretly invade those countries, too. It was the textbook definition of military mission creep at the time.

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