11 Ways to Focus on Ends over Means

Last week I talked about (ok, ranted about) the misguided emphasis we place on means over ends. And because ends are where our aspirations and passions lie, and means are where our fears lie, I thought it would be helpful to have 11 Ways we can focus on what matters most – the end result of creating an amazing world (which, BTW, also help in getting around those fears!).

1 – Have the Board Talk About End Results
Have your board spend ½ of each meeting talking about what they expect the organization to accomplish for the community in the next 5 years. Start with this prompt: What would amazing look like for our community in 5 years?

2 – Create a Community Impact Plan
If your mission were 100% successful, what would your community be like? And what concrete steps will your organization take to begin creating that? If we are creating the future, every day, whether we do so consciously or not, you can start consciously creating the future you want, right now. So what’s your plan?

3 – Deal with Fear Head On
Look fear in the eye, recognize it for what it is, and deal with whatever is causing it, once and for all. We tend to focus on means over ends when we are scared. So work to ferret out the fear and proactively address what is scaring you.

(Bonus tip: If your board or staff or volunteers are acting badly, fear is likely at play. And if there is a topic that seems to be talked about ad nauseam, always causing a sense of frustration and/or endless cycle, that is an indicator of fear-based work as well. Who is afraid? Of what? Why? And how can we address that proactively and compassionately?)

4 – Another Board Discussion
Have your board discuss these questions:
a) What is the best decision you made all year?
b) What made it the best decision?
c) Did that decision have to do with means or ends?
d) What decisions did you make in the past year that had specifically to do with ensuring the community was a more amazing place to live, through the efforts of your organization?

5 – Make Staff Evaluations About Results
Focus staff evaluations at ALL levels on end results first, and means second. (And when you do focus on means, make sure you have a code of values against which to measure those means. You don’t? This may help. )

6 – Executive Director Evaluation
Before doing your Executive Director’s evaluation, review the board’s minutes to see what the board has instructed the ED to do. During the evaluation, jointly determine how the board and the ED can establish more community-focused goals, so that next yea’s performance evaluation is focused on making the community a better place to live. Make this a team effort!

7 – More Board Discussion
Back to the board. Decide how you will measure community results. What will success look like, and how will you know if you got there? What could you measure? (Remember, measurement does not have to be data – it can be stories of significant change.)

8 – Deal with Money, Once and For All
Focus on the real end result of resource development – dependable, renewable income – rather than constantly chasing the shortfall. Do you have a plan to make your efforts sustainable, so you can focus your attention on creating the future of your community? Or are you hoping to just make it through another year (and destining your organization to live in ongoing fear)? (And if you think your work will never sustain itself, this may help.)

9 – Ending Something Negative vs. Beginning Something Amazing
Express your desired end result as a positive, not a negative. Not “ending poverty” or “ending homelessness” or “ending this or that.” After you end poverty, then what? What will amazing look like? (One of the most linked-to posts from this blog is all about focusing on end results – Are We Ending or Beginning?)

10 – Access is a Means, Not an End
Access to whatever is not an end result – it is a means to an end. Access to healthcare, access to the arts, access to the natural environment. What is the REAL result? What will it look like when those individuals have that access? What amazing thing will happen then? (Here is an example of what that looks like in practice.)

11 – Another Board Discussion
Have the board discuss this question: What future are we creating? For whom? Is that the best we can do? And if not, do we want to settle for “not the best we can do” or do we want to aim for amazing?

12 – Bonus: What has worked for you?
Please share how you have helped move away from a focus on means, and out towards a focus on creating amazing end results!

When we focus on means over ends, we wind up constantly whipsawed by circumstances, feeling like a hamster in a wheel, desperate and frustrated and wishing things were different.

But when we aim towards what inspires us, we are better able to face our fears and create plans to eliminate their cause.

So tell us – what has worked for you, to aim at results and finally put means in its place?

4 Responses to 11 Ways to Focus on Ends over Means

  1. Hi Hildy,
    I’m excited about your return to blogging. I also look forward to connecting again in the months ahead. I thought I’d share a little of our continuing efforts here in Yavapai County to stay focused on our ends, and beginnings…
    Just yesterday we had a meeting to continue the transition phase for Generations United of Yavapai County. Part of our discussion was a review of the lessons learned from the many community collaborations we have shared over the last two decades. And from lessons learned we moved toward what we really want to do when we grow up, or something like that…
    The resulting energy and excitement was palpable. The continuing journey is filled with lots of bumps in the road, but we all share an understanding that what really drives us is our belief systems. The following is a little bit of what I feel reflects the beliefs that we are truly all about in creating a positive and healthy future:

    We share a commitment to continuing to promote key values and beliefs aimed at improving quality of life in our community.

    We are about promoting positive relationships, and continuing to develop relationships that enhance our mission.

    We understand that acceptance is an important part of our roles as facilitators.

    We are committed to nurturing positive relationships.

    We are striving toward achieving an effective balance between theory and practice.

    We are dedicated to supporting work that provides our entire community the opportunity to learn and apply the lessons of community building efforts.

    We recognize that we must assure continuity during significant transition periods.

    We are committed to sustainability for GUYC.

    We will support and encourage collaboration and partnerships…



  2. Wow, Bob! What great strides! I might suggest one additional focus, to be added to the top of your list: What do you want the community to look like because you are doing this work? When that comes first, it provides the context for all the rest – the reason you are doing it all.

    Our vision is that Yavapai County will be a place that ______________________. Then all the rest provides incredibly values-driven means for getting there – great stuff. But focus first on what you want it to look like when that work has been 100% successful, and there will be no stopping you!

    I can’t wait to come up for air from writing to visit and see what all you guys are up to. It sounds amazing! Hildy

  3. Thanks Hildy.

    And our Vision is:

    Yavapai County residents will see people of all ages as equal partners in building a compassionate and viable community, where all generations thrive and each individual’s needs, talents and strengths are valued, respected and engaged.

    And we have a really great group of people truly committed to creating it! I know I’m jazzed!