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Featured Question - February 23, 2004

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What is the difference between a Mission Statement and an End Statement?


Mission Statements come from a planning system and Ends Statements come from a purpose system.  Although John Carver uses them both interchangeably, obviously with a preference for Ends Statements, I think this is confusing. 

Planning systems by nature are more about control than purpose.  When using the word Mission, it is difficult to not look for and expect the next elements of the planning system: strategies, objectives, and action plans.  This makes it difficult to use the mixing bowl concept with Mission Statements.  It is difficult to allow the any reasonable interpretation rule to apply to a Mission Statement when it is to be part of a planning system.  You need more specificity than an End Statement might provide in order to establish the strategies.

Sometimes boards keep the use of Mission statement instead of Ends statement simply because they would be criticized if they didn't have one or if they weren't the authors of it.  This is unfortunate, as it suggests that boards are uncomfortable with the concepts of Policy Governance and are avoiding a dialogue to help others better understand how it works.  In a way they are misrepresenting how they govern. 

Purpose systems are quite different than planning systems.  It isn't that an organization has to choose one or the other they need both, and they need to balance the use of both.  Too much planning system and people become personally disconnected from the organization.  This is what is behind the need to connect the Moral Owners to the Ends.  But the same can be said for all the employees, too much planning system simply makes a job feel like work.  The opposite is true as well, too much purpose systems means that everyone is connected but too little is being done. 

Policy Governance provides a separation of purpose and planning through Ends and Means, at least at the board level.  Boundary Management provides the same thing for the rest of the organization.  This separation helps create the balance and focus that is needed for a more effective organization.  Using Mission Statements only tends to confuse this separation.

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