In the past several updates Jerelyn and I have shared that the Board is currently reviewing our Ends policies through the lens of two issues – income disparity and climate change. I wanted to take a step back and share why this is so important to me as General Manager.
Ends are the desired results or outcomes that the Co-op is working towards. Ends are typically higher level, long-term, and are often related to the mission and purpose of the organization. Ends policies also ensure alignment between what the Co-op is doing and the interests of our shareholders. In short, they define the collective needs and desired outcomes of our shareholders and articulate what we should be doing.
While the Ends provide the overall direction for the organization, the Means provide the specific actions that will be taken to achieve those Ends. The Means define the specific strategies and actions that are used to achieve the Ends. They define “how” we achieve our Ends. At the Co-op, the Means are the purview of the General Manager. To be effective, the Means must be aligned with the Ends and must be consistent with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
Planning a trip can be a useful metaphor for understanding the relationship between Ends and Means in decision-making and understanding how critically important effective Ends are for a General Manager. The destination of the trip, for example traveling to the Grand Canyon, is an example of an End. Getting to the Grand Canyon is the desired outcome. There may be additional Ends as well, such as ensuring the trip has the smallest carbon footprint possible, or that the duration of the time at the Grand Canyon should be two weeks. Again, these are desired outcomes of the trip planning process and represent the Ends. This is what our Board defines.
The means of transportation, the route you will take, the places you will stop, and how our budget is spent are all examples of Means. The method of transportation is a great example of how Ends impact decision-making and choices. If the End is simply to reach the Grand Canyon, the trip planner may decide to put everyone on direct flights. If an additional End is to get to the Grand Canyon with as little a carbon footprint as possible, this dramatically changes decisions about travel. You may change from direct flights to renting a bus, car-pooling, or even walking. Additional desired outcomes, such as travel time, cost, etc. will all have a meaningful impact on how we get to our destination.
Imagine being asked to plan a trip for a friend with no idea where they wanted to go, what they wanted to do when they got there, or how long they wanted to stay. Compare that to being asked to plan a two-week camping trip to the Grand Canyon during the month of June for a friend who doesn’t fly. You are much more likely in the second scenario to plan a trip that is aligned with the desired outcome your friend is hoping for than you are in the first. Just as importantly, both you and your friend have a common frame of reference for whether you successfully planned that trip. In the first case, any trip that you plan has, in theory, successfully met the request your friend made – even if it turns out to be one they hated. In the second scenario, you know very clearly that if you don’t plan a trip to the Grand Canyon or it isn’t a camping trip, you have not planned a trip that meets the needs of your friend.
It is the same for Ends and Means at our Coop. Having well-defined Ends that are aligned with the needs of our shareholders is an absolutely critical part of the decision-making framework for the General Manager. Just as importantly they enable the Board to determine if the Means that the GM is pursuing are aligned with and serving the needs of our shareholders. As the GM of the Co-op, I am incredibly excited and grateful to be part of this journey and look forward to this ongoing discussion.
By Lee Bradford, General Manager