Tip #61 What's Your Organization's Purpose?

October 1, 2020  |  tips for effective boards

In our previous Tips for Effective Boards, we discussed the first three of the Ten Principles of the Policy Governance® model of board operations.  We now turn to the fourth Policy Governance® principle, Ends Policies.

In Policy Governance®, Ends Policies define the organization’s specific purpose in terms of what good the organization desires to produce in the world, what lives will be better off and how these lives will be better off.  John Carver and Miriam Carver articulate the Ends Policy principle as follows:

“Ends Policies:  The board defines in writing its expectations about the intended effects to be produced, the intended recipients of those effects, and the intended worth (cost-benefit or priority) of the effects.  These are Ends policies.  All decisions made about effects, recipients, and worth are Ends decisions.  All decisions about issues that do not fit the definition of Ends are means decisions.  Hence, in Policy Governance, means are simply not Ends.”  (“Policy Governance® Source Document” produced by the International Policy Governance Association in consultation with John Carver and Miriam Carver, 2011:  https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/policy-governance.


As stated above, the Ends Policy concept has three components: 

  1. The intended effects/outcomes/results to be produced in people’s lives. The focus here is not on organizational activities and services but on results to be produced.  The bottom line is not how many services are being provided but are people better off because of what the organization is doing.
  2. The intended recipients/beneficiaries of the intended effects. The board decides which people it will serve and positively impact.
  3. The intended worth of the effects to be produced. This component of the Ends concept includes two notions:  a) results produced worth the resources consumed, and b) the relative worth or priority of various intended effects and recipients.


Ends Policies typically contain a summary statement (also called a Global Ends Statement) and other policy statements that further define the benefits and beneficiaries identified in general terms in the summary statement.

After an Ends Policy is developed by the board, the CEO translates the board’s policy words into a measurable interpretation or operational definition.  This interpretation identifies measurable standards (metrics, performance indicators) and desired thresholds or achievement targets related to the policy.  Organizational performance relative to these indicators and targets is tracked and regularly reported on to the board.

So, the bottom line for the board is not are we providing lots of good services but is what we are doing really making the intended positive difference in people’s lives.

To give you a better feel for the Ends Policy concept, I am providing the following excerpt of a sample policy for a school board:


School System

Our students will acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to succeed beyond high school graduation.  The results achieved will justify the resources expended.

  1. Students graduate from high school with a readiness for continued education or employment.
  2. Students demonstrate achievement in language arts, mathematics, and technology.
  3. Students develop a well-rounded knowledge in such areas as history, geography, science, health education, and the arts.
  4. Students demonstrate grade-appropriate abilities related to learning skills, reasoning, problem-solving, and ethical decision-making.
  5. Students demonstrate respect for others and develop interpersonal skills including communication and non-violent conflict resolution skills.
  6. Students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be confident, productive, and conscientious members of their communities.

For additional information about this principle, please check out Tips for Effective Boards #3 (Board Policy Focused on Organizational Results), #28 (Three Steps to Being a Results-Driven Board) and #31 (Are Your Organization’s Results Worth the Cost?):  https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/blog.

To see all ten principles of the Policy Governance® model, please click https://www.BoardsOnCourse.com/policy-governance and then click The Principles of Policy Governance® on the left-side menu.