Confusing Means and Ends

Ends are what you are trying to achieve while means are how you get there. Sometimes these get confused. For example, these are means:

  • Process Improvement
  • Education & Training
  • Compensation
  • Technology
  • Quality

So anyone pushing training (including e-learning) is selling a means to an end. First, you have to know what ends you’re trying to achieve. Ends can be 1) outcomes, 2) outputs or 3) performance. Training can help improve performance, but before you put on your instructional designer hat and get down to creating stuff, you need to align the means with the ends. That’s where performance analysis comes in.

If you subscribe to the ADDIE process, or some variant of it, you still have to get to the point of establishing (or confirming)  the ends that you are trying to achieve. For training development shops, the model should look something like this:


And so “ends” my series over the past couple of weeks on performance improvement (for now).

3 Responses to “Confusing Means and Ends”

  1. Karyn Romeis

    Ah, but ome person’s means might be another’s end. If I am the L&D manager within an organisation and I identify that I need to improve performance in a specific area, then the improved performance is my end. However, I might task a person with developing one of those means, say an online process guide. That then becomes that person’s end, while for me it is a means. That person asks the web designer to design a page template say – that is one of his means, but for the web designer, it is an end… and so we go.

    For as long as we have different job descriptions that kick in at different parts of the process, it will remain that some people’s ends happen long before others.

  2. Harold

    In Napoleon’s army they said that every soldier carried a Marshall’s baton in his backpack. In NATO forces we learned to think two levels up. In today’s workplace, everyone should know the reason that they are doing something, even if they have to concentrate on the task at hand.

    For me it’s rather simple, the end is what is best for the client, within these parameters:

    1. Base recommendations and actions on an objective needs assessment conducted in partnership with the client.

    2. Define and achieve useful results that can be aligned with both the client organisation’s mission, objectives, and positive contributions to society.

    3. Focus on results and consequences of the results. Measure performance based on results, not on procedures performed for the client.

    4. Set clear expectations about the process to be followed and about the expected outcomes.

    5. Serve the client organisation with integrity, competence, and objectivity.

    6. Respect and contribute to the legitimate and ethical objectives of the client organisation.

    7. Prevent problems from occurring rather than solve problems that could have been predicted and avoided.


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