To What End?

The Mullah Nasrudin stories originated as Sufi teaching tales in the Middle East but their appeal is universal. Nasrudin is the wise fool who says the unsayable, plays the fool, tricks us into seeing clearly, and turns our thinking upside down. Peter Hawkins has updated the Nasrudin stories for the world of the modern organisation and corporate advisors in "The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership", O Books, 2005. Here is one of his stories:

The board of a large company were working on their mission statement.
"What is your fundamental purpose?" asked Nasrudin.
"Our mission is to create constantly increasing dividends for our shareholders," they declared.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.
"So they make increased profits which they will want to reinvest in our company," they said.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.
"So they make more profits," they said, becoming somewhat irritated.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin nonchalantly.
"So they re-invest and make more profits."

Nasrudin pondered this for a while and thanked them for their explanations. Later that week they had arranged to visit Nasrudin's house to work further on the Mission Statement. They found him in his garden stuffing oats into his donkey.

"What are you doing?" they asked. "You are giving that poor beast so much food that it will not be able to go anywhere."
"But it is not meant to go anywhere," Nasrudin replied. "Its purpose is to produce manure."
"To what end?" they asked.
"Because without it I cannot grow enough oats in my small allotment to feed this greedy beast."