Complex and constantly emerging relationships between groups, organisations and movements aiming to promote and manage change bring into sharp focus the nature of means and ends and how they interact. Development managers are continually negotiating these relationships, where the tools (the means) and the espoused goals of development (the ends) are caught up in the process. We argue that although it is essential to recognise the role of power relations in development management, social difference and contestation experienced in the negotiation of changing relationships can create spaces and be important sources of engagement and learning for development managers and their organisations. A question is whether and how such learning can lead to more emancipatory means and ends of development management, rather than simply consolidating existing social relations. In this article, we provide a commentary on these issues through interviews with a small group of practitioners working mainly in non-governmental organisations. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.