Research and technology Knowledge

Posted April 1998

Special: Managing Agricultural Research

The training manual

Cover page | Overview | The manual | Orientation | Case studies | Course content | Training | Programme planning | Ordering the manual

IN EARLIER TIMES, scientists pursued their research on an individual basis. Funds were never a problem and researchers continued their lines of inquiry on an open-ended basis. These activities were often not structured as projects, per se, i.e., they were without starting and ending dates, a budget, or specified technical productivity goals within the given budget and time frame. It was more common for researchers to work alone or in a loosely structured group conducting research in related areas. As projects, i.e., well defined programmes, with clear objectives, and institutions with interlocking programmes, have emerged, management has become more and more important to science. Yet this importance has not been reflected by changes in academic curricula. It is a rare PhD agronomist who has had management training. FAO's agricultural research institution management training manual will provide the basis for overcoming what is a major constraint on agricultural research productivity.

There are four distinct levels of agricultural research management that suggest themselves immediately as the targets for training programmes, namely the project, the programme, the institute, and the national. This manual focuses on the institute management level. National-level management is not given emphasis for several reasons, not least because FAO already consults with national-level managements on management problems within their NARS. Managers at the national level may not be as receptive to training programmes because of extreme demands on their time, and possibly a legitimate belief that they would not have reached where they are if they were not already good managers.

Managers at the institution level and below are more receptive to management training. Also, there is evidence that it is not long before managers from these lower levels, with their enhanced management capabilities, begin to move to national-level positions, taking with them their new management skills and understanding. Therefore it is at lower management levels that FAO has focused this training manual.

Evolution of the training manual

The task of preparing a training manual on agricultural research institute management began with the FAO Expert Consultation on Strategies for Research Management Training in Africa, at the "International Livestock Research Centre for Africa (ILCA)" (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12-16 December 1983). The expert consultation was convened to recapitulate research management training needs in developing countries, review some of the approaches being used and those planned to improve research management capabilities with particular reference to sub-Sahara Africa, and explore the possibilities and modes of cooperation among those institutions which are most active in this field. The scope for Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) and for North-South cooperation were also studied, and modalities for such cooperation were defined.

The consultation was attended by participants from Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Representatives of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Gerdat (France), the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), ILCA, ISNAR and the Consultative Advisory Committee on Semi-Arid Food Grain research and Development of the Scientific Technical and Research Commission of the Organization of African Unity (OAU/STRC/SAFGRAD) also attended as observers. The expert consultation recognized the following:

The expert consultation worked out a plan for training at the different levels (Table 1).

Table 1. Training needs of agricultural research managers
Subject area Target group
Directors General Directors of Institutes or Centres Programme Leaders Other staff
Programme Identification and Planning U(A) S S A for others
Financial Management U U(A) U S for Finance Officers; A for others
Personnel Management U S S U for Personnel Officers; A for others
Communication U U U U for Staff responsible for Public Relations
Documentation and Information A U S U for Research Officers; A for others
Operational Management A U U U for Transport and Auxiliary Services
Monitoring and Evaluation U U U S for NARS and Centre Economists
Extension and Linkages A U U U for Extension Specialists
Key: A = Awareness; U = Understanding; S = Skill.

Following the recommendations of the expert consultation, FAO embarked upon preparation of training manuals. Subsequently, two manuals were prepared by Dr R.P.Black, Denver Research Institute, University of Denver, USA. While one manual focused on institution management, the other focused on project management. These manuals were used in training programmes in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. A thorough review of these manuals revealed a need for re-design, concretization and capsulization. Copyright reading materials needed to be replaced by reading notes. Relevant case studies had to be developed, and incorporated into the modules. Following this review, work on preparing a training manual on agricultural research institute management began.

The manual presented here has been virtually rewritten, although the presentation style of the previous manual is retained. Reading materials based on available published literature have been incorporated to serve as required or background readings.


Although this FAO manual does not currently focus on project management issues, they will be covered subsequently through a separate manual on project and programme management. The FAO approach aims to evolve a common perception of the structure and terminology of management. This will enhance communication and understanding among agricultural research managers in discussing management problems, solutions and opportunities. This FAO manual, while contributing to the establishment of a common perception of the subject, differs from other currently employed training approaches in an important way. The FAO approach provides a course structure with contents that can be built upon and improved over time. The current state-of-the-art should always be embodied in the FAO manual and associated training materials.

Other agricultural research management programmes are less standardized and are faculty-dependent. Some have course agendas that are fairly standard, but different faculty members may handle the same session differently, especially where consultants are normally used as faculty. There is nothing published to provide a basis for transferring session training capability to others or to provide a product for improvement. Many agricultural research management courses seem to be even more ad hoc. There is nothing wrong with this approach, and some training objectives may best be served by specially designed and implemented programmes. It is only that these programmes do not lend themselves as approaches for transfer and for continual growth and improvement in the way the FAO approach does.

Institute Management

While a better understanding of management concepts and of philosophical approaches, as well as many attitudinal changes, are needed, courses focusing on and emphasizing these are considered theoretical by many agricultural research scientists. Therefore, the FAO approach is to focus on management skill development - e.g., how to prepare an institution plan - and, in the process of presenting skills-oriented materials, to include information, materials, exercises and presentation approaches that will also achieve participant growth in conceptual, philosophical and attitudinal areas.

Institute management is built around the four structural management functions: planning, organizing, monitoring and controlling, and evaluating. These areas are covered in the manual, and are assembled in separate modules as this is the natural sequence in which they are a concern to a manager. First, a manager must plan. With a plan in hand, an optimal organization can be designed to carry out the plan. As the plan is implemented, the manager must monitor and control the activities in accordance with the plan. Finally, the institute activities are evaluated against the objectives and other standards set forth in the plan. A reading note (see Management orientation and decision-making) introduces the frameworks for management orientation and for decision making.

Pervasive management-function activities, such as motivating, leading, directing, prioritizing, communicating and delegating, which are of interest to managers at all times, are treated while covering the structural functions. Also, in some cases, such as for leadership and motivation, individual sessions are programmed. Several specialized areas of management, such as human resources management and policies and procedures, are treated in their own set of sessions.

It must be recognized that the manual does not cover many issues which are specific to individual research institutions. It is expected that these issues will be raised and discussed at appropriate places during the training workshop.


The manual has been designed for a very participative form of teaching, including use of the case method, group exercises, presentation by participants, and participatory lectures. Because of their participative nature, it might be more appropriate to call them workshops.

The case method is the main pedagogic tool used in the manual, admittedly even though all topics do not have cases. The resource persons should acquaint themselves with the case methodology to be able to effectively handle a case (see Case method).

User's Guide

The manual is designed so that anyone with a knowledge of and experience with the session subject matter should be able to prepare and manage the session based on the session materials. In practice, those with past teaching experience are usually more effective teachers in the workshop context.

Design of the manual

The workshop training manual is presented in 11 parts, comprising this introductory module and ten teaching modules, namely: Each module is divided into several sessions of varying duration, depending upon the material to be covered. Each session is presented together with information on components supporting the trainer and the training function. (See Summary of course contents for details of the modules and their associated sessions.)

Session sheet

The session sheet provides basic information concerning the session title, date, time, trainer (to be filled in for each FAO workshop), format, objectives, instructional materials provided, background readings provided and bibliographic references to recommended readings which are not provided in the manual.

Session guide

The session guide gives the trainer notes and comments which refer to instructional materials (exhibits, hand-outs, etc.). The guide provides a suggested approach to covering the subject. Exhibits illustrate in a sequential manner how a session can be handled. Every trainer, however, will have different experiences with respect to the subject and should therefore approach the topic from his or her own perspective, using the session guide as a background and reference source.

The session guides are suggestive in their approach. They are designed to draw upon the experience of the teacher using them. This flexibility allows them to design the programme around specific national concerns, or to be more general, as would be appropriate for regional and broader international audiences.

Instructional materials

Instructional materials are either exhibits - to be shown on an overhead projector, flip chart, or by some other means - or hand-outs to be passed on to participants at some specific point in the sessions. These materials and their use are described specifically in the session guide. In many cases, these exhibits are based on published literature.

Background readings

Background readings will be useful to the trainer in preparing for the session. They may also be distributed to workshop participants so that they can prepare in advance for the session. Background readings are included in the manual and are based on published literature.

Recommended readings

Recommended readings are further sources of information of potential use to the trainer, but are not themselves included in the manual.

Both background and recommended readings include extensive references which can be followed up by the resource person to help them handle the sessions more effectively.

Design flexibility

Each session with its set of materials - the session sheet, session guide, instructional materials and background reading - is designed to stand alone. This gives a workshop organizer great flexibility in designing a workshop. Programmes may be conducted using the manuals as they are, or, if so desired, modules could be selected from the manual for courses on more specific subjects. Additional material can be added and new cases included, each enriching the manual.

Workshop schedule

In scheduling sessions, the practice is to schedule various modules consecutively. However, in a short-duration programme, rapid switching from one disciplinary area to another reduces learning effectiveness. An alternative course is to schedule various modules in a sequential manner and cover them one by one during the period of the programme.

A full workshop day would normally comprise four sessions, with breaks for lunch and tea or coffee as appropriate. In some cases, shorter-duration periods may be necessary, which may increase the total number of sessions in a day. It is important to provide reading time in the evening so that participants can prepare well for the next day's sessions.

Organizing a training workshop

The first step in planning a training workshop is to assess training requirements (see Management training). Since training workshops of the type discussed here are usually of short duration, it is necessary to properly plan and manage them. (See Planning and management of short-duration, executive development programmes for discussion of the important issues involved.)

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