Posted April 1998
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.
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:
|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.
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 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 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).
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.
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.
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.