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, held at the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12-16 December 1983. Following the recommendations of the consultation, and on the basis of the curriculum design adopted, FAO embarked upon the preparation of this manual. In the process of its preparation, many agricultural research managers and management specialists have contributed. Besides the two main consultants, namely Dr Ronald P. Black, Denver Research Institute, University of Denver, USA, who prepared the first draft, and Dr V.N. Asopa, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India, who prepared the current version of the manual, the contribution of the following specialists in various fields must be singled out: Ramesh Bhat, J. Casas, A.K. Jain, F.S. Kanwar, V. Martinson, Gopal Naik, P. Nath, R.K. Patel, T.P. Rama Rao, S.K. Sharma, E.S. Tayengco, and J.S. Woolston. FAO expresses its gratitude to them all.
Special thanks are due to the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), which has willingly made available its valuable experience and relevant materials throughout the preparation of the manual.
FAO also thanks all those authors and publishers who have allowed the use of copyright material from their publications, even though the courtesy is recognized in each case.
This manual has been prepared under the responsibility of the Research Development Centre, Research and Technology Development Division, FAO, with the guidance of: Mohamed S. Zehni, former Director; and J.H. Monyo, E. Venezian and B. Müller-Haye, past Chiefs of the Research Development Centre. Scientific supervision was provided by G. Beye, Senior Officer, now Chief, Research Technology Development Service.
This module includes five sessions:
1. MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS (MIS)
2. MIS EXERCISE
3. COMPUTERS AS MANAGEMENT TOOLS
4. NETWORK TECHNIQUES
5. PERT AND CPM EXERCISE
Session 1 is devoted to developing a conceptual understanding of management information systems (MIS). The reading note and the guide for this session are based on published literature. Interested participants should be directed to the references for more details. The exercise in Session 2 provides an opportunity for applying the concepts learned in the first session. Session 3 is devoted to the computer as a management tool. The first part of Session 3 introduces participants to computer systems. The second part is devoted to computer systems development, management, maintenance and user services. Session 4 introduces the Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and the Critical Path Method (CPM). The techniques are applied in an exercise for practice in the last session.
The CPM technique involves preparation of a network which can be used as a planning as well as monitoring and control tool. This technique could therefore also be discussed in association with the module on planning.
Module 6 should be introduced as being technique oriented, for application in monitoring, evaluation and systematic management of various functions in an organization.
Monitoring is an important step in management of research. It enables review of ongoing research, allows mid-course corrections, if necessary, and can provide important inputs for future planning. How does one monitor research where gestation periods are long, outcomes uncertain and intermediate milestones vaguely defined? Through both formal and informal systems. Monitoring of research means monitoring the performance of the scientists as well as their work. An MIS can be designed and computerized to generate information on an ongoing basis on both these aspects. PERT and CPM techniques can be effectively used to periodic reviews of achievements vis-a-vis plans. However, these are formal techniques. As John Nickel observes, the best management is by 'walking about,' implying that a great deal of monitoring in a research institute is informal. Project managers (or principal scientists) and department heads - being in constant touch with their staff - do informally monitor the progress of ongoing research programmes. The directors can also monitor progress in many informal ways, the most important being regular rounds of the laboratories and talking to the scientists and technical staff. In this way the directors should have firsthand knowledge of the prevailing and emerging situations with regard to both the scientific work and the scientists, and should be able to promptly identify and remedy factors hampering progress of the scientific work. Experience indicates that most problems in scientific work arise from a lack of administrative support and from difficulties in timely procurement of materials and equipment. Such problems can be easily identified and solved during regular, preferably daily, rounds. Based on experience and taking full advantage of MIS potential, an efficient inventory system can be instituted for procurement of supplies.