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Extension County Operations: Program Development

County Program Development Team Tips: Year 3

Advisory System Tips are provided by your Program Development Team. If your county has a tip you would like to share, please send it to Jeff Christie at jeffch@uga.edu.

  • Tip 1 - Be a great coach!
  • Tip 2 - New Resources Posted to ELS Website!
  • Tip 3 - When Assigning Roles, Use the “BALM” Method!
  • Tip 4 - Understanding the Growth and Development of your Team!
  • Tip 5 - Re-evaluate and [perhaps] Re-set your ELS Goals!
  • Tip 6 - Take a different look at the composition of your PDT!
  • Tip 7 - Double-check your PDT meetings for the BIG 3 – Objective; Agenda; Sensibility!
  • Tip 8 - Avoid “Groupthink”!
  • Tip 9 - Design and Plan [Part 1 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION]
  • Tip 10 - Guide and Control [Part 2 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION]
  • Tip 11 - Record and ‘Action’ [Part 3 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION]
  • Tip 12 - Keep Your Team Revitalized with Regular Rotation!

Tip 1 – Be a great coach! (January 2009)

As many of you are moving to more of a shared leadership atmosphere in the context of your Program Development Teams (PDT’s), your role may also be transitioning more towards that of a facilitator.

A good facilitator is sometimes like a good coach. Train them, give them some direction and then watch them run!

One rule of thumb to keep in mind while facilitating a PDT meeting: In order to successfully engage your members and encourage their participation, you – as the facilitator – should not talk more than about 50% of the time.

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Tip 2 – New Resources Posted to ELS Website! (February 2009)

There are two great new resources on the ELS Website for agents to use in working with PDT’s.

1) New Publication: Communicating with Your Program Development Team
This outstanding 4-page PDF document created by Laurie Cantrell, FACS Program Development Specialist – FACS (NE/SE Districts), has a great summary of the importance of strong communication efforts. In addition, it includes information pertaining to: types of information Team members need; preference for delivery mode; timing of communications; and tips for effective communication. Finally, there is a checklist for you to use in rating your communication with your PDT.  Check it out on the ELS Website.

2) Project Summaries for 2009 ELS Grant Recipients - The nine county programs which received 2009 ELS Enhancement Grants are poised to do some collective great work! You can see summaries of each county’s funded grant proposals/projects on the ELS Website.

The ELS Website is periodically reviewed and updated with new materials, resources, and ideas to help YOU maximize the impact your PDT makes at the most important level – the LOCAL level.

Please check the site often and if you ever have comments, critiques, and/or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at jeffch@uga.edu.

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Tip 3 – When Assigning Roles, Use the “BALM” Method! (March 2009)

To truly implement shared leadership within your Program Development Team (PDT), it is critical that team members are in a position to experience success. (A blatantly obvious example: you may not want a team member with sub-par writing skills in charge of your PDT’s public relations campaign. But it can get more complicated than this.)

When your PDT needs to divide tasks among current members, one useful technique your team can use is the four-step “B-A-L-M” method to allocate roles:

  • Break down the broader team goals into specific, individual tasks. List all tasks, and then rank each task in terms of importance;
  • Analyze and list the competencies required to perform each task;
  • List the competencies of each team member;
  • Match individuals to task competencies.

Going through the steps of this exercise can also be useful if you are recruiting new members to join your team at the next rotation. It can help you identify competencies on which your team might need to ‘reload’. Then you can target your recruitment efforts towards individuals who have these attributes and competencies.

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Tip 4 – Understanding the Growth and Development of your Team! (April 2009)

Teams are formed [just as your Program Development Team (PDT) was formed] because they can achieve far more than their individual members can on their own.

As a team leader, your aim is to help your team reach and sustain high performance as soon as possible. While being part of a high-performing team can be fun, it can take patience and professionalism to get to that stage.

Schedule regular reviews of your Team’s development, and adjust your leadership approach to suit the stage your team has reached. An effective team leader can accelerate the process of team growth and reduce the difficulties that team members experience by understanding what she/he needs to do as the team moves through its developmental stages.

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Tip 5 – Re-evaluate and [perhaps] Re-set your ELS Goals! (May 2009)

As we began the ELS process more than three years ago, one of the very first assignments with which agents were tasked was setting the goals they wanted their Program Development Team (PDT) to accomplish. These goals were recorded and submitted to the respective District Extension Administrative team (DED, PDC, PDS, etc…). Since that day several years ago, have you given much thought to those goals? Have you accomplished them? Are you making progress? Are they still relevant?

Arriving at honest answers to these questions is critical to continued success of the efforts of your PDT. If you determine that it might well be time to reassess your goals, perhaps tweaking them or even starting over with a new set of goals, keep these pieces of goal-setting advice in mind.

  • Set Goals that Motivate You: Make sure it is something that's important to you and there is value in achieving it; set goals that relate to the high priorities in your program.
  • Set SMART Goals: SMART goals are Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; and Time-Bound.
  • Set Goals in Writing: The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible; use the word "will" instead of "would like to" or "might".
  • Make an Action Plan: Write out the individual steps, assign tasks to PDT members, monitor and report on progress.
  • Stick With It: Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity not just a means to an end; make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.

Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. The team’s chances for success are greatly increased when you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it the first place.

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Tip 6 – Take a different look at the composition of your PDT! (June 2009)

Dr. Meredith Belbin has done some fascinating work with team composition and team roles. He identified nine team roles and he categorized those roles into three groups: Action Oriented, People Oriented, and Thought Oriented. Each team role is associated with typical behavioral and interpersonal strengths, as well as associated weaknesses. His work goes deep into the topic and there is much research and material and the team roles concept.

In a nutshell, the nine roles are briefly presented in the table below. The argument Dr. Belbin makes is that when a team – such as your Program Development Team (PDT) – is made up of some of each of the nine types of role players, it will function at maximum levels of productivity and efficiency and achieve maximum impact.

Action Oriented Roles

Shaper

Challenges the team to improve.

Implementer

Puts ideas into action.

Completer Finisher

Ensures thorough, timely completion.

People Oriented Roles

Coordinator

Acts as a chairperson.

Team Worker

Encourages cooperation.

Resource Investigator

Explores outside opportunities.

Thought Oriented Roles

Plant

Presents new ideas and approaches.

Monitor-Evaluator

Analyzes the options.

Specialist

Provides specialized skills.

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Tip 7 – Double-check your PDT meetings for the BIG 3 – Objective; Agenda; Sensibility! (July 2009)

You have probably attended hundreds of meetings, and you know that there are good meetings and there are not-so-good meetings. It should be your goal, along with anyone else who provides leadership to your Program Development Team (PDT), that your meetings are effective, efficient, and leave team members feeling that their time was well invested. In order to ensure this outcome, review your meetings for the BIG 3:

Objective - An effective meeting serves a useful purpose. This means that in it, you achieve a desired outcome. For a meeting to meet this outcome, or objective, you have to be clear about what it is. Do you want a decision? Do you want to generate ideas? Are you getting status reports? Are you communicating something? Are you making plans? In other words, ALWAYS meet for a designed purpose, and at all costs … NEVER conduct a meeting simply for the sake of conducting a meeting.
Agenda - To ensure that you cover only what needs to be covered and that you stick to relevant activities, you (along with the leader of your PDT, if appropriate) need to create an agenda. The agenda is what you will refer to in order to keep the meeting running on target and on time. Remember back to your early ELS Training – set up your agenda using the R.E.P.E. system. A great review can be found in your ELS notebook or in the “Resources for Agents” section of the ELS Website.
Sensibility – Make sure that all team members feel their time was well invested by making certain the meeting follows a sensible process: starting and ending on time, sticking to the agenda, and meeting stated objectives. Be sure team members are actively involved all the way through, from planning to participating. As the meeting concludes be sure there is a quick meeting summary, assignments are reviewed, and you thank team members for their time and support.

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Tip 8 – Avoid “Groupthink”! (August 2009)

Due to the nature of a program area-specific Program Development Team (PDT) or a County ELS Council, these groups can rather easily fall victim to “Groupthink”.

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people's common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. The desire for group cohesion effectively drives out good decision-making and problem solving. The term "Groupthink" was coined by Irving Janis in 1972 when he was researching why a team reaches an excellent decision one time, and a disastrous one the next. What he found was that a lack of conflict or opposing viewpoints led to poor decisions, because alternatives were not fully analyzed, and therefore groups did not gather enough information to make an informed decision.

What are the Symptoms of Groupthink?

  • Rationalization
  • Peer Pressure
  • Complacency
  • Moral High Ground
  • Stereotyping
  • Censorship
  • Illusion of Unanimity

How to Avoid Groupthink?

The challenge for any team or group leader is to create a working environment in which Groupthink is unlikely to happen. It is important also to understand the risks of Groupthink – if the stakes are high, so must be the effort to ensure good decision-making and group outcome. To avoid Groupthink, it is important to have a process in place for checking the fundamental assumptions behind important decisions, for validating the decision-making process, and for evaluating the risks involved.

Groupthink can severely undermine the value of a group's work, it can stifle teamwork, and it can leave all but the most vocal team members disillusioned and dissatisfied. If a person is on a team that makes a decision he/she doesn’t really support but feels he/she can't say or do anything about it, that person’s enthusiasm will quickly fade. Teams are capable of being much more effective than the individual but, when Groupthink sets in, the opposite can be true. By creating a healthy group-working environment, you can help ensure the group makes good decisions and manages any associated risks.

(There is much more information on this topic. If you are interested in a longer, but more complete version of this ELS T.O.M., please contact me).

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Tip 9 – Design and Plan [Part 1 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION] (September 2009)

As your Program Development Team (PDT) is transitioning into an atmosphere of SHARED LEADERSHIP, your role is likely also transitioning. When your PDT began, you were most likely the unquestioned leader. Hopefully now, you are playing – or at least beginning to play – more of a facilitator’s role. The next three months’ worth of ELS T.O.M.’s will focus on this facilitator’s role, and how your PDT can flourish with you in this role. This month (September 2009) is Part 1 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION.

The definition of facilitate is “to make easy” or “ease a process”. What a facilitator does is plan, guide and manage a group event to ensure that the group’s objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation and full buy-in from everyone who is involved. To facilitate effectively, you must be objective and focus purely on the group process. The “group process” is the approach used to manage discussions, get the best from all members, and bring the event through to a successful conclusion. Your key responsibility as a facilitator is to create this group process and an environment in which it can flourish, and so help the group reach a successful decision, solution or conclusion.

A good facilitator understands that the bulk of his/her responsibility is to:
1) Design and plan the group process. (this month’s ELS T.O.M.)
2) Guide and control the group process. (ELS T.O.M. in October 2009)
3) Record and ‘action’ the outcomes, actions and questions.
(ELS T.O.M. in November 2009)

Design and Plan the group process.
With the group’s objective firmly in mind, preparation for the meeting or event is all-important. Your job is to work with your PDT’s Chair, or President, or leader, to choose and design the right group process(es), and develop an effective agenda (using the R.E.P.E. system, of course) for the occasion.

Choose and design the group process
There are as many ways to design a group process as there are events to facilitate: It’s quite an art! Group process design is also a huge topic in its own right, and something that professional facilitators learn through experience and training.

Here are some of the just some of the factors and options to consider:

  • Do you want an open discussion, or a structured process?
  • What structured process should you choose?

Remember, whatever group process you define, it’s a question of keeping your focus on outcomes. Find the best way to achieve the objectives of the overall event.

Designing a realistic agenda
Excellent resources on “agenda-setting” are available on the ELS Website at: http://intranet.caes.uga.edu/coextopr/progdevelop/PDTMeetings.html

Other design and planning considerations
In addition to process and agenda, you should also consider the following:

  • Information and materials – What do participants need to know before or at the event? How will this be provided and when?
  • Room arrangements – What room set-up will best encourage participation? Are separate rooms needed for break out groups?
  • Supplies – What supplies and props do you need? And make sure you have backups for things like data projectors, just in case these fail.

To be an effective facilitator you must know when to take a leadership role, and when to be neutral and take a back seat. This is a difficult balance to maintain! The key to being proficient in the role is to plan and guide the proceedings effectively, and remain focused on the group process and outcomes, rather than specific content and opinions involved. Facilitation is an interesting, rewarding and important role to take on. When facilitating, take time to think about the process and agenda, and learn the skills you need to take the event through to a successful conclusion. Take pride in the role of facilitation, and enjoy watching the ideas, solutions and successful outcomes flow!

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Tip 10 – Guide and Control [Part 2 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION] (October 2009)

As your Program Development Team (PDT) is transitioning into an atmosphere of SHARED LEADERSHIP, your role is likely also transitioning. When your PDT began, you were most likely the unquestioned leader. Hopefully now, you are playing – or at least beginning to play – more of a facilitator’s role. The ELS T.O.M.’s for Sept–Nov, 2009, will focus on this facilitator’s role, and how your PDT can flourish with you in this role. This month (October 2009) is Part 2 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION.

The definition of facilitate is “to make easy” or “ease a process”. What a facilitator does is plan, guide and manage a group event to ensure that the group’s objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation and full buy-in from everyone who is involved. To facilitate effectively, you must be objective and focus purely on the group process. The “group process” is the approach used to manage discussions, get the best from all members, and bring the event through to a successful conclusion. Your key responsibility as a facilitator is to create this group process and an environment in which it can flourish, and so help the group reach a successful decision, solution or conclusion.

A good facilitator understands that the bulk of his/her responsibility is to:
1) Design and plan the group process. (ELS T.O.M. in September 2009)
2) Guide and control the group process. (this month’s ELS T.O.M.)
3) Record and ‘action’ the outcomes, actions and questions. (ELS T.O.M. in November 2009)

Guiding and Controlling the Event
With the agenda and group process in place, it’s time to think about how you'll guide and control the proceedings. To guide and control the meeting, you will need to:

  • Set the ground rules – What rules should participants follow in the meeting? How will people interact? How will you ensure that people respect each others ideas? How will questions be handled? As facilitator, you will have prepared some ground rules in advance, and propose and seek agreement to and/or agree to modify these at the start of the event. If you are comfortable with her/his leadership at this point, your PDT Chairperson can handle this.
  • Set the scene – Here, you’ll run through the objectives and agenda. Make sure everyone understands their role, and what the group is seeking to achieve.
  • Get things flowing – Be certain that everyone introduces themselves, or perhaps use appropriate icebreakers to get the meeting off to a positive start.
  • Keep up the momentum and energy – You might need to intervene as the proceedings and energy levels proceed. Make sure people remain focused and interested. Research has shown that your meeting should probably not last much beyond one hour. (If energy levels are beginning to droop, perhaps take a short break?)
  • Listen, engage and include – Even though, as facilitator, you’re taking a neutral stance, you need to stay alert, listen actively, and remain engaged & interested. This sets a good example for other participants, and also means you are always ready to intervene in facilitative ways. Is everyone engaged? If not, how can you bring them in? How can you get better participation?
  • Monitor checkpoints, and summarize – Keep in control of the agenda, tell people what they’ve achieved and what’s next; summarize often.
  • Intervene only if absolutely required.

To be an effective facilitator you must know when to take a leadership role, and when to be neutral and take a back seat. This is a difficult balance to maintain! The key to being proficient in the role is to plan and guide the proceedings effectively, and remain focused on the group process and outcomes, rather than specific content and opinions involved. Facilitation is an interesting, rewarding and important role to take on. When facilitating, take time to think about the process and agenda, and learn the skills you need to take the event through to a successful conclusion. Take pride in the role of facilitation, and enjoy watching the ideas, solutions and successful outcomes flow!

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Tip 11 – Record and ‘Action’ [Part 3 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION] (November 2009)

As your Program Development Team (PDT) is transitioning into an atmosphere of SHARED LEADERSHIP, your role is likely also transitioning. When your PDT began, you were most likely the unquestioned leader. Hopefully now, you are playing – or at least beginning to play – more of a facilitator’s role. The ELS T.O.M.’s for Sept–Nov, 2009, will focus on this facilitator’s role, and how your PDT can flourish with you in this role. This month (November 2009) is Part 3 of a 3-part series on FACILITATION.

The definition of facilitate is “to make easy” or “ease a process”. What a facilitator does is plan, guide and manage a group event to ensure that the group’s objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation and full buy-in from everyone who is involved.To facilitate effectively, you must be objective and focus purely on the group process. The “group process” is the approach used to manage discussions, get the best from all members, and bring the event through to a successful conclusion. Your key responsibility as a facilitator is to create this group process and an environment in which it can flourish, and so help the group reach a successful decision, solution or conclusion.

A good facilitator understands that the bulk of his/her responsibility is to:
1) Design and plan the group process. (ELS T.O.M. in September 2009)
2) Guide and control the group process. (ELS T.O.M. in October 2009)

3) Record and ‘action’ the outcomes, actions and questions. (this month’s ELS T.O.M.)

Record and Action
Last, but not least, among the responsibilities of a facilitator is the recording of outputs, and of bringing these together, sharing them, and making sure they are “actioned”.

The key to successful recording of outputs from an event is to be clear about what will be recorded, how and by whom. Make sure people's responsibilities are 100% clear, whether they are yours or others’ involved.

When you (or the designated PDT member) are recording and “actioning”, here are some things to remember:

  • Ensure all decisions and actions are recorded. You may want to use a scribe to do this, so that you can stay focused on the group and the process.
  • You are responsible for making sure the participants hear, see, and understand the information that is presented and offered. Make sure you keep an accurate record of what's going on.
  • Try to use words that the group chooses, and when in doubt, ask them to provide the words for you to record.
  • As you record decisions and actions, check with the group that the information you're recording is a fair and accurate reflection of what's been discussed.
  • Remind the group what has been discussed, and keep them focused and moving forward.
  • If in doubt, ask for clarification before the discussion moves on.
  • Make sure that responsibility for, and commitment to, action, is obtained and recorded when necessary.
  • After the event, follow up to ensure that outstanding actions and issues are progressed, and that the proceedings are brought to a successful conclusion.

To be an effective facilitator you must know when to take a leadership role, and when to be neutral and take a back seat. This is a difficult balance to maintain! The key to being proficient in the role is to plan and guide the proceedings effectively, and remain focused on the group process and outcomes, rather than specific content and opinions involved.Facilitation is an interesting, rewarding and important role to take on. When facilitating, take time to think about the process and agenda, and learn the skills you need to take the event through to a successful conclusion. Take pride in the role of facilitation, and enjoy watching the ideas, solutions and successful outcomes flow!

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Tip 12 – Keep Your Team Revitalized with Regular Rotation! (December 2009)

For your Program Development Team (PDT) to perform to its maximum potential there must be planned turnover and intentionally thoughtful recruitment of new members.

Successful teams feature members who understand the correlation between purpose and team make-up, and they understand the importance of fresh perspectives and the risks of closed groups. They revitalize themselves by being inclusive of a variety of experience and through continuous recruitment.

Research supports that regular rotation of a team’s composition can be beneficial. The following are some of the advantages:

  • The board has the possibility of working with active community members who can devote only a few years to service (3-year terms are the norm for a PDT).
  • Bringing a variety of backgrounds, outlooks, and experiences to the team is easier.
  • Passive, ineffective, or troublesome team members can be more easily rotated off.
  • If a committee structure is used, team members can experience a better rotation of committee assignments.
  • A regular infusion of fresh ideas and new perspectives is brought to the team.
  • The team gains an awareness of, and pays attention to, the changing group dynamics.
  • The end of a team member’s term represents a chance for both the member and the team to reassess the relationship. (Our ELS Guiding Principles do require a member to rotate off for a minimum of one year. However, keep in mind that a member may remain engaged in numerous ways while not officially being a PDT member. In fact, keeping retired team members involved is critical to enlarging the base of support for your Extension programming.)

Research also puts out the inherent dangers of NOT having term limits:

  • Stagnation if no change occurs among the team members
  • Perpetual concentration of power within a small group
  • Intimidation of the occasional new member
  • Tiredness, boredom, and loss of commitment by the team
  • Loss of connection to the constituency due to a change in demographics or environmental factors (a very real possibility of some of our rapidly transitioning Georgia counties).
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