Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for the ‘Extension and Adoption’ Category

Attracting farmers to events

2013-08-19 15.41.37A common topic of discussion in many workshops, and a concern of researchers, farming groups, RDE corporations and others  – How do we get farmers along to events?

Research carried out by Rod Strachan looking at farmer personality types found that rural industries attract people with a preference for Introversion. (Beef 62%; Cropping 58%; and Intensive Industries 63%) when compared with the Australian sample (55%). Rod goes on to say “The challenge facing rural extension is that persons expressing a preference for Introversion are not attracted to attending meetings. Moreover, if they do they may have difficulty becoming involved in the absence of a skilled facilitator.”

I have incorporated the Myers Briggs Type Indicator into many workshops with farmers and consultants over the years and asked the  following two questions “How can we attract and engage Introverts in events?” and “How does your personality type like to have  new information presented?”

Today I will share with you some of the thoughts of the many introverts who have attended these workshops to attempt to provide some insight into the first question.

  • Group size is important – Introverts have reported they prefer either a small group (under 12) where they feel comfortable to contribute or a large groups where they can hide in the crowd.
  • Introverts dislike being singled out without warning – if you are presenting  and would like a comment from an introvert – give them prior warning.
  • In small groups, make sure everyone speaks in the first 20 -30 minutes, Introverts are more likely to continue to contribute if they have spoken in a safe environment.
  • A direct invitation from someone they know encourages them to attend, particularly if they are able to attend with that person.
  • Many introverts have told me they hate bus trips. They would rather follow in their own vehicle for some time out and ability to leave when they like. Bus trips can create a “trapped feeling”.
  • Introverts like one-on-one time with advisers or a few trusted significant others in preference to large group activities.
  • Time for private reflection after an activity, to think about how it fits in with their system, and then follow up support to implement was important.
  • Allow time at field days for the Introverts to talk one-on-one with the speakers. Instead of rushing from one trial plot to the next allow a break between speakers for discussion and contemplation.
  • Introverts like to know what is expect when they arrive at the event – clear expectations and agenda.

I would love to hear some comments and experiences from farmers and advisers about how they attract and engage farmers in events. Please post some thoughts in the comments.

Some findings from the second question “How does your personality type like to have new information presented?” will be in a future blog.

Rod Strachen, Myers Briggs Type Indicator Preferences by Industry and Implications for extension. Published in “Shaping Change – Natural Resource Management and the Role of Extension.” (2011) edited by Dr Jess Jennings, Dr Roger Packham and Dr Dedee Woodside, (APEN)

Top tips for running training workshops & facilitated groups

2013-04-04 16.21.18Thanks to the GRDC Extension, Adoption Training and Support Group for their top tips on how to run effective training workshops and facilitated groups. The group met in Canberra last week where we reviewed farmer decision making, personality types, extension, adoption and evaluation.

The top tips are not prioritised – they were developed during a facilitated brainstorming exercise.

Training workshops

  1. Plan the event early
  2. Clear training packages and outcomes
  3. Topical and relevant dealing with current issues
  4. Accommodate different learning styles
  5. Evaluate the process
  6. Follow up after the workshop – ensure learning put into practice
  7. Interactive sessions – not all chalk and talk
  8. Recognise the knowledge in the room and draw this into the discussion
  9. Good presenters / facilitators
  10. Introduce the agenda and stick to it
  11. Practicality,think about – Relative advantage, trialabilty, observabilty, simplicity, compatibility
  12. Good take home resources
  13. Logical progression throughout the workshop
  14. Venue that works

Facilitated groups

  1. Establish the ground rules in an inclusive way
  2. Establish the group – take the time to do this properly and build ownership in the process
  3. Good facilitation skills to engage participants – ownership on driving the agenda of the group
  4. Good process and skill
  5. Group has purpose and expectations
  6. Understand the desired overview and stick to it
  7. Include everyone
  8. Stick to agreed timeframes
  9. Manage  the group and individuals energy
  10. Review and reflect effectively
  11. Evaluate
  12. Good planning
  13. Use a range of methods to accommodate learning styles

The challenge of change

Working through change can be challenging – this includes changing a practice and/or taking on a new technologies with new skills. A framework I am finding useful is the stages of attitudinal change.

This simple model is highlighted in the photo in this blog.

When think about a new technology we are initially Ignorant of it, next we become Aware, followed by Intent to do something about it. We then reach a critical point where a decision is made to step over the line and Perform or not. Finally we maintain – continue to use or reject the technology.

The key to this model for me is how we present information at each stage of the model.

Ignorance – At ignorance people are not aware; we need to capture their attention. This is not a time to bombard them with fact sheets and information, these will most likely end up in the bin. We need to be thinking about the emotional hooks, what can we do to create attention to create the awareness.

Awareness – This becomes a time for information and fact sheets. However provide people with what they REALLY need to know, not every piece of information you have on the topic. Keep the information succinct, easy to follow and neatly packaged. Provide links to more information so the data hungry person can research themselves.

Intent – At this stage the thinking will be “how will this work for me?” , “How would I integrate this into my current system?” Provide coaching to assist with the decision making process so the ownership lies with the decision maker rather than the facilitator or coach.

Perform – Once the decision to take on the change has been made people move  to the “doing”. Support through mentoring is an ideal way to ensure the new skill is maintained. Further information and research may be required and the change may need to be “tweaked” to fit in with current systems or thinking.

Maintain – It is now necessary to evaluate the change, and modify or reject if required. In this fast paced world evaluation is a step that is often overlooked, a coaching or mentoring approach works well here. Further support to maintain the change may also be required.

This framework has been modified from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transtheoretical_model by Bruce Howie whom I co- facilitated with in his workshop “How to drive adoption of technology.”

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The Pioneers get the arrows – the Settlers get the land

Guest Blog by  Bill Long 

Do you feel like no one is listening to you sometimes?

Understanding personality types will improve your understanding of the way people gather and process information and ultimately make decisions.

Understanding basic human behaviour and factors that influence decision making processes helps us assist the farm businesses we support to achieve their goals more effectively. There are many reasons why people choose to operate farms, some far more powerful than money. While advisors tend to deliver lots of data and information in order to persuade growers to think about a change in practice, intuitive decision making processes are preferred by farmers and are fed by a range of factors including formative years and adult learning experiences, family values, beliefs, emotions, gender, genetics and needs during the various stages of life we go through.

This article discusses just one of these factors – personality type and its influence on farmer (and human) decision-making process.

Creating frameworks to describe human behavioural patterns can be a useful way to anticipate individuals’ responses to situations. Understanding personality ‘types’ can help our understanding of likely behaviour and assist us in understanding our own and others’ abilities and preferences to perform tasks. Once some of these behavioural patterns are understood, we can tailor our approach to supplying and using information with individuals.

Strachan (2011), reports on one of the few attempts in Australia to define the rural culture using the Myers Briggs type indicator. The data source of this study came from 3000 farm managers and employees working in six major agricultural industries across Australia over a 15 year period.

The profiles of people working across a range of agricultural industries were compared with the Australian standard sample.

Table 1. Distribution of “temperaments” in selected rural industries. Strachan (2011)

SJ SP NT NF
Beef 57% 25% 13% 5%
Cropping 52% 25% 17% 6%
Intensive 57% 22% 15% 5%
Australian sample 42% 13% 26% 18%

The” SJ” temperament (52%) describes a culture that is less likely to adopt new ideas and will resist change. Decision makers within “SJ” temperament need to be convinced of the need to change. As a group, “SJ” adults tend to define themselves by their experience and they have a deeper investment in its value. Unless there is a clear and desperate need to change, “SJ” types prefer to stick to set procedures, established routines and historic precedents to guide them and prefer practical, concrete problems rather than theoretical or abstract concepts involved in adoption of new ideas. The ideas need to be complete, packaged well, have the relative advantage for change clearly evident, need to be compatible with current practices and thinking (not too way there), simple to adopt with a short term return on investment obvious. They are the most risk adverse type.

The “SP” types (25%)are impatient with abstraction and theories, often have a “do it now and fix the details later” approach to problems and take a flexible and adaptable approach to organising their time. They don’t mind taking risks and like the “SJ’s” like concrete problems and prefer guidelines and take a step by step approach to problem solving and learning.

The “NT” (17%) type strengths include problem solving and understanding complex systems. They enjoy pioneering almost anything and like to start new projects and may have trouble sustaining interest after the design phase. They value logic and knowledge. Intuitive (N) types are more likely to tackle new ideas –they are willing to “have a try” at new technology without having the fine detail “packaged “for them. Often the detail simply isn’t there. This may not be the most successful approach to long term business success as the “cost” of new learning in farming can be extremely high. Being the “first” to try new technology often results in mistakes being made along the journey resulting in crop damage and lower yields.  This type is the obvious type to approach to try the latest technology.

The “NF” (6%) types value authenticity, integrity and harmony – may see their life as one long search for meaning. They are great participatory decision makers – focussing on the people in the organisation. They have energy and enthusiasm for the things they believe in and can have a tendency to ignore problems in the hope they will go away. These types could be approached to organise group events and collaboration on new ideas. They engage well with others.

Although these frameworks tend to categorise individuals as having certain behavioural traits, it is important to recognise that these traits or types are really ‘preferences’ to type. It does not mean that individuals can’t behave differently. By creating awareness of one’s preference to automatically react or behave in a particular way, we can train ourselves to deliver and respond in a different manner if desirable.

Recognising that we don’t all think the same way is the first important step in delivery of information. Just because we might like information presented one way, that doesn’t mean others have the same preference. We can modify our message delivery techniques to include all personality types and get our message across more quickly and effectively.

With approximately 80% of the farming population being “S” types, it is of little surprise that new and innovative technology that might excite an “N” type may take a while to be adopted.   Think about the way your information is packaged and presented. And after that is done, consider some of the personal reasons (values, beliefs etc.) that might influence decision making process.

Now they’ll listen!

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