Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Improving the Extension Program Planning Process?

Texas AgriLife Extension Service places a great deal of time and resources in conducting program planning conferences.  It is no doubt that program planning conferences is a critical component of Texas Agrilife Extension Service’s performance management system.  However, the program planning conference itself is only one component in a  series of related activities which includes the distribution of Program Planning documents that provides expectations for programming, Program Development Trainings and Workshops, Specialist Scheduling,  the Program Planning Conference, Plan review and feedback, Plan approval, coaching and feedback by District Extension Administrator and Regional Program Directors during the implementation of programs, and the Performance Appraisal.  The following graph illustrates Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s performance management system;
In today’s economic climate program planning must be focused on ensuring that Extension is efficiently allocating resources that results in the following;
  • Program excellence not just focused on approving a plan on the TeXas System.
  • Committed to developing better programs that result in measurable outcomes.
  • More efficient utilization of District Extension Administrator, Regional Program Directors and Agents time.
One of the methods that will be utilized to increase the efficiency of the program planning conference will be utilizing Lync to conduct the program planning conference.   We will utilize this distance educational communication tool to add value to pre- program  planning conference activities (distribution of program planning materials, program development trainings or workshops, specialist scheduling, etc.) by employing video conferencing capabilities that is collaborative, engaging, and cost effective.

Microsoft Lync can provide the following benefits for Extension;
  • Control costs – District Extension Administrator, Regional Program Directors and agents can effectively communicate among geographically dispersed County and District offices without long distance charges. Integrated audio, video, and Web conferencing will reduce travel costs, as well as the cost of third-party teleconferencing fees.
  • Improve productivity- Applications available with Lync assists District Extension Administrator, Regional Program Directors and Agents communicate within a more productive format. Instead of e-mailing documents back and forth for approval, Middle Managers and Agents can rely on real-time collaboration through desktop applications such as sharing plans and reports on the TeXas System, power point presentations, Word documents and utilization of  a virtual whiteboard.
  • Gain operational efficiencies -By integrating Lync  in program planing and conferencing  delays can be reduced or eliminated. For geographically dispersed county and district offices, group chat can enable efficient, topic-specific, multi-party discussions saving time and money.
  • Enables Extension to be more responsive to clientele- By reducing the number of face to face meetings that require travel time for Agents allowing them to be in the county to respond to clientele needs and conduct educational programming.
Whenever any change is implemented some are reluctant and have questions related to the change. The following are some questions that have been posed related to the use of distance education in program planning conferences;

Question- Will Lync be utilized for conferences with all agents?
Answer- All agents may be involved with a Lync conference, but agents who need additional assistance will be required to attended a face to face program planning session.  The District Extension Administrator and Regional Program Directors will identify those agents who need to participate in a scheduled face to face session which include agents who are not prepared for their Lync session, new agents, agents who have plans that do not contain required elements, agents who have performance issues, etc.

Question- What happens if the system does not work the day the Lync session is scheduled?
Answer-This system has proven to be very reliable, however it is always advisable to have backup plans in the event a technical problem arises.  However, this is really no different than if an agent or middle manager has car trouble on their way to a meeting– we need to have a backup plan to accommodate unexpected situations!

Question- Will this diminish the effectiveness of the program planning conference?
Answer- No! The program planning conference is only one component of the performance management system and if we conduct quality program development trainings or workshops and conduct an effective program planning conference via Lync our program planning should be even more effective.  It should be emphasized that Lync provides face to face interaction, capacity to share documents, provides opportunity to utilize power point presentations and many of the same elements that have been utilized in the past during conferences except middle managers and agents are saving time due to reduce travel and reduced down time for agents who have traditionally had to wait for their individual conference. 

Question-Will Lync be utilized for other conferences and meetings?
Answer- Yes!! Middle managers and Agents will utilize Lync for planning meetings, mid-year reviews, cluster meetings, involving specialists in program area committee meetings, collaboration of development of educational materials, etc.

It is expected that District 11 agents be recognized as visionary leaders who embrace change and aggressively implement new management processes. As Texas Agrilife Extension incorporates Lync in our management processes the most important element that will influence the success of this process in our District is our mindset and attitude. 

Your Outlook Calendar 
As we continue to explore the many new effective tools associated with our migration to the Microsoft Exchange Outlook system I wanted to encourage you to use your Outlook calendar. Your calendar is inter-graded into your email account and to the Lync system.  When you are invited to a meeting via email or to a online meeting through Lync you will be asked to accept or decline the invitation. If you accept the invitation the system will automatically add the meeting to your Outlook calendar. You will be getting many emails in the future from me and others with invitations to meetings etc. It would be beneficial if you would use your calendar to keep track of important dates and deadlines. We are also in the process of initiating a District 11 Extension Calendar and a District 11 4-H calendar that will be shared with each one of you and your support staff.  You will be able to view the calendar from your Outlook email account and will have the availability to post county events to the District calenders. There will be much more to come on the use of your calender in the future. I have used an electronic calendar for the past two years and have become accustomed to the calender very quickly. There is also much value in sharing your calendar with your support staff, once your calendar is shared with support staff they can add appointments and reminders to your professional calender and you can also do the same. I understand that not all of you have mobile devices that will incorporate your calendar to your device, however you still have the option to print your updated calendar. 

D-11 4-H NEWS
District 11 will be hosting an invitational Hippology Contest at the Fayette Co Extension Office (LaGrange, TX) on Saturday, August 13, 2011.  This contest is being offered as a fun, friendly opportunity for youth with an interest in horses to test their knowledge and skills of the horse industry.  Many of the competitions will be participating in Hippology for the first time so don’t hesitate to come and learn more about this FUN contest!  Thanks to JD Folbre, Kara Matheney, Tina Kallus (volunteer from Fayette Co) and the Fayette Co staff for working together to make this possible.  For more information, rules, and registration deadlines, visit the link on the District 11 4-H website at http://d114-h.tamu.edu.

District 4-H Photos Available
More photo galleries have been added to the District 11 4-H website:
·         2011 Junior Leader Lab (thanks to photographer Scott Willey)
·         2011 Leadership Lab
·         2011 Texas 4-H Roundup – District 11 Photos (these are candid shots, professional photos can be found on the Texas 4-H website)

All these photos and more from other events can be found by clicking on ‘D11 4-H Photo Galleries’ on the right hand menu of the District 11 4-H homepage (http://d114-h.tamu.edu/)

 Please feel free to download any of the photos for your own use, newsletters, publications, etc.  Please share the link with 4-H families in your county too!

WANTED:  Photos from the District Horse Show!  If you or any of your 4-H families have photos from the District Horse Show, please let me know…I would like a copy!

Texas 4-H Volunteer Conference

We are excited about the upcoming first ever Texas 4-H Volunteer Conference to be held in San Antonio on July 29-31, 2011.  There are over 250 volunteer registered statewide.  District 11 will be represented by 15 volunteers, 1 agent, and 1 workshop presenter. 

Volunteers registered from District 11 include: 
ARANSAS – Elizabeth Beebe & Ada Owens,  AUSTIN – Monica Eskew,  BEE – Candace Kovar, COLORADO – Katie Kunz & Barbara Weishuhn, DEWITT – Monica Carson, FAYETTE – Carlette Drabek, Jennifer Miksch, & Jennifer Zapalac, KARNES – Corina Venable,  NUECES – Linda Johnson, VICTORIA – Henry Wood & Karen Wood, WHARTON – Stacie Williamson.

Shamaine St Julien and Jodi McManus will also be attending.

Please make sure to thank these volunteers for taking the time to learn more about supporting the 4-H program and see if they can share information at an upcoming Club Manager or 4-H Volunteer training in your county.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Customer Satisfaction- Required for Some Counties

Customer satisfaction is the degree to which there is match between the customer’s expectations of the product and the actual performance of the product. Expectations are formed based on information consumers receive from promotions, family, friends, opinion leaders, research, and past experience with the product.
Customer satisfaction is an important measure of the ability of an organization to successfully meet the needs of its customer. It also helps demonstrate an organization’s worth and effectiveness to its stakeholders which is critical in maintaining their support.

The concept of customer satisfaction is easily transferred to Extension programming – with the product being an “educational program.” To assure continued relations with our clientele in the future, we need to ask basic questions:
  • How satisfied are they with the product they receive?
  • Are we meeting their expectations?
  • What are we doing right? Wrong?
  • How can we improve to keep their support?
  • Did the product help them make a decision about their own situation?
The customer satisfaction program within Texas AgriLife Extension Service is designed to address these basic questions to help ensure the agency continues to provide timely, relevant, and effective educational programs to the citizen of Texas.

It is also a state-mandated performance measure for our agency. Counties need to give attention and care to this data collection effort as its critical to our agency’s continued existence and programmatic success.
Organizational Development has designed two sets of scan forms (standard and with client change) that counties can choose from to meet their customer satisfaction reporting requirement
Counties required to participate in customer satisfaction reporting for FY 10-11 are listed below:

District 11

What a Required County Must Do to Comply
  1. Each agent within a required county must use any version of a standard or customer satisfaction with outcomes scan form (click here to download forms http://od.tamu.edu/evaluation/scan-forms/download-forms/customer-satisfaction-scan-forms/)  for at least two program events within the fiscal year (September 1 – August 31).
  2. Submit the scan forms from step 1 and a completed cover sheet to Organizational Development for processing (click here for mailing instructions http://od.tamu.edu/evaluation/scan-forms/sending-your-forms/). Also, to ensure agents meet the outcome summary reporting deadline (typically in early December) they should not sit on their completed forms; send them in ASAP as processing volume around the deadline is heavy and takes longer than usual.
  3. Steps 1 and 2 must be done by each agent within a required county for each fiscal year (FY10 & FY11)
 Failure to comply with  performance measures, such as customer satisfaction, can severely impact appropriated funding. Compliance with this performance measure should be treated as a significant part of Agents professional obligations.

Excellent Drought Resources available from the EDEN Network

A severe drought continues  to have a grip the Coastal Bend of Texas and is forcing ranchers to liquidate their herds, farmers to fear for their crops and municipalities to restrict residential water use. Texas AgriLife Extension Service has developed and compiled some  very useful drought materials that has been posted on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). These resources can be viewed by clicking on the following link: http://texashelp.tamu.edu/004-natural/droughts.php

The Basics of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law on February 5, 1993, and became effective on August 5, 1993.  Since its inception, County Extension Agents have had questions regarding this federal law.  FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable leave for certain family and medical reasons.

FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job protection and continuation of benefits coverage while on leave due to certain family and medical emergencies. Employees are eligible for FMLA if they have completed 12 months of state service (does not have to be continuous) and have worked more than 1250 hours within the past 12 months.

State employees are required to use all available paid leave before using unpaid leave. FMLA coverage runs at the same time as paid and unpaid leave used for the FMLA-qualifying event.
FMLA qualifying events includes;
  • Birth of a child.
  • Placement in employee’s home of a child for adoption or state-certified foster care.
  • Employee’s serious health condition (illness, injury or pregnancy)
  • To care for employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.
If an employee is using leave due to the birth of child, adoption of a child younger than 3 years of age, or placement for foster care of a child younger than 3 years of age and the employee is not eligible for FMLA than Parental Leave coverage is used.  Parental Leave provides up to 12 weeks of job protection only.

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 (NDAA), Pub. L. 110-181. Among other things, section 585 of the NDAA amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to permit a “spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin” to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a “member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness.”  The NDAA also permits an employee to take FMLA leave for “any qualifying exigency (as the Secretary [of Labor] shall, by regulation, determine) arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the Armed Forces in support of a contingency operation.”

For more information regarding the Family Medical Leave Act contact Human Resources or refer to the System Regulation, 31.03.05 Family and Medical Leave at http://policies.tamu.edu/31-03-05.pdf

District 11 Personnel News:

Sarah Womble, County Extension Agent FCS in Victoria County will assume her new duties as the District 10 4-H Specialist starting September 1st. Please join me in congratulating Sarah on her new appointment. We have had the great fortune to have had Sarah in District 11 for many years and I know she will do a great job providing leadership to the District 10 4-H program. On behalf of the District I would like to thank her for her service to our District and to the Victoria County Extension program.

Julie Ketelson, County Extension Agent FCS in Washington County will be resigning her position effective July 29th, Julie will be moving to New Mexico, to pursue her advanced degree. Join me in wishing Julie much luck in her future endeavors, and thanking her for her service to the Washington County Extension program and our District. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Establishing goals and objectives at the county level

Establishing goals and objectives at the county level is an important and ongoing role of every effective County Extension agent. One of the processes utilized by Texas AgriLife  Extension Service is  strategic planning. John Campbell (1995) described strategic planning as the “…hallmark of progressive organizations. It deliberately and methodically addresses missions, goals, emerging needs and opportunities as it determines institutional priorities” (p. 194). Campbell emphasized that “an important prerequisite to strategic planning is strategic thinking, the process of consensually acknowledging, articulating, and achieving vision of future values and institutional missions” (p.194).

As a result of strategic planning County Extension Agents along with their Leadership Advisory Boards can establish clear and concise goals and objectives for educational programming efforts. Boone, Safrit and Jones (2002) reported that “ the goals/objectives of the organization and the desired impact they define have their origin in the contemporary needs of its current and emerging public's and constitute the framework within which all decisions and actions about the organization’s program must be linked” (p. 101).
John Campbell (1995) in discussing leadership requirements for the Extension component of the land-grant University system stated the following:

•    Leading involves vision and effectiveness.
•    Leadership is about prioritizing, innovating and initiating.
•    Leadership is about creativity, adaptivity, and agility.

Leadership looks at horizons and the long-term big picture, not merely day-to-day activities and the bottom line. As County Extension Agents you provide leadership to County educational programs in the future it is essential that you, as Campbell described, look at the horizon and the big picture, not just focusing on the day-to-day activities.  In order to establish a vision for the future it is imperative that we utilize a systematic strategic planning strategy in order to validate the issues that Extension programs are addressing through Extension educational programming.

In last weeks email from Dr. Smith, our new marching orders are in place in form of our 2011 Issue Identification Summary‒the results of local issue forums and online surveys that recently involved more than 10,000 people representing every Texas county. Thanks to the District 11 County Leadership Advisory Boards and all of you who carried out this important effort.

Locally identified and prioritized issues give direction to all of us in AgriLife Extension. In my opinion this is what keeps up relevant, as we are still just one of the few agencies that are grass root driven. They guide our agency’s strategic plan and the development of our programs, curricula, and resources, as well as our planning with partners and stakeholders.

Now we’re challenged to address these critical issues while adjusting to reduced financial and human resources. In reference to Dr. Smith's email form last week, if you have any questions or concerns to the current budget and staffing situation, status of Partial Cost Recovery Initiative, and how we are staying the course, please do not hesitate to give me a call.

I want to commend you for staying the course during a very busy spring and summer. As we move toward these next 6 month period I can only be more positive in the out look of Extension in Texas and District 11. It is up to us to keep Extension programs strong and relevant in District 11 for the benefit of our valued customers.

Boone, E.J., Safrit, R.D. & Jones, J. (2002). Developing programs in adult education: A conceptual programming model. (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.

County Programs Vision 2011, Dr. Darrell Dromgoole,  Texas AgriLife Extension Service

I recently discovered a Internet application, http://www.dropbox.com/features, suggested by another DEA , that would help to sync files form my desk top computer to any other of my devices in order  to have access to them when needed either on the road or at home.  This is a free service up to 2 GB, for me that's a lot, since I delete files after I have placed them on my drop box not needing it any more. Files that I put on my dropbox are assessable on my home commuter, notebook and even my blackberry. I also like the feature that is works as another drive on my computer, all I have to do is drop files into the drive, its is very simple use.
Most useful item on my phone is that I can upload pictures to my drop box and the pictures are there to use when I get to any of my computers. I don't have to upload them using any cord or sync process.  You can even share your files , pictures, videos etc.. with others very easily if you want.

Recently there are many other Cloud computing applications to use such as on Amazon Cloud, ICloud, etc. I just thought this was useful enough to share with you as many of you work form different work stations as it is becoming more frequent for County Extension Agents.  I am pleased that may of you have taken advantage of the our new LYNC program and some of you have created ANIMOTO videos to share with your stakeholders the videos shared only add value to our programming, keep up the great work, DM