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The change management cycle

Sometimes we can plan for change, somethings change is thrust upon us, our industry, and our community. The skill of extension officers is to recognise the change (wanted or unwanted) and support the farm businesses and industry in that change. By knowing the stages of change, then we can better understand the type of support our farmers need.

Over the past 20 years, there have been planned changes, such as the introduction of electronic ear tags in livestock, and unplanned changes such as the overnight cessation of live export from Northern Australia and/or fires. It is much easier to support the change when it is planned, but when it is unplanned, we still need to be aware of the process and adapt the tools we provide and the techniques and processes we use to support the change.

In agricultural extension, we are often handed projects where the first three steps have been designed or developed by funding agencies and various industry consultation processes. These processes provide us with an outcome (the desired future); based on some analysis (using various modelling tools), and an approach has been decided (our project deliverables). It is then up to us to deliver the extension activities to create the change on-farm. Often even the review and monitoring part of the program is done by the funding body.

Thus, it is really important when we design a change program – or we are given a change program to deliver – that we take the time to fully understand:

· What is the need for the change?

· How does that give us a ‘preferred future’ – what will it mean for our farmers and/or industry

· Do I understand the modelling and research that sits behind the program? How can I upskill in this if required?

· Will my planned extension activities meet the needs of the industry – and are they answering the key questions of the target audience?

· How can I build in review and monitoring activities throughout the program?

Change is not easy. Change is actually really hard. You know how hard it is – ever had to ask your teen about the latest apple update??? Or do you switch them off as ‘it’s too hard’!?

Change takes time. It takes understanding and a genuine commitment from everyone involved. Here are some tips to remember on your change journey:

· Know the culture of our target audience and how you can best support their adaptation towards the change.

· Actively and intentionally lead.

· Create or support their vision for change.

· Choose your change team wisely. I find that a mix of researchers, consultants and farmers passionate about the area of change is the best way to support change.

· Communicate carefully, clearly and strategically.

· Prepare for the unexpected.

· Make it fun and engaging.

For more information on how to support change in your business, organisation or industry, reach out to one of the AgInnovate team.

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