Tomorrow I finish up all first and second round performance reviews. I know I have fewer performance reviews to prepare and conduct than many people. It's a ton of work and at least for me this year, a bit confusing to maneuver both Davis and Oakland systems for both staff and academics. But it's important. It is also a great chance to talk with each person about how things are going, their goals and barriers to achieving the goals. In my last administrative position I had >80 direct reports so I am far from complaining about the present situation. In fact, I find it motivating to sit with high performers and talk about the accomplishments of the past year plus the plans for the upcoming year. But still, I'm glad the number is far fewer than 80 and that the formal discussions have wrapped up. On to other adventures…
One of those adventures is the development of Public Value Statements for UC ANR. This is related to Goal 5. Preparations are underway for next week's workshop with the statewide program and institute directors and the strategic initiative leaders to develop said Public Value Statements. When I first heard of Public Value Statements I was skeptical that there was a real purpose for them. However, I found that the statements are useful in describing our work to others; sort of an elevator pitch. In addition, they frame a number of diverse programs with varying stakeholders and audiences around a common outcome. Consensus may be a bit of a challenge when we are working across the breadth of programs in UC ANR but I think this workshop will be insightful.
I try to listen to 2 TED talks each week; just something I started to do a few years ago as a means of being exposed to new things and ideas. I've heard a few TED interviews with Elon Musk (Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX) and recently came across an article where he says “If you're not progressing, you're regressing; so, keep moving forward”.I see the Public Value Statements and Goal 5 in that light; it may not be perfect the first time out but we need to move forward in order to avoid falling completely behind.You'll be seeing more about the product of that workshop in the near future from me, the statewide program and institute directors, and the strategic initiative leaders. If you run into any of them following the workshop, be sure to ask for an update. We will also share updates at the webinar and information sessions announced earlier this week.
If anyone were to look at what has been checked off of this week's ‘to do' list they would be unimpressed to say the least. But it has been time well spent. Yesterday I spent a few hours with a strategic planning group for the Strategic Communications team. I learned that we have a Brand Promise. I will share the elements of that in an upcoming post. I showed up for the last few hours of a 2-day retreat and it was apparent the group had worked quite hard to develop the ideas they reported out. I definitely have a number of ideas to pursue.
Today I attended a field day at the Sierra Foothills REC. The day was full of information and great speakers. Attendees (60+) included Chico State students, consultants, agency representatives, land stewards, landowners and ranchers. The field stop speakers talked about how diversity of the oak woodland contributes to its resiliency towards climate change, the economic and ecosystem implications of medusahead, and the use of grass compost in building soil health highlighting partnerships with UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Lawrence Berkeley Lab. Nikolai was a great van driver and tour guide as we made our way through the periodic rain.
The reason I say that taking the time to attend these meetings and events was time well spent is because I'm always trying to learn new things, not just in my discipline area but on the fringe of it. Doing so has helped me stay primed to change direction or retool my skills as needs and opportunities change. So while I may not use the information right away, I will keep it in my head for the future.
Last week I welcomed Natalie Price. Unfortunately, UC ANR said goodbye to Luca Frerichs who worked out of the Davis office in government affairs. Those who witnessed Lucas in action are not at all surprised that he was recruited for his dream job with The Nature Conservancy. While it's a loss for UC ANR, it's a great opportunity for Lucas. Congratulations Lucas!
Tomorrow the state wide program leaders and strategic initiative leaders have a phone call to prepare for a 2-day meeting in May regarding Goal 5. One of the dates for the regional information sessions that are associated with Goal 5 just changed due to another event that same day but I believe we should have the dates and locations finalized very soon (did I say that before?).
Now back to the ‘to do' list.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. attending the APLU meeting with several people for UC ANR and the UC campuses as well as the UC ANR CARET representatives. I have to say, photo ops with politicians is not my thing but it was really fun to spend some time with UC ANR's impressive CARET representatives and hear what our work means to them. Equally exciting was to see Clare Gupta, Lorrene Ritchie and Gabe Youtsey talk about their work. Lorrene and I were paired together a fair bit throughout the day and a half of hill visits so I was able to see firsthand her exceptional ability to connect with staffers; she was amazing! I've already nominated her to participate again next year! Not only did I learn a lot just observing her in action, but I was able to hear Lorrene talk about NPI's work around the state and the impact it has for communities and families. This week I met Dani Lee for the first time, one of the newest members of NPI. Hopefully I will get over to meet the rest of the team soon.
You can imagine that after spending that time in D.C. talking about UC ANR efforts, how disappointing it was to return only to learn of the proposed ‘skinny budget' which proposes a 21% reduction to USDA funding. This certainly illustrates the importance of highlighting the impact of our work on food security, community vitality, natural resource protection and youth development every day, not just for 1+ day in early March. That's the purpose of Goal 15 in the strategic plan – help people understand the positive impacts we have and not be the best kept secret. Now more than ever we need to constantly communicate our impacts in a way that people can relate to even if they aren't directly tied to our programs. And, I believe, the more we can aggregate our impacts across programs to some common indicator that many, many people can relate to the better off we will be. This will be part of the conversation when we hold regional information sessions this summer to share plans for executing the strategic plan, particularly goal 5. Dates and locations are still in planning phase but I will keep you posted and I am sure something will come out in the ANR Update. In addition, there's some work planned with statewide program and institute directors plus the strategic initiative leaders for mid-May to get that conversation started. Just like I learned a ton of new things during my travels the past couple of weeks, I look forward to learning from this group of directors/leaders.
For now though, I need to get back to catching up on some things, including a couple of manuscript reviews I forgot I had promised to complete last week. Not to mention my Crucial Conversations training reading assignment that I had planned to complete by now….
A few posts ago I mentioned that I had been thinking about the relationship between strategic initiatives, statewide programs, program teams and work groups. The reason for thinking about this stems from all sorts of comments and questions I have heard about the topic since arriving at UC ANR. Here's where I am at in my thoughts on the subject; I'd love to hear what others think.
Strategic Initiatives (SI) are issue based with clear desired outcomes identified by each SI. It's possible that there is overlap in some of the desired outcomes between different SI. The issue tackled by each SI is relevant to a broad audience of group of stakeholders. I see these functioning at a high altitude, say 30,000 feet, for example.
Statewide Programs and Institutes (SP-I) are issue based (e.g. water, integrated pest management or nutrition policy) or targeted at a more specific audience but tackling multiple issues (e.g. Master Gardeners, youth development or 4-H). The SP-I strive to affect change that contributes to outcomes that may reside within one or more SI. It is unlikely that a single SP-I has all outcomes within a single SI. These function at the 20,000 foot level.
Program Teams (PT) are much like SP-I in that they work on a narrower set of issues or serve a narrower set of clients than that addressed or served by SI. The scale of effort is likely different between PT and SP-I. Again these might function at the 20,000 foot level. Presumably there is not redundancy between SP-I and PT or if there is, I would have to wonder why that is the case and what value PT and SP-I see in having both present.
Work groups (WG) are small and even more specific in their effort and audience served. I see these as working at the level of a specific activity or event and likely fluid in membership as events and activities arise and sunset. Having a means to communicate and work together is absolutely necessary to accomplish events and activities and certainly such activities contribute to behavioral changes that affect outcomes. But I have to think that outcomes may best be assessed and reported at the PT or SP-I level. A WG is a subset of PT or SP-I and any given WG may work together routinely as a result of a common audience.
So that's what I have come to understand. I welcome other thoughts on the topic particularly because I am trying to determine how best to gather aggregated outcome data and behavioral change data. It seems to me that the PT or SP-I is the place to do this because, again, I would see the WG as being a fluid group of people that form around a specific activity or event. The sum of events, activities, educational opportunities is what affects change more so than any one of those actions on its own. This isn't to say that individual actions and reports aren't important but rather to recognize that the sum of the parts is greater than an individual piece and as we seek to bring benefit to everyone across the state, there's value in lumping rather than splitting our impacts and outcomes.
I do want to thank Delta Airlines for providing me with an extended period of time to put these thoughts to paper. While I remain optimistic I will see Sacramento tonight, I think I had better go stake out some floor space, just in case.
I had a conversation with someone this morning about how we tend to get so busy that we don't even get a chance to ‘look up'. The conversation reminded me of one I had last week with a colleague who sent me a photo of an orchard in bloom with a comment that even though they knew I would be driving by that same view on my way to Fresno, I would be so focused on the road or my train of thought that I would completely miss the opportunity presented by a beautiful drive through the valley. This afternoon the same opportunity presented itself – so this time I took advantage of it and preserved the view.
The fact that this topic has come up twice in the span of a week has me wondering how often I (and, likely, we) miss opportunities that might actually result in something more efficient, more impactful than whatever is compelling us to keep our head down. Are we so busy we completely pass by opportunities that might find us time or capacity? I recall a discussion with a group of educators in Michigan that were hesitant to submit a grant proposal that would propel their program to a new level. Their hesitancy was that they didn't have time to do the work yet the grant offered a funding mechanism to hire a program coordinator thus increasing their capacity to focus on content and their other programs. The intent of the proposal wasn't to increase their workload but to reduce their stress and focus their contributions on their content expertise. As soon as they had a chance to really look up at the opportunity, submitting the proposal became obvious.
When I recall the situation, I realize how important it is to take that step back and look at how I use my time and make sure I leave space for new ideas, approaches, and partnerships that ultimately allow me to be more effective and efficient. Finding that space isn't easy, especially when it seems that the calendar runs me. As a result, today I took a minute to stop along the way without deviating from the planned route.
Tonight I am staying in ‘The Raisin Capitol of the World' – not exactly a long-awaited dream, but I have nothing to complain about. Tomorrow it is off to visit Kearney and West Side RECs – also part of my planned route for reaching my goal of better understanding all of UC ANR so that I can best identify mechanisms to give us all a chance to look up.