William H. Brown
Many changes are under way at the LSU AgCenter. These changes are for the most part internal and involve some rearranging of personnel and reallocation of resources. But we see them as having profound, positive and long-term effects on you, our clientele.
The essence of our changes is a closer working relationship between our research and extension functions. Our administrators now have joint appointments that will help them better coordinate programs and projects. Most of the campus-based extension specialists now are housed in their respective subject-matter departments, which provides a stronger science basis for extension programs and helps to focus research programs on the most critical needs of the state.
Another major change that may be more visible off campus is the reorganization of our field offices. We now are operating out of eight regional offices supervised by regional directors. These regional directors will coordinate the two functions of the LSU AgCenter with a clear focus on the needs at the local levels.
Along with any change there can be hesitation and uncertainty. It will take several months to transition to the new budget, reporting and evaluation procedures. In fact, it may take several years to fully institutionalize all of the changes and to realize their full benefits. However, they are moves in the right direction.
One way to view these changes is to use the analogy of a business model. In this hypothetical business model, the LSU AgCenter’s mission is simply to deliver solutions. We don’t have two separate missions but rather a single, integrated mission of visualizing and defining challenges, developing programs to overcome those challenges, and providing the solutions to our stakeholders who can put them into practice.
To continue the business analogy, the LSU AgCenter’s “CEO” (the chancellor) and “Executive Committee” (vice chancellors and associate and assistant vice chancellors) will provide overall strategic guidance. The research scientists and extension specialists in the campus-based units will provide “research, development and technical support” for the entire AgCenter. The AgCenter’s regions will provide research and technical support focused on the unique needs of the respective geographic areas. Finally, and perhaps most important, the parish offices are the AgCenter’s local presence and provide personal delivery of AgCenter services and solutions.
To use another business term, these changes will “flatten the organization” by pushing decisions to the lowest possible organizational level. For example, regional directors will administer all of the AgCenter’s assets (fiscal, physical and human) within their respective regions. They will be empowered to make decisions and recommendations to most effectively use the resources within their regions. Another important part of the flattening process is that personnel evaluations will be done by immediate supervisors who have a day-to-day knowledge of the responsibilities and expectations of the individuals they supervise.
Finally, flattening the organization by pushing decision making to the lowest practical level also pushes responsibility to the same level. All employees must continually strive to initiate activities that will ensure that the LSU AgCenter is successful as it delivers solutions. With everyone’s full cooperation and by maximizing the use of our scientific training and experience, the LSU AgCenter will continue to have a major impact on the future economic viability of Louisiana. (This article was published in the winter 2002 issue of
William H. Brown, Vice Chancellor, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article was published in the winter 2002 issue ofLouisiana Agriculture.)