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KSRE Tuesday Letter

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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

March 3, 2020


Submitted by Trudy Rice on behalf of the PLC Team

Almost half a century ago, the American psychologist, Bruce Tuckman, published a theory of team evolution. His theory stated a team had to proceed through a certain sequence of stages, including forming, storming, and norming, in order to reach the desirable outcome of performing.

In the fall of 2018, a new K-State Research and Extension team was formed as Program Leader Coordinators. The role of the team would be to coordinate the programming efforts of KSRE at the state, regional, and local level. Members of the team include Robin Reid, Gayle Price, Wade Weber, Trudy Rice, Laurie Chandler, and Julie Riniker. We each fulfill a different role based on our strengths, but we work as a team to accomplish our mission.

Before retirement, Dr. Paula Peters was our leader, and soon we will have a new leader with the arrival of Dr. Rick Peterson in June! During this transition, the PLC team has successfully worked through each of Tuckman’s stages, and we believe that we have hit the performing stage! Following is an explanation of each stage - Forming- Team members gather together with positive attitudes and a polite respect for one another. Some may be anxious for clarity and more guidance while others are impatient to begin.

As our leader, Paula played a dominant role at this stage because our responsibilities and outcomes were yet to be determined. We needed a vision, and Paula provided that for us. This vision included being able to report program impact from our work across the state and move our system to work together on issues important to the people of Kansas. However, as a team, we all had a different idea on how this might play out. Some of us were really excited about potential changes and ready to move while others had more questions and “but ifs” about our vision.

Storming- This stage is about moving forward with the vision and testing boundaries as a team. For some team members, this can be stressful while they figure out the processes and develop a working dynamic with their colleagues.

Our team definitely struggled during this phase as we debated if we were really performing the duties, as described in the position announcements, or if the duties had morphed into something bigger. We had concerns related to balancing the new role as a PLC with our ongoing Specialists' responsibilities, and since this was a new model for KSRE and Cooperative Extension across the nation, it was a challenge to remain optimistic.

Norming- By the time this stage is reached, team members are beginning to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues' strengths, and respect their leader’s authority.

During a trip to Washington D.C. to visit our elected officials, NIFA, and the Agriculture Research Center, it became clearer how we might implement programs to reach our vision. As a team, we began to appreciate the unique strengths of each member and form ideas on how to utilize those talents in order to effectively work together smarter rather than harder. It was during this stage, the idea of Signature Programs developed. If we could make this work, we would have the impact data to report so that we could have answered many of the questions that were asked of us on this trip. Our norming stage has culminated in every PFT having at least one Signature Program, and agents across the state have adopted at least one to implement.

Performing- Reaching the final stage of this model means team members are working hard without friction to achieve the team goal, and it feels easy to be part of the team.

Today, our PLC Team is definitely at the performing stage, and the success of our efforts will be determined by the productivity of three newly-formed Transdiciplinary Teams. The focus of these teams was a culmination of ideas gathered from KSRE participants at the last Extension Annual Conference. Through their input, three issues surfaced as common ground for Kansans: Local Food Systems, Rural Stress, and Succession Planning. These issues are all hard topics to talk about and can create conflict within the family and community.

Our organization’s presence in every county, knowledge of community resources, established partnerships and relationships at multiple levels, and access and support of the university helps position KSRE to lead efforts to address these issues. Thus, we have asked for KSRE professionals from the local, regional, and state level to join one of the three teams to help us reach our vision of working together to address the issues identified. These teams first met in January, and in April they will come together in a face-to-face training on the eXtension Impact Collaborative. Participation in the teams is as follows:

Local Food Systems-approximately 22 members with co-leaders JoEllyn Argabright, Tom Buller and Londa Nwadike

Rural Stress-approximately 28 members with co-leaders Rebecca McFarland, John Forshee, and Rachel Clews

Succession Planning-Farm, Business, and Civic-approximately 15 members with co-leaders Cade Rensink, Nadine Sigle, and Robin Eubank-Callis

Thank you, to all of you who have stepped up to the plate and volunteered to join one of these teams without really understanding what you were volunteering for or what the vision might be. You are innovators and the future depends on you!

The KSRE PLC team stands ready and waiting to support these new KSRE transdisciplinary teams as they go through the stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing. Together, we are wiser than any one of us is as an individual. It is important we all do our best to assist the people of Kansas as they deal with these challenging issues of Food Systems, Rural Stress, and Succession Planning at the state, regional, and local level.