Winter 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 4 // To The Point // 4TP1
Stating Our Values and Beliefs
Each state should have a current statement of its values, beliefs, and goals-a statement that explains what it stands for, what it believes in, and what it intends to accomplish. ...we think the most important thing we can do at the administrative level is to try to model the behaviors we know are so important and to reward individual faculty as we see him or her following suit.
It's time for the Cooperative Extension System to update and openly state its long-held values to reflect contemporary circumstances and add new concepts to reflect the economic and social realities of the new era of the '90s. Each state should have a current statement of its values, beliefs, and goals-a statement that explains what it stands for, what it believes in, and what it intends to accomplish. This statement should be understandable, brief, and incorporated into all aspects of the organization and at all levels. Every single individual that represents the organization in any way-including volunteers- should be aware of the statement and know what it means relative to their actions.
The present environment is volatile and dynamic. The only certainties seem to be increasing change and decreasing resources. If Extension is to react quickly to changes in the marketplace and take advantage of opportunities while they exist, at least three conditions must prevail: a flexible organizational structure, an arsenal of strategies to choose from, and a work force that can assume the initiative and automatically act- without having to stop and think-to enhance organizational success. Though all three are important, it's the last one we're concerned with here. We must close the gap between principles and practice; our people must instinctively know what's appropriate and what's not-and that's where values come in.
What we stand for as an organization-what our people believe in-is crucial to our success. Any control we have is philosophical and conceptual. It's our ideas about ourselves and others and the environment we exist in that make us believe and behave as we do. These are the common understandings that align the director's office with that in the county and the county office with the people.
The continuing decline in resources is all the more reason for us to be clear about who we are. When we eliminate programs- as we must-and become more efficient and effective with those we keep, we must know what's relevant in the overall scheme of things. We must know what's essential and what we can safely let go. We must be very clear in our thoughts and consistent in our actions and be able to articulate our rationale to the constituencies we serve. This is especially important if they're to understand and support us-as they must if we're to survive.
The Maryland CES has adopted as its guiding philosophy the values, beliefs, and goals described in Figure 1. It's not something we defined and then put aside. Every statement has implications for action. For example, What does it mean to say: "We respect the diversity of the people we serve and that of ourselves..."? We think it means having a diverse work force (ethnic group, sex, age), but that it goes beyond that to seeking diversity in perspectives, to honestly inviting and rewarding differing points of view. We think it goes beyond targeting our programs to people's many informational needs to attending to their diverse learning styles. We think it means getting to know people who are different-spending time with them, truly listening to them, and sharing ourselves. And, we could go on with implications of all the other statements.
How can such a document be effectively used? Our plans aren't complete, as yet, but we'll share where we are:
- Each current faculty member has received a copy.
- The director of CES used it as a basis for his "state-of-the -union" address at the 1991 Annual Conference. He went through it, paragraph by paragraph, and explained something about why each was important from his viewpoint-and invited faculty to do the same from theirs.
- The first sentence in the statement has been used to develop specific indicators for judging plans of work on the basis of relevance, quality, and utility. The same three criteria have been used in developing two end-of-meeting evaluation forms-one for client programs and one internally for faculty to judge CES inservice educational programs.
- It's being used in local and state meetings. For example, in a recent session on meeting needs of diverse audiences, the statement was used for challenging comments of some program personnel about what our commitments are and should be.
- Exercises are being developed for new faculty orientation to ensure they understand and internalize what we stand for as an organization.
- The statement has been framed and displayed in all Extension offices.
- Faculty have been encouraged to use the statement in ways they see as appropriate and to share these with others.
Our Values, Beliefs, Goals statement is new. We know that having this spelled out is important internally for our faculty, staff, and volunteers, and externally for our clientele. We know that efficiency and effectiveness is increased when we can automatically act in beneficial ways for our clients and for the organization and we believe client support is more likely when this occurs. We believe Paul Klee's observation that "becoming is superior to being" and see ourselves in a "state of becoming" relative to the use of our values, beliefs, and goals document. At the present time, though, we think the most important thing we can do at the administrative level is to try to model the behaviors we know are so important and to reward individual faculty as we see him or her following suit.
1. "Values," "inner wisdom," and other such terms are part of the "new paradigm" of business, according to recent issues of Fortune and Harvard Business Review (HBR). The January 14, 1991, Fortune (pp. 30-62) included the concept as "one of the most fascinating ideas of 1991," and HBRs September-October 1991 issue (pp. 132-44) featured the Chairman and CEO of Levi Strauss, Robert Strauss, explaining how "values make the company."
Figure 1. Maryland CES guiding philosophy.
Values, Beliefs, Goals
We believe our programs should be judged on their relevance, their quality, and their utility.
We believe the focus of our programs should be determined by societal needs, that program content should be based on research, and that the delivery process should be based on sound educational theory conditioned by the capabilities and motivations of our targeted audiences.
We respect the diversity of the people we serve and that of ourselves-the faculty and staff of CES. At the same time, we believe both similarities and differences in our programs and in our employees determine our ability to respond in an effective manner-similarities increase our depth and strength and differences increase our breadth and humanity.
We are committed to the welfare of our fellow workers, our communities, our state, and the nation and the world. We believe in the local and global interdependence of these entities and see it as our duty to work toward the enhancement of the environment in which they exist.
We believe MCES is a dynamic organization and that as such, change is inevitable and necessary for its continuing renewal and survival. At the same time, we see it as our duty to constantly attend to the basic building blocks of its foundation-its employees, its resources, its knowledge base, its history, and its philosophy-to provide the security and ability essential for grounding in the midst of change.
These statements reflect the philosophy which guides our actions as we respond to the relevant issues of today and anticipate those relevant in the future for the diverse audiences we serve.
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Maryland System