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Identifying change management triggers

Pamela I’Anson1, Patrick Page2, James Fisher3 and Linda Leonard4

1Department of Agriculture Western Australia, Lot 12 York Road, Northam 6401 Email
Department of Agriculture Western Australia, 10 Doney Street, Narrogin 6312 Email
Department of Agriculture Western Australia, Lot 12 York Road, Northam 6401Email
Department of Agriculture Western Australia, Lot 12 York Road, Northam 6401Email


The Grain and Graze Avon project is attempting to identify change management triggers. The project is using focus groups to initiate a pilot study to extend findings to farmer groups in the Avon River Basin. The project aims to provide mixed farming systems with new whole-farm knowledge, tools and capacity to adopt management changes that will increase production of crops, pastures and animals while maintaining, or enhancing, biodiversity and catchment resources. Overall the project aims to address the issues concerning drivers and desires that influence change, and building confidence within landholders so that they make changes to the management of the system and/or adopt specific technologies.

One focus of the project is ‘annual farm management’ - the timing of farm activities; the time spent doing various tasks and the time available for non-work activities. By studying the balance of demands on the farm manager’s time and focussing on how decisions are made, the project hopes to achieve repeatable, good decision-making by farmers. The ultimate aim is to enhance farm business outcomes, as well as the time available for family and community, to help to make farm businesses and rural communities more sustainable.

Three key issues: (1) Can efficiencies of management time be made?; (2) Can profitability and social outcomes be improved simultaneously?; and (3) Can profitability be improved through management efficiency.


Self-efficacy, desire, ability, beliefs, farm management, motivation, decision making


The purpose of this paper is to explore possible triggers for change. The interest is in the theory behind beliefs and desires and how action will not be executed without the thinking or knowing (belief) and the wanting or needing (desire). The information in this paper is primarily from the literature review stage of the Grain and Graze project, although initial findings from three producer focus groups are also provided.

This will provide an opportunity to examine the three key issues in this project, i.e. whether:

  • efficiencies of management time are to be made;
  • profitability and social outcomes can be improved simultaneously; and
  • profitability can be improved through management efficiency.

The Grain and Graze Avon project will use focus groups in an initial a pilot study, and then extend the findings to farmer groups in the Avon River Basin. The project aims to provide mixed farming systems with new whole-farm knowledge, tools and capacity to adopt management changes that will increase production of crops, pastures and animals while maintaining, or enhancing, biodiversity and catchment resources. Overall, the project aims to address the issues concerning drivers and desires that influence change, and build confidence within landholders so that they make changes to the management of the system and/or adopt specific technologies.

There is a revolution happening in today’s society. Change in knowledge and technology is occurring at an extraordinarily accelerated pace and impacting rural communities. This transformation brings with it the challenge for people to effectively shape their future. The assumption is that people are proactive in shaping their lives and social structures.


This paper will:

  • Provide a review of literature on ‘Desire and its relationship to decision making’.
  • Explain the process used by producers to determine how they spend their time.
  • Reveal some initial finding from the Grain and Graze Avon project.


A review has been carried out on the psychological aspects that form the basis for decision-making and, thus, impact on the enterprise from an economic, social and/or environmental perspective. The review investigated two key areas, self-efficacy and desire, and the relationship between each. Methods of identifying the levels of self-efficacy and desire, leading to decisions by managers, will be assessed to find triggers for change.

People strive to have control over the decisions that will lead to a quality of life they aspire to achieve. Thus we need to be able to exert influence in spheres in which we command control; we need to be in a position to achieve our desired futures and prevent undesired ones. People guide their lives by their beliefs of personal efficacy or self-efficacy.

Albert Bandura (1997) has dominated the development and testing of self-efficacy. He has focussed on perceived self-efficacy, which he defines as a “belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the course of action required to attain a goal”. This definition provides an opportunity to look at how self-efficacy can be used as a trigger to getting improved efficiencies of management, or, more specifically, as a trigger to improve farm management.

Kear (2000) proposed six key areas to address in order to maximise an individual’s sense of self-efficacy:

1. Knowledge is the key

2. Challenge assumptions

3. Individuals need to do something

4. See how other people do things

5. Plan and prepare

6. Individuals need to use their brain and mind effectively.

Supporting these areas, Woolfolk (1995) referred to two basic concepts of ability:

1. Entity view of ability – the belief that ability is a fixed characteristic that cannot be changed;

2. Incremental view of ability – the belief that ability is a set of skills that can be changed.

The second concept of ability focuses on the tangible belief that ability is a set of skills that can be changed. The Grain and Graze Avon project hopes to gauge the ‘incremental view of ability’ of participating farmers and identify where they perceive their farm management capabilities sit on a continuum. These capabilities function across numerous dimensions, with decisions being made at all levels, and may include:

  • strategic direction
  • goal setting
  • analytic thinking
  • problem solving
  • marketing
  • financial
  • human resources
  • supervision of individuals/family members
  • scheduling activities
  • time management

Self-efficacy can have an influence over motivation. Bandura (1986, 1993) suggests that one source of motivation is thoughts and predictions about possible outcomes of behaviour – ‘Will this system be successful or not?’ ‘Will my next-door neighbour laugh at my endeavours? These future consequences are based on previous experiences, observing others and our personal beliefs of our competence in certain situations. Clearly, it is our beliefs in our actions, leading to success or failure, which will be influenced by our self-efficacy. Self-efficacy can also have an influence over motivation through goal setting by determining the goals we will attempt to reach and endure.

Woolfolk (1995) provides information about building a concept of motivation to learn: beliefs about ability (Figure 1). She states that ‘motivation to learn is encouraged when the sources of motivation are intrinsic, the goals are personally challenging and the individual is focused on the task, has a mastery orientation, attributes successes and failures to controllable causes and believes ability can be improved’.


Optimum Characteristics of Motivation to Learn


Characteristics that diminish Motivation to Learn

Source of Motivation


Intrinsic: Personal factors such as needs


Extrinsic: Environmental factors such as rewards, social pressure, punishment

Type of goal set


Learning Goal: Personal satisfaction in meeting challenges and improving; tendency to choose moderately difficult and challenging goals


Performance goal: desire for approval of performance in others’ eyes; tendency to choose very easy or very difficult goals

Type of involvement


Task-involved: concerned with mastering the task


Ego-Involved: concerned with self in others’ eyes

Achievement motivation


Motivation to achieve: mastery orientation


Motivation to avoid failure: prone to anxiety

Likely attributions


Successes and failures attributed to controllable effort and ability


Successes and failures attributed to uncontrollable causes

Beliefs about Ability


Incremental view: Belief that ability is improvable through hard work and added knowledge and skills


Entity view: Belief that ability is a stable, uncontrollable trait

Figure 1 Concept of motivation to learn (after Woolfolk 1995)

The result is that decision making involves two types of judgements:

  • Single judgments in inert non-taxing conditions.
  • Multiple decisions made from a diverse range of information coming from ongoing activities in very short timelines and with variety of evaluative consequences.

The second area, desire, has been identified as a trigger for decision making. Schick discusses ‘people’s actions issuing from their beliefs and desires’, and that ‘to explain what someone did we need to know only what he believed and what he wanted.’ That is, together, a belief and desire provides the reason as to why a person will do what he does (Schick 1991).

Schick (1991) further illustrates this through the identification of ‘principles of desire’:

  • A person’s intent - what they want to do and then do, though only where the desire is effective (where it leads the person to act).
  • The intent of an action - the aspect under which the person views it.
  • The intent on which a person acts – are of the former sort: to act on some intention, one has is to act on the desire defining that intent.

Schick discusses thinking, and how thinking is accompanied by action and how sometimes it is not. In addition, he refers to a comment by Aristotle that ‘notes that this question is similar to one we might ask about pure speculation, speculation about what things are like. In that we draw a new belief from some others we have that is, we do this where we conclude. Why do we sometimes conclude a reasoning and sometimes come to no conclusion. He suggests that this has to do with the pattern of the reasoning involved. It has to do with whether the reasoning reflects a proper argument form, the logic of speculative-argument forms being worked out in this theory of the syllogism’ (Schick 1991).

Every practical reasoning has two types of premises - certain beliefs; and certain related desires. These two premises are referred to as major and minor:

1. Major or general principle presents bottom-line desire of the people.

  • What he wants + what he believes entails nothing else than what he wants = his wanting is not bottom-line for him

2. Minor or particular principle is a way of getting something he wants

  • Minor premises connects that more ‘general’ premise, which reports his wanting to act in some manner with particularity of one option he has as he himself understands it.
  • Intuitive reason concerns the most particular and contingent and specific

Therefore, thinking makes for action, where the thinking is of a certain sort and connects with the person’s desires. Further, people take a certain action where they believe it is open and acting this way is required for something else when he wants that other thing. A person’s reasons always have two sorts of components - beliefs and desires. Schick (1991) refers again to Aristotle who describes belief as thinking or knowing and desire as wanting or needing or as what should be done.

Beliefs + Desires = ACTION

In this research farmer groups are used. Timms and Clark (2002) identified some basic assumptions about groups. Groups are the building blocks, based on the dependence for themselves and the helplessness without them. As well, people need a purpose to be achieving something that makes sense. Working collectively or as individuals to solve problems is what matters to them, and it is at this point that human beings work best.

Management time

In the first instance the project will work with three farmer focus groups and investigate the types of farm management decisions concentrating on time management. A specific set of management time categories were identified and mapped against the physical activities undertaken by producers. The intent is to look at the relationship between the physical activity and the thinking activity. Key decisions made each week were documented and the categories reviewed following active input from the producers.

One of the main driving forces behind decision making since the 1950s has been economics, but this may be less of a driver today. The project will strive to identify the factors that are replacing economics and what are the drivers.


As the project has only been underway for a short period of time, there are no conclusive results to date. In the first six weeks, the management time segmentations were developed and refined, as follows:

  • finance
  • human resources
  • information systems
  • marketing
  • production
  • purchasing
  • research and development
  • leadership and management
  • industry development
  • futuring
  • work-home interface

Concurrent with clarifying the management time segmentation, decisions were made on how the data would be collected. This led to two of the farmer groups using electronic devices (personal digital assistants - PDAs), which were supplied. Additional data were collected to gauge whether using electronic devices influenced change through motivation. The other group gathered information on a manual diary system; the management time segmentations being the same for both systems. Since the commencement of the project, 160 weeks worth of key decisions has been recorded.

Management style is personality driven, and a variety of personality types were evident within each group. Identifying the ‘appropriate’ style of management has been, and will continue to be, a key challenge for researchers. The project hopes to capture two aspects of decision-making - what the person is physically doing and what the person is thinking. The project will follow this through to explain how the farmers improve their management practice and how they will bring corporate principles into farming. The study hopes to show how decision-makers could gravitate toward making more time for management, and the processes they use to optimise their management skills.

Groups 1 and 2 involved 30 producers using PDAs to gather the data from the categorised segments. Both groups met to analyse the data collected at the end of the week, and the results were discussed with group members and the coordinator. The three key data sets are:

  • Physical action;
  • Management thinking, (both in time and motion); and
  • Key decisions made.

During these sessions, members were able to share information and formulate ideas to increase their management thinking. For example, an issue arose regarding labour. Two farmers thought differently about labour management decisions – one did not believe he spent time thinking about labour, as he had no staff, but was thinking of hiring a casual. The other recorded time for managing labour as a component of his program, showing desire. In discussion, the two were able to make an effective decision about hiring one person to meet their employment needs. Interestingly, these two farmers are neighbours. Schick’s (1991) point about people’s actions emerging from beliefs and desire are supported, and once the farmer believed that he actually did spend time thinking about labour and that he did need staff, it was a simple process to act. This further validates what Woolfolk (1995) revealed in her concept of motivation to learn, the belief about individual’s ability to act.

The above example demonstrates the effectiveness of group collaboration in enabling better understanding of different management styles and better joint defining of individual beliefs to improve their management style. The group developed trust, enabling these sorts of discussions to occur, which in turn led to decisions. In a group situation, the participants may find that they have commonality (management decisions are similar) and enhance one another’s beliefs in their ability to organise and execute action. These two groups provide good examples of effective groups by:

  • dealing with complex issues;
  • determining their own needs and providing feedback to the coordinator
  • developing their own skills and knowledge
  • maximising rate of learning in farm management and other areas
  • enabling innovation
  • providing opportunities for networking

Group 3 involved 12 producers gathering data manually in a diary. The coordinator worked with them individually, every day for three days to answer questions, categorise information. and discuss ideas and issues, before talking to the whole group. The coordinator also discussed the information to be recorded, how and why. He went through this with each participant each night and the group debriefed after three days to discuss ideas gained and the process used.

The detailed time diary was a ‘first-pass’ at getting information about the split between non-working time and information on decision-making. Information about their work habits were recorded and aspects they might like to change were identified.

All three of these groups were undertaking the data collection at a time generally understood to be one of the busiest in the cropping calendar, harvest. The intent was for this process to run with numerous groups over 12 months to gain an indication of what the yearly management calendar might look like.

From the data gathered to date, trends and patterns of decision-making have revealed that farmers make financial decisions while involved in operational tasks, such a driving the ute or tractor, not while in the office. The relationship of extension, therefore, in achieving changed practice, will be to provide options delivered at times when the farmers will make their decisions. In order for this to occur, there needs to be a much better understanding of the behaviour involved in management decisions.


This research arose through questions raised by farmer representatives in the Grain and Graze Avon project. The extensive literature review on ‘belief and desire’ for change provided a useful theoretical basis for discussion of an approach to the project, and for design of a research project with farmer groups. Because the project has only recently commenced, inadequate data are available to provide early suggestions for future improvements to farm management. Thus the research is still exploring potential improvements in demands on farm manager’s time. However, the labour hire example outlined above provides evidence that when there is a joint belief and desire, action will follow.

If extension’s role is to promote change in management practice, then identifying the appropriate options in making those changes is the key to future change for the industry. Further data will be gathered through a forum to be held in the first half of 2006. This forum will further explore the change management triggers for farm management and show evidence relating to the three key issues of whether: efficiencies of management time are to be made; profitability and social outcomes can be improved simultaneously; and profitability can be improved through management efficiency.


Bandura A (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. W.H. Freeman and Company, USA.

Kear M (2000). Concept Analysis of Self-Efficacy. Graduate Research Nursing. Accessed January 2006.

Mant A (1997). Intelligent Leadership. Allen & Unwin. Sydney.

Rogers EM. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations 4th Edition. The Free Press, NY.

Schick F (1991). Understanding Action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Timms J and Clark R (2002). Continuous Improvement and Innovation – Focussed action for impact and performance. Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Woolfolk AE (1995). Educational Psychology 6th Edition. Allyn and Bacon, USA.

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