|Le Clere, William|
Submitted to: Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/23/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: The Management Improvement Program (MIP), a process based on Organization Development principles and methods, was applied to an irrigated agricultural region in Arizona USA. The methodology aims to improve management and performance of the agricultural system through a structured interdisciplinary diagnosis, planning, and implementation process. The MIP is also a collaborative process and involves producers, researchers, resource and service providers, and policy makers in the identification of problems affecting an agricultural region and the development of solutions. The assumption is that coordinated actions by these stakeholders will lead to the development and/or adoption of management practices, technologies, and policies that are best suited to the particular agricultural system. The MIP originated from managed change processes that were initially developed through United States Agency for International Development funded programs and applied to irrigation projects overseas. Hence, the Arizona demonstration of the MIP was carried out primarily with the objective of testing the methodology in a U.S. setting and to refine the methodology. This study summarizes the lessons that were derived from the demonstration program relative to the MIP's management. While MIP applications are expected to vary significantly from one location to another as a function of the key issues addressed, the demonstration program learnings are broad and generally applicable to a wide range of settings. This information should be useful to research, government, and private organizations involved in agricultural technology and policy development efforts.
Technical Abstract: The Management Improvement Program (MIP), a process based on Organizational Development principles and methods, was applied to an irrigated agricultural system in Arizona. The MIP seeks to improve management and performance of the agricultural system through structured diagnosis, planning, and implementation activities with the participation of system stakeholders. An objective of the demonstration project was to generate recommendations for managing future MIP applications. Data obtained through formal interviews and informal conversations with individual participants, program review and feedback sessions, and records of meetings were used to analyze the demonstration project's management. The analysis revealed opportunities for strengthening the following aspects of the process: initial exploration, initial planning, participant on-boarding, formation of the process management team, development of the local control group, and project evaluation. A key difficulty in conductin an MIP is that issues affecting the agricultural system's performance are difficult to identify early in the process or may require long-term solutions. Consequently, a detailed action plan, the role of participants, and measures for evaluating impact are difficult to outline during the initial planning. Nevertheless, it is critical that the application be defined as concisely as possible, especially relative to scope and funding, while still allowing flexibility in the process to address a wider range of issues. This will require those responsible for managing the MIP to be technically proficient, experienced with team management techniques, sensitive to the local water management political environment, and willing to challenge stakeholders' understandings of issues.