The Farm Executive for the 21st Century

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist


Have you ever wondered why some producers are more successful than others? Have you ever wanted a �page� from someone else�s management book? Here is your chance to look behind the scenes at what traits characterize a �successful� manager.

Over the past nine years, Texas A & M University has conducted a program called the Executive Program for Agricultural Producers. This is a week, or more, workshop where top producers from across the nation come for advanced training in all areas of business and production management. Dr. Danny Klinefeter, an Economist at Texas A & M University, has had the chance to study these participants and has come up with characteristics which he thinks describe the top producers among the people who attend this program. The following list came from an article he wrote in 1999 called The Farm Executive for the 21st Century. I think every dairy producer who plans on being in the business in the future should read and memorize this list. I think this will be the management primer for the 21st Century. The characteristics are:

1. There are four patterns that consistently emerge when you look at the most successful manager: 2. They are strategic thinkers. This means that they know what they want to accomplish and how to get there. They have a plan.

3. They are able to objectively and accurately assess strengths and weaknesses in people, including themselves. This is hard to do, especially if you are working with family members, but it still needs to be done.

4. They operate in a continuous improvement mode.

5. They look at things more from a systems than from a component perspective.

6. They are calculated risk takers and excellent risk managers.

7. They spend more time thinking about �what-if� scenarios and developing contingency plans.

8. They are more likely to seek input and expertise from outside the business. These people recognize that they are sometimes too close to the problem to see things clearly and will seek out people who they can talk to freely and get candid feedback (willing to accept feedback).

9. They see change and challenges as opportunities and don�t tend to view themselves as victims.

10. They see themselves more as the head coach than the boss. They tend to lead rather than drive people. Motivation of themselves and others is part of the job.

11. Their approach to management is more balanced between key performance areas.

12. They spend more time on monitoring and analyzing performance. He implied that analyzing records, such as those from DHIA, is the minimum. Difficulties occur because problems or opportunities are acted on too late. These managers change the system so that the same problems don�t keep recurring.

13. Their decisions are based more on reason and judgment and less on emotion. He does not mean that intuition is not important. Intuition is related to insight and inspiration, while emotion is a psychological reaction.

14. They are more creative and innovative in their approach to business. This means that the person is looking for new ideas and opportunities from any source, often from non-agricultural contexts, and then applies them to his/her situation.

15. Finally, they work harder at communication. They let people know what is expected of them, why they are doing it, and how they are doing. Communication is a two-way street and not all good ideas flow from the top down.

While the list looks formidable, these traits can be developed. We are thinking about starting a program here at USU to help farmers develop some of these skills. I hope you will see yourself as being able to succeed in the 21st Century. As a final comment, Dr. Klinefeter states that it is important to recognize that the time you should be most concerned about what changes need to be made is when things are going well. ©