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Like many other rapidly developing economies, South Africa looks to MSMEs to jumpstart a long and durable economic growth. The sector provides many budding and existing entrepreneurs, workers, webs of suppliers and distribution chains with the dynamism, challenges and economic opportunities. However, to release its full economic potentials, the sector requires the delivery of otherwise available but still inaccessible managerial, marketing, technical, financial, information, and institutional support services. One potent approach that can move these much needed managerial and technical assistance to the entrepreneurs’ doorsteps is industrial extension. Industrial extension fields industrial extension officers (or simply, IEOs) who are trained to perform such roles as: stimulants (they create or strengthen the need for and sustenance of change), catalysts (they introduce positive changes to MSME clients), and linkers (they provide diversified services without necessarily having all the expertise needed). Essentially, they act as a go-between the MSME clients and the support gateways including development banks, R&D institutes, universities, Teknicons, chamber of commerce, and from among the MSMEs themselves. Being facilitators and resource linkers, they foster effective two-way communication between the teeming entrepreneurs and the few support services. Likewise being gobetweens, the IEOs trigger a host of learning processes that eventually benefit both the sector and the support institutions.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK?
Industrial extension has its origin in agriculture. While their agriculture counterparts got fewer and fewer over time, their numbers increased in industry. Technically, IEOs have been in South Africa for sometime. They chance on the MSMEs while doing their regular jobs either as representatives of LBSCs, teknicons, financial institutions, DTI, universities and colleges, machinery suppliers, legal firms, chartered accountants, export and trade promotion bodies, etc. They brandish varying titles such as; sales engineers, accountants, business consultants or counsellors, business experts, business doctors, industrial diagnosticians, business analysts, business technicians, business helpers, business mentors, business coaches, business or management trainers, etc. to name a few. Indeed, they’re not really some new kids on the block! However much unlike many of them, the real IEOs eventually become the entrepreneurs’ comrades in arm. Real friends and companions. They go beyond their jobs. They held industrial extension as a profession, an avocation, a missionary zeal, and a life long commitment.
This is now out-dated and part of a big book on Industrial Extension Tools published in South Africa by NTSIKA of the Department of Trade and Industry, SMEDAN’s counterpart institution. The processes presented here are still useful and applicable. It was written when internet was just starting to influence the job of the IEO. You are welcome to adapt the principles to the current tools (including internet, e.g., netbooks, skype, Facebook, websites, YouTube, Powerpoint, databases, etc.) available to you as one of the “modern” extension officers in Nigeria.
At the end of the day, the IEOs helps the MSMEs to help themselves. They help by actually reaching out to MSMEs—by knocking at their doors. They assist them to explore their business ―pains‖ and to resolve their inherent difficulties. They clarify conflicting issues and help them discover alternative ways of managing themselves and their situations. In doing so, the MSMEs can better decide what course of action (or behaviour) is useful for them. And since the MSMEs own both the problem and the solution, IEOs do not assist nor direct. They help but not take control. They support but not take action. In fact, they motivate the clients to take action. They consider the clients’ uniqueness and capacity to do what’s best for their own recovery, development and empowerment as the most important concern in rendering the service. Indeed, they work through and with, rather than for their clients. They help MSMEs develop a new sense of competent autonomy, as they confront together a rapidly changing and increasingly becoming turbulent world of business.
The MSME entrepreneurs (and their families) are individuals who are uniquely struggling to respond to the various factors and influences that affect their business performance. Despite the rich personal, educational, experience, tribal, and regional diversity, however, they share a number of important characteristics: They are much more than just entrepreneurs. They may be parents, village chiefs, religious leaders, metalworkers, furniture makers, healers, petty traders, etc. In these diverse roles, they participate in complex local religious, social, cultural and economic patterns and are subject to a wide range of demands besides running their own MSMEs. They are usually skilled and experienced. Despite their relatively low education base, they are experts in their own enterprises and their markets. They use whatever rudimentary technologies (e.g., cabinet-making, flower decor, casting, etc.) they have mustered over time. In the face of change, they are in transition between the traditional and the newer business practices. They are seldom aware of new technology and managerial developments. They have economic concerns. They participate in or are influenced by local and even national development concerns. But they seldom have the time to discuss these concerns with their co-entrepreneurs. Likewise, they also do not have anyone to discuss and examine these concerns in their own usually self-contained enterprises. For example, the decision to use or not use credit or even its sourcing beyond the local moneylenders in their townships can become agonizing and painful choices. They learn to survive on their own. Over time, they learn that carrying out the tradition is a way of life. Gradually, they lose the ability to contend with the new problems brought by accelerated change; particularly in technology. They experience a feeling of impotence amid rapid change. A few might express openness and
adaptability. But the majority, like their counterparts in agriculture, is really ambivalent to change.
REACH THEM BEFORE THEY FAIL!
Many of the clients’ problems stem from the lack of managerial competence. Complaints such as: non-competitiveness in quality and price, poor growth prospects, inadequate sales, tight working capital, burdensome debt, excessive fixed assets, over expansion, poor work habits, and mounting receivables are but a few of the more popular symptoms of managerial incompetence. Managerial incompetence generally results when the enterprise outgrew their entrepreneurs’ capacity to manage. When the entrepreneurs’ fail to transform themselves into owner-managers. When the enterprise starters fail to become the enterprise sustainers. Many studies on MSME failures worldwide blame managerial incompetence as the root cause. For example, all the most frequently mentioned causes of MSME failures shown below can be directly attributed to managerial incompetence. 1. Poor visioning and planning habits. Many entrepreneurs blame others (or external factors) than themselves (or their personal inadequacy) for their current problems. This shifts the opportunity to learn into situations beyond the entrepreneur’s control. Moreover, this demotivates the MSMEs’ to plan as factors seemed to be beyond their control anyway. Over time, vision becomes blurred. They react more and more to everyday events and less and less on a long term vision. They miss the chance to map out the future and lay out all the building blocks to realize it. 2. Desire for instant gratification. The unwillingness to sacrifice today’s time and money for tomorrow’s gain. Genuine entrepreneurship discourages the easy and fast money attitude, normally observed among gamblers. Those who wish to start their enterprise with borrowed capital and without any experience on the venture will soon find themselves indebted and in even worse position than when they began. 3. Poor recording practice. Studies reveal that 9 out of 10 MSMEs who fail have inadequate records and cost analysis for control purposes. Poor records lead to insufficient basis for pricing and cost control. It also lead many MSMEs to amass cumulative losses, caused frequently by a series of insignificant financial leaks that could have been detected early if they had suitable cost reporting systems. Moreover, it can expand the MSMEs rapidly beyond what their actual resources can bear. Entrepreneurs should be taught how to keep and record their accounts properly. And as their business grows a full (or even, part)-time bookkeeper should be hired. 4. Lack of product development. Most MSMEs who fail tended to retain outmoded or obsolete product lines. When they did change to a more up-to-date one, it was usually after every competitor in the market had done so. Hence, they were continually chasing the market instead of leading it. Over time customers realize that they did not offer the latest products, and began switching to others. Moreover, many MSMEs fail to diversify their markets. They end up selling their goods to a mere handful of customers. Some MSMEs who concentrate on big buyers may also end up as losers if these buyers fold-up. 5. Lack of customer-orientation. Many MSMEs fail to realize the fact that the customer is the reason for their continuing existence. However, many MSMEs lacked information about their customers. For example, one common practice among MSMEs is delivering goods to customers without sufficient credit investigation and
information. This often causes receivables to mount. Failure to respond to customers’ needs can eventually lead to business failure. Lack of customer orientation may also be a sign of poor communication skills; inability to present ideas, converse, listen, understand, negotiate, correspond, or listen very well. Many MSMEs fear objective criticism and refuse to seek them out. Hence, they miss the opportunity to turn these criticisms into challenges that can improve and strengthen their MSMEs. 6. Prolonged use of one-person management style. After starting their enterprises and eventually becoming owners, managers and also workers, entrepreneur must try to build an organization as their enterprise become more complex. Trying to do it alone, wearing too many hats and refusing to delegate responsibilities or to build an internal working team will not only overburden the entrepreneur but also cap the growth possibilities. Sooner or later, the load will crush them with no one to fault but themselves. Doing it alone also prevent the MSME from building webs of support networks among their key suppliers, financial sources, or other MSMEs. Moreover, trying to do it alone could lead to unnecessary physical and mental stress that could in turn seriously damage decision-making competence. 7. Lack of technical competence. Many entrepreneurs started their MSMEs without sufficient technical preparations. They decided to learn on-the-job. However as their enterprises grow, most entrepreneurs are swarmed with tasks that could eventually swept learning on-the-job away. This could spell the difference between success and failure. Learning the technical aspects of the enterprise is an unending process. There are always new developments (in materials, technical processes, formulations, machinery and equipment including jigs, tools and fixtures, as well as new ways of doing things) that can seriously affect the products and processes used in the MSMEs. Learning on-the-job however, does not mean that entrepreneurs should be master craftsperson before they could go into business. 8. Absentee management. There are many factors that could deflect the entrepreneurs’ attention away from managing their MSMEs. One entrepreneur, for example, had a long period of profitable operation. Then, he went through a number of months of absentee management. Another entrepreneur was persuaded by his neighbors to act as a spokesperson for the township. He liked the job, which made him absent from his MSME. Still another entrepreneur became the chapter president of a Rotary Club that physically threw him out of the enterprise. Their MSME operations and performance gradually deteriorated. Financial records were neglected, they failed to meet creditor obligations, and ultimately their MSMEs failed. 9. Internal conflicts. The main cause of failures in many partnership MSMEs is the internal conflicts between the partners. Partners who fight with each other, make
allegations about various kinds of scandalous misconduct, manipulate expense accounts, and conduct secret negotiations for sales contracts are bound to destroy the MSMEs they manage. Another source of internal conflict is lack of balance in the entrepreneur’s life. Neglecting family members, friends, or activities that lend meaning to life could contribute to ineffectiveness and inefficiencies. A balance life enriches the horizons of the entrepreneur as an individual and contributes more in building one’s managerial competence. Overall, the economic costs of these MSME failures are high. But most of them can be avoided. The IEOs could be fielded in sufficient quantity to reach out and help the entrepreneurs deal with their growth pains. They can be trained to build trust, listen, understand, and communicate with the MSMEs nation-wide.
THE IEOs AND THEIR CLIENTS
In delivering their services to MSMEs, the IEOs usually meet three types of clients. The genuine clients belong to the first type. They realize that they are in a difficult situation that they wish to improve. They sincerely needed some guidance and directions and that they are committed to act on the possible improvements. The complainers are the second type. They know that they have problems, but they blame others (competitors, government, taxes, etc.) for them. They see themselves outside the problem and unable to do anything. Finally, the visitors type. They usually don't know that some problem do exist in their MSME or they just passively follow their bankers’ advice to meet with an IEO. To hit the genuine clients, IEOs must be able to probe their clients’ self-interests. Self interest is the basis for all that entrepreneurs do. The source of their motivation, whatever they may be, can be quite obscure to the IEOs servicing their needs. Entrepreneurs who seem to be strong, intelligent, financially secure, and aware of the need to be successful may still cling to their timeworn practices rather than opt for something new that they may perceive to be against their interests. Neither repeated contacts with an IEO nor weighty scientific evidence will change their minds. The entrepreneurs’ personal concerns – e.g., family, religion, desires for material possessions - are foremost in their minds. Hence, they should also be the IEOs’ main concerns. Understanding what the entrepreneurs value most in their endeavours is at the heart of the two-way communication process that all extension encounters have. Without it, the IEO cannot gauge the appropriateness of the changes they are introducing. Nor can they determine what extension or training methods are most suitable to their MSME clients. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the IEO will not be able to empathize or even communicate effectively with their clients. It takes hours and sweating in an MSME to learn about an entrepreneur's selfinterest and specific needs. It requires a lot of quality time and shared experience to eventually build a common vision. Generally, MSME clients are interested in the IEO services to satisfy their: 1. Psychological needs, i.e., reduce business uncertainty and confusion with priorities, minimize isolation, ―ego massage‖, confidence boosting, socialization, and reinforcement. 2. Information needs, i.e., source of professional updates, technical information, technology trends, new financial packages and other support services, databases and directories, legal requirements, management tricks and traps, among others.
3. Strategic needs, i.e., diagnosing, problem-solving, business planning, teambuilding, management development, crisis management. Even if the methods used to probe them are informal and less systematic, the IEOs should at least have a general feel of their clients’ special interests and needs as this will guide them through the conduct of the extension cycle.
THE INDUSTRIAL EXTENSION CYCLE
A typical industrial extension engagement follows a five-step communication and learning process for both the IEOs and their clients. In doing this process, the IEOs must always strike a balance between their tasks (to deliver the service) and their relationships with their clients. Tasks focus on the essence of extension and the relationship refers to the partnership in the learning process. Briefly, the process looks like this:
Step 1 - Exploring
The journey begins here. In this step, the IEOs will aim to develop friendly relationships and to explore the pains besetting their clients. 5. EVALUATING 2. UNDERSTANDING They should examine the landscape, gain familiarity with the territory, elicit information, listen, clarify, paraphrase, reinforce and try to reach a clear picture of the current situation, 4. PLANNING AND 3. LEARNING feed this back to the CHANGING clients and achieve reasonable agreements on what is really happening. Some basic questions (such as: Who is the real decision maker in the MSME? Why are the clients seeking extension services? Which problems will be handled first? What are the real issues – problems, not symptoms? What have been done?) must be answered. Then the IEOs will explain what can and cannot be done, share the burden of dealing with the problems, the possible timing, fees, and expected deliverables. In this step, the IEOs will emphasize building trust and developing genuine partnerships over the task of delivering extension services. They should give as much attention as possible, listen with non critical acceptance, help clients to order their thoughts, and establish genuineness. Only then can they move on.
Step 2 - Understanding
This step enables the IEOs to help their clients gain fresh angles and views on their problems. The problems can either be well-defined (i.e., cut operating costs by 30 percent, reduce the scrap rates from 20 to 3 percent) or ill-defined (i.e., use of plant diagnosis may be required). To achieve new understanding, they challenge their clients. They give direction, point out difficulties or weaknesses, share information, recognise latent inconsistencies, show their feelings and present their experiences. Essentially, they get their clients to think more clearly about what they are doing and
where are they going. In doing this step, IEOs (a) inquire, listen and record, (b) observe people’s feeling and constantly observe people’s feelings whether they are friends or foes, (c) use empathy, that is seeing events as others see them, and (d) seek involvement by avoiding solving the problems singlehandedly. Likewise, they perform various tasks involving diagnosis, needs analysis, fact-finding, and data gathering. Then, using appropriate data capture techniques—most of which are contained in this Resource Book—they define and re-define the problems and zero-in on the real ones. The IEOs should involve the clients at every step of the way.
Step 3 - Learning
Being essentially solution seeking, this is the most exciting part of the process. In this step, the IEOs and their clients jointly explore new ways of doing and managing MSME tasks. Hand-in-hand, they go through a series of analysis, synthesis, creative thinking, brainstorming, problem solving, decision making, goal setting, and planning exercises. They generate and consider many alternative solutions, assess each of them, select the best alternative and develop tentative plans. This step will only be completed if the IEOs’ clients (or by teams constituted for the purpose) have decided on the actions to be taken. But just before concluding this step, the IEOs should reflect whether their clients can live with solutions? They should also assess their clients’ capacity for change. And, they should determine their clients’ commitment to the solutions arrived at.
Step 4 – Planning and Changing
After prioritising, decision – making, signposting, summarising, etc., this step transform what the client and the IEO have learned and the consequent changes needed to a doable plan. Here, the aim is to get client to do specific actions that will either move the enterprise forward or enhance the client’s managerial competency. It will la the foundation for the implementation plan, communication methods, training, and monitoring systems needed to implement the change. With the client, the IEO should define the timelines and assign key responsibilities even to the resisters and supporters of the change. The plan should also itemize the incremental change needed, signposts, and should build on small successes after another. The IEO should also gradually disengage at this step. IEOs will start building the dreaded dependency syndrome, if they stay longer than this point. When disengaging, however, the IEOs should still assure their clients of their future availability and invite them to other services offered by the IEOs’ agency.
Step 5 - Evaluating
After some time, the IEO will go back to the clients to assess the results, verify the problems and solutions, and check the progress of the implementation plan. The IEO can reflect whether the client is better off as a result of the extension engagement. Can the client sustain the change introduced? Did the client really learned from the process. Did the client’s capacity for self-analysis improved? This step insures that both the client and IEO that the solution fit the problem and are satisfied with the outcomes. Not all extension engagements follow this process. Experienced IEOs usually introduce some refinements depending on the need of their clients. For example, the GATHER method is a variation of the above process has been adapted for the industrial extension from the health sector.
GREET THE Introduce yourself and the extension services
Ensure confidentiality Discuss what you can and cannot do Ask the client for any problem besetting him/her Important: In this step, the IEO begins to establish rapport with the client ASK/ASSESS Inquire about the problems that they are currently facing Assess what s/he has done to solve the problem For new clients, obtain baseline data: Sales, Employment, History, etc. For old clients, ask the following: Ask if their situation has changed since the last visit Ask them if they have new concerns Inquire about any problem that they might have Important: Before moving to TELL, be sure that you know the client’s objectives in dealing with the problems on-hand TELL Tell the client: What the options are and briefly discuss each one How does each option works Advantages and disadvantages Possible benefits and or side-effects Distribute materials Important points: Do not tell the client: options that are not related to their needs, information that have already been given. You can start this step by asking the client what they know about the option related to their needs and you fill in the gaps in knowledge HELP Ask the client if they have heard of anyone who have already successfully tried the options presented in the TELL phase Ask the client for potential problems that can be anticipated and resolved Ask the client if there is anything not fully understood, repeat the information as needed Important points: If the client cannot make a decision, ask them what additional information is needed EXPLAIN Explain the procedures for doing the option Explain warning signs, what they are and how to get more help Confirm the client’s understanding of what has been said by asking to repeat what you have said in the client’s own words Give the clients informational materials on the option chosen Important points: The difference between this step and the TELL step is, in this step you are explaining how to use the option the client had chosen. In the TELL step, you are telling the clients about all methods based on their needs RETURN/REFER Tell the client when you plan to return for follow-up or refer the client for other services not offered by your institution. Tell the client when or where to go for follow-up Tell the client about services that are available but you do not provide Give a referral note when needed. Adapted from AVSC International and the Department of Health, Philippines
While the extension process is in progress, four major patterns can easily be identifiable. These patterns become visible when during the process, we either include or exclude the clients and while dealing with the problem, we may either be task or entrepreneur-focused.
Excludes the client
Task Focused Telling Advising Manipulating Counselling and Extending
Indudes the client
If the IEO is more concerned about the problem and its resolution and merely anticipates that the client will passively accept the solutions, then it is telling and not counselling. This assumes that the clients has insufficient know-how about the problem on-hand and can contribute very little towards their resolution. If the IEO includes the client but still mainly focused on the problem, then this is advising. Advising is applied in cases where the client is perceived to be able to contribute to resolving the problem. If the IEO excludes the client but still focused on their needs, then it is manipulating. Once the IEO becomes aware of this, then they should retreat as the client may have a very high capacity for self-help and uses the IEO as a mere extra hand. Finally, when the IEO is client focused and including the client as an equal in the process, then it is more likely to be counselling and extending. Counselling and extending is more likely to achieve more permanent change in behaviour and action. There is no one best style in dealing with MSME clients. Each style is appropriate for a specific situation. The IEO must be flexible in using each of them. The complexity of the problem and the client’s degree of know-how influence the choice of the style. As such, the IEO should have an approach that fits their client. For example, below is an extension style applied by an IEO to an MSME client.
Steps Styles 1. Exploring 2. Understanding 3. Learning 4. Planning and Changing 5. Evaluating Telling Advising Manipulating Extending
In the above example, the IEO began with an extending style during the exploring step that began the engagement. Discovering that the client can actually contribute to the problem, the IEO speeded-up the engagement by shifting to the advising style while doing the second step. Moreover, the IEO applied the telling style in the learning step and the extending style in both the planning and changing as well as
evaluating steps. However, doing the extension cycle many times over is not the only task of the IEOs.
THE IEO’S JOB
Generally, it is the IEOs job to help the MSME clients help themselves. Period. But to do this properly, the IEOs needed to do more tasks than merely delivering industrial extension services to as many MSMEs as possible. These tasks include the following: 1. Client Generation. The task of generating MSME clients should always be foremost in the minds of the IEOs. Everyday, they must always have a set of clients to work on. They should not wait for the clients to visit them. They should actively pursue them. To maintain a stream of clients, IEOs can either do: (a) pre-arranged calls (clients expect the visit), (b) cold-calls (IEO dropped-in without prior notice), (c) referred calls (a client refers another entrepreneur to the IEO), or (d) office calls (also called walk-ins or clients drop-in on the IEO office). 2. Delivery of Managerial and Technical Assistance. Armed with the extension process, the IEOs deliver various services to MSMEs in varying stages of enterprise development. For business starters, for example, IEOs can guide clients in preparing business plans, site selection, machinery and equipment procurement, credit facilitation, licensing and registration, etc. For those who are already in business, the IEOs can provide technical information, process engineering, productivity improvement, quality control installation, enhancing marketing performance, accounting systems installation, etc. Moreover, if necessary, IEOs must always be ready to provide planned or even on-the-spot managerial training to the MSMEs. 3. Promotion. Promotion extends the IEOs’ client generation task. Under this task, the IEOs should explore every opportunity to promote the MSME sector in general and their services in particular. Participating in seminars, ―selling‖ entrepreneurship, promoting investments in townships, preparing business opportunity reports, distributing extension brochures, etc. are various types of promotional activities. 4. Linking with Other Service Providers. In addition to promoting the service, the IEOs should also establish and maintain a network of contacts. They should always connect bridges of communications between individuals, groups and the various MSME service providers. Maintaining contact files, visiting the service providers, participating in multi-agency conferences, trade fairs, exhibitions, interviewing potential resource persons, maintaining technicians pool, machinery and raw materials suppliers, contacts with the banking community, contacting information sources, etc. are examples of linking activities. 5. Information Transfer. One of the easiest tasks of the IEOs is the continuing dissemination of technical and managerial information that are of interest to their MSME constituency. Their exposure and training will make them the most appropriate persons to determine which information is needed by the MSME. They can search in their library, subscribe to magazines and technical journals, surf the Internet, and link with other national and international sources of information.
6. Continuing Education. Nobody can educate the IEO better than themselves. Although they can upgrade themselves by drawing practical lessons from the engagements and self-studies, there is no substitute for formal education. Through its linkage with other service providers, the IEOs can create continuing education opportunities. Likewise, they can attend night school, some in their own vocational schools. The continuing education can become part of the IEOs reward system that permit them to take short-term courses, foreign fellowships, familairization visits, or even a masteral programme at subsidized rates. 7. Reporting and Administration. The IEOs have reporting and administration responsibilities. Reporting feedbacks the extension results to the clients and the service provider. Participating in staff meetings and completing monitoring sheets are reporting activities. The administrative responsibility includes: monthly time and activity planning, coaching new recruits, delivery of training and coaching services, etc. 8. Special Projects. Many occasions demand the IEOs’ involvement in special projects. Establishing cooperatives, conducting topical conferences, preparing proposals, administering foreign aid projects, implementing policy impact studies, etc. are some examples of special projects.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
There are three important skills that IEOs should possess. These are: Analytical: ability to: clarify exactly what the symptoms are, collect and weigh data, sort out the irrelevant data, and see the underlying problem Interpersonal: ability to form good relationships with the client through: good communication and listening, emphaty, non-verbal behaviour, appropriate (nonjargon) language, and levelling. Institutional: ability to draw on local and national sources of support, wide range of contacts including personal. Contacts: ability to draw on a wide range of personal business experiences, both at the level of illuminating anecdotes and at the conceptual modes. At the heart of these skills is the ability to communicate. IEOs can: seek information (through open and closed questions, listening, multiple and single questions, etc.), give information (amount, digestible, and capability, etc.), as well as summarize and test understanding (helping MSMEs to move on, identifying gaps, checking understanding, etc.). IEOs need to ask a lot of questions throughout the extension
cycle to:probe, check facts, increase understanding, show interest, build relationships, determine attitudes, and develop a particular mental frame. IEOs can effectively use verbal and non-verbal communication modes. In South Africa, before one qualifies for an IEO post, candidates need to take an application and a formal interview with NTSIKA or in any one of its qualified service providers. Moreover, the candidates need to participate in an Industrial Extension Course which NTSIKA periodically provides throughout the country via its network of service providers. The selection interviews and the IEO courses are not easy. It requires significant preparations and discipline.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND PROFESSIONALISM
In the course of going through an extension cycle, the IEO will have to handle sensitive information about the client. Such information includes names, address, biographic details, and other descriptions of the client's life and circumstances which might result on the identification of the client. They should treat with confidence all these information, whether obtained directly or indirectly by inference. This means not revealing any of the information noted above to any other person or through any public medium, except to those to whom the IEOs owe accountability or on whom they rely for support and supervision. Information about specific clients is only used for publications in appropriate journals or meetings with the client's permission and with anonymity preserved when specifics about the clients is released. The client should be told and understand the confidentiality protocol and when it could be broken. Permission should always be gained preferably in writing and certainly prior to the disclosure to another person or organization. Where information will be disclosed because of possible danger either to the client or to others, the client should be told of the disclosure before it is made. Professionalism and Code of Ethics Even if industrial extension has yet to achieve the status of a profession such as medicine, law or engineering, IEOs can improve their performance by adopting standards of performance and code of ethics governing behaviour and by acting in a professional manner. At the very least, the IEO should: 1. Aspire for Technical Excellence. Industrial extension’s body of knowledge comprises techniques for identifying, analysing and resolving MSMEs’ problems along with strategies and their applications. The IEOs should use these proven techniques – many are described in this manual—in performing their jobs. Making deviations from standard practice or taking short cuts is permitted only when circumstances warrant. Their goal should be technical excellence tempered by practical considerations. 2. Be objective. Though some IEOs favour one approach over another, this should not stop them from trying other approaches. When pressed for an approach, the IEO should present appropriate reasons for the choice. Despite the desirability of maintaining good client relationship, he should never compromise his objectivity with relationships that become too intimate. 3. Be Honest. When assisting clients, the IEOs should honestly act for and on behalf of his client’s best interest – acting and behaving as if he were a paid professional. They should avoid conflict of interest situations and actions that could hurt the client’s interests. They should never position themselves as being
obligated to the client beyond his professional responsibilities. Regarding gifts and gratuities, he should not accept gifts having more than a nominal value. If they desire their client’s products, they should buy them as if they are sold to employees. 4. Avoid Conflict of Interest. IEOs shall inform their clients of any interests, relationships, or any other circumstances which may impair their professional judgement or objectivity. If these happen, they should be able to refer the clients to their other IEO colleagues. Moreover, IEOs should refrain from giving any client proprietary information learned from previous clients without first obtaining the consent of the previous clients. 5. Respect Commitments. The IEOs’ credibility depends on the manner they fulfill their commitments. They should make no commitments, however small, without the intention of fulfilling them. They should be on time for their appointments and honour their promises. If they have to cancel appointments or back out from commitments, they must excuse themselves early and explain. 6. Maintain Confidentiality. While performing extension work, the IEOs will know their client’s financial, marketing and technical positions. Such information is confidential and should not be disclosed to outsiders without permission. Distribution of reports containing confidential information should be approved in advance by the clients. Moreover, the IEO should never engage in idle gossip with a client about another client’s affairs. They should cultivate a reputation for discretion so that entrepreneurs may allow him access to confidential data. 7. Criticize Positively. As an agent of change, IEOs’ recommendations often imply a criticism of the way things are currently done. Criticism, when awkwardly presented, incites defensive reactions endangering the extension process. The true professional comments objectively on an individual’s actions and softens the intended criticism by sympathetic understanding. 8. Minimize Failure. Not all extension engagements lead to improvements. And there are many reasons why engagements fail. If after the situational analysis the IEO feels that failure is inevitable, he should discuss it immediately with the entrepreneur. By terminating the engagement early, both parties save time. 9. Plan for Replacement. Not helping entrepreneurs is as bad as overhelping them. Throughout the engagement, the extension officer should educate the entrepreneur and his staff to the point that they can operate without the IEOs’ guidance. This planning to be replaced approach is a key to professional extension work. 10. Minimize Length of Engagements. When IEOs overextend their engagements, they deprive other entrepreneur of their professional services. Although no hard and fast rule exists, they should never take longer than what the problem warrants. To be professional, an individual must have a group that adheres to a set of standards of professional conduct – a code of ethics. A code is vital to a profession since it : (a) lists the ethical behaviour expected of each participant, (b) erases doubts arising from task performance, and (c) itemizes performance standards. Members of a professional extension organization may for, example, agree to : (a) keep the entrepreneurs’ interests above their own, (b) keep client information
confidential, (c) accept no commissions/ fees directly or indirectly resulting from the engagement, (d) inform entrepreneur of any interests that might influence objectivity, (e) refrain from accepting engagements beyond their competence, and (f) refuse engagements that may lower the profession’s status.
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