First, you asked:
>As part of my research, I am interested in the life assessment/goal
>setting process that the HRM model uses.
>1) What is the process?
There are no "standard" processes, but there are many common features of
the approaches people take in different situations. First, it is important
for a group to understand that what has been happening in their life is not
leading them where they want to go.
In a classroom context, it's easy to TELL the students that the Endangered
Species Act isn't working to slow the loss of biodiversity, and that it's
even less effective an approach on a global basis. However, few have
actually worked in the "real world" and have no personal basis to give a
reference for evaluation of effectiveness. The "popular belief" among some
groups is that this is "the only way" that will work for a number of
reasons that sound convincing. I've found that I do better making the
point if I enter the issues in ways where they DO have experiences, such as
their family or social groups. This means that HRM is used first in a
context that seems unrelated to the subject matter, say in a "Conservation
Once the mind is opened for serious examination of alternatives, then it is
possible to let the group (family, community, class, etc.) get some ideas
about their resource base. This means identifying who is involved in their
decision-making that, at first look, seems to be extraneous. If, for
example, a farm family is trying to avoid bankruptcy in order to take a new
direction that will become sustainable, the banker may be an essential
member of the team, as well as maybe a neighbor or two that will be
partners during the next few seasons. This identification of the people in
the management unit is not fixed, but needs to be re-examined from time to
time as the situation changes. It should include all the people that
directly influence the decisions and the execution of the actions of those
decisions. Permanent employees are part of the group, for example.
The next area to identify is the resource base to draw from, including
people who may be advisors, all of the financial resources (cash, capital
investments of equipment, etc). Also other resources are identified. Many
of the things we often forget about are the sources of organic matter
(called "wastes") that normally are costing money, but can be converted
into valuable resources, or even cash income. "Neighboring" by sharing
equipment, labor, water, etc. can be extremely valuable, although not
costing money or producing income. It's interesting to see some of the
unusual things/people/situations that are identified in different places.
The last area to identify is the land base that is the direct connection to
the ecosystem and the focus of many of the decisions to be made. As above,
"ownership" may be too restrictive to identify the land base for decision
making. Often decisions may be made on more "natural" units, such as a
watershed, and some options for leasing or partnerships may be critical.
Examination at this point may change the original thoughts about both of
the two areas above, and another cycle may be needed.
This would be the phase of identifying the "Whole", and, as in all other
aspects of HRM, is reviewed periodically and modified as needed. The next
phase is to initiate the formation of a community/team from the group of
people identified in the first area of the Whole. It may be formatted in
many ways, and the group is an important part of the format design.
Specialized professional people may be involved, but ordinarily this is not
needed. When, and if, this changes becomes part of the decision process.
Different members of the group often have widely divergent expectations of
HRM, and motivations to participate initially may be conflicting.
Sometimes important members will not participate initially, but the
encouragement should be gentle enough to avoid backlash.
The main part of this phase is to build trust and communication, as well as
formulate a long range, over-arching vision, or goal. In contrast to many
of the "Vision Statements" or "Goals" prepared for a group or organization,
this one will be actively used with respect to many, even most, decisions
that are made. It will need to be revised from time to time, and also
anytime a new member of the "Whole" is added. The actual changes may be
minor, but the PROCESS of redefining the goal is critical to having
universal "ownership" of the goal. One of the important features about a
goal is that there be ONLY ONE goal, so that it highlights any conflicts
among any aspects of the goal. This would happen when there is NO
"satisfactory" option, as opposed to a "partially satisfactory" option when
there are multiple goals. This means that, even if an unsatisfactory
option is the best among evils, it is recognized clearly as NOT
SATISFACTORY. This makes it clear that there is a great need to enlarge
the options to finally include one without compromises. In a sense, the
existence of a compromise is not a satisfactory decision. Only when there
is no conflict perceived in any aspect of the decisions with respect to the
goal is the decision considered satisfactory. As a result flexibility, in
the sense of having a variety of alternatives, evolves over a series of
The goal is generally organized in three parts, paralleling the three areas
of the Whole. The first part, Quality of Life, is directly focused on the
people in the community, and what is needed to bring them into a living
relationship of a healthy happy community. This is, of course a
never-ending process, and the specific features may change. However, the
main features of this portion of the goal reflect the values shared by the
people. When it is difficult to come to a comfortable consensus about
something, the deeper values are searched, and substituted for the original
symbols for that (or those) values that are shared. Groups that are
homogeneous may have a goal that is much more "thing" and "place" oriented,
since the symbol structure is similarly tied to the values. More diverse
groups have more abstract goals of the deeper values.
The second part addresses the activities or conditions that attract
resources to support the quality of life defined by the first part. It
includes the form of the business, as well as volunteer work and other
things that attract attention and return resources in the form of money,
advertising (word of mouth, for example), assistance, and a broader sense
of community. The important thing is to omit unnecessary restrictive
parts, particularly the designation of tools or particular approaches of
operation. These are necessarily incomplete for the future, but, more
importantly, they are the source of disagreement in the group. In a
classroom community, this may be the projects and activities that yield
grades, but also contribute to the education as needed for individual
students' goal. This illustrates how each person is a member of many
communities, but if their goals in different communities are based on a
consistent value based understanding, all of their actions contribute to
both personal and group goals. The activities decided upon thereby
contribute to the movement toward many goals, each one representing a
particular team or community. Getting more for the same investment is an
expression of "synergy."
The third part of the goal is the direct tie to the ecosystem, which is
principally land based for agriculture, but includes all aspects of the way
decisions affect the ecosystem. This goal is established with reference to
ecosystem processes in as many sites as needed for the management area, and
may be very different from site to site. For example, a wetland area will
have a very different hydrological cycle description than a grazing area
that consists of mixed species of herbaceous and woody species. The areas
around buildings may be differently managed for different dynamics than
that near lakes. And so forth. It is important to omit mention of
"problems" to be solved, but state the nature of the ecosystem when they
are solved. Omit the particular tools and approaches to use, since this is
the reason to have decision-making steps that are using the goal for
reference/guidance. The "how-to" and specific "what-to" aspects are not
appropriate for the goal, but arise naturally from the decision making
>2) How does it include an emphasis towards sustainability?
I suppose the answer may be apparent. First, sustainability is the RESULT
of an endless series of decisions. It is not a state to reach, but a
condition to maintain dynamically. The nature of the decisions based on
increased options and no compromises are satisfactory, intensely montoring
progress toward the goal, refinement of and reflection on the goal,
building community dynamics that are supportive and interdependent, keeping
the goal internally consistent with respect to the quality of life,
production, and ecosystem, all contribute to decisions that contribute to
sustainability. For example, the goal would not have "use no pesticides",
but decisions that are made in light of a goal that includes maintaining a
high degree of biological complexity would generally choose not to use
pesticides -- unless there was no better option available. In this case,
the focus would be to enlarge the options in order to avoid the compromise
decision which conflicted explicitly with the goal.
I might add that the intensity of monitoring results comes from an
assumption that all decisions are made with incomplete information.
Therefore, there are always better options that are missed because they
were unknown at the time, or the skill in implimenting an option was
limited and the best possible "job" could not be done. This means that it
is essential to continually adjust with new decisions as the results of
earlier decisions unfold.
>3) How does it envision a relationship between farmer and community?
This is also probably obvious by now. The Whole is always only one within
many others, overlapping and inclusive at the same time. The importance
here is that individuals as part of many communities or teams will generate
a FUNCTIONAL consistency within a variety of particular contexts. In my
own instance, my farm and all the people involved with it are always
seeking ways to support the community local community, and I believe the
feeling is generally reciprocated.
This comes by an understanding of the interdependencies recognized by being
part of overlapping Wholes.
Maybe this gives you what you need. If not, ask for more.
R. H. (Dick) Richardson * (512) 471-4128 (w)
Zoology Department * (512) 471-9651 (FAX)
University of Texas * (512) 476-5131 (h)
Austin, TX 78712 * email@example.com