Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, Department of


Date of this Version

September 1991


Published in Journal of Extension 29 (Fall 1991), pp. 14-16. Copyright (c) 1991 Extension Journal Inc.


The 1990s are ushering in major changes for Cooperative Extension as National Initiatives become the foundation for program planning, replacing some of the traditional discipline-based programs. As new ideas for program operations are introduced, a natural consequence is human resistance to change. Throughout the system, we're being forced to cope with fundamental changes in the way we do business. The possibility of upsetting the balance of power exists. Individuals will take action based on their perception of how changes will affect their relative power position in the organization. New knowledge, varying economic conditions, pressures of competition, evolution of new cultural values and perspectives, and a paradigm shift from disciplinary programming to issues programming had a great impact on Extension. Internal changes--structural reorganization and/or personnel relations-- have created pressures on Extension staff. Understanding how agents, administrators, and county board members respond in a time of change is vital to the organization and its continued functioning in the future.

Whenever an organization undergoes change, administrators must be aware of how change might affect the staff's job satisfaction. It's important that county board members be involved with this change process. Since they were the most resistant to change, administrators and agents must communicate more openly with them about the change process. Extension sends a message when it resists or accepts change, either actively or passively. The organization reveals itself: its internal norms, values, its attitude toward change, the workload of its personnel, and limitations such as financial resources. As Extension moves into the 21st century, all groups involved need a sense of stability so they're able to cope and move in a positive, productive direction.