James Wallace from IAR Agri Ltd writes:
The first Landbridge workshop brought into focus an important gap in the range of skills amongst land-based advisers, that of project management. There is a huge range of professions working in this very varied sector, many self-employed and with very different objectives, expertise and networks. But increasingly we do have to come together and communicate on complex issues that cross these professional boundaries. That can mean some delicate negotiation and skilful handling of the varied interests involved. Agronomists, for example, will tend to be coming at a problem very much from the production side, while ecologists will be taking a much more conservation-based view. Multiple perspectives have to be given appropriate weight in the process of problem-solving. There were some interesting examples given at the event, including the management of deer as a resource, where environmental, forestry, tourism, shooting and public safety concerns may all require consideration and input from a range of professionals to agree effective approaches. But how are we, as individuals, to develop such project management skills? There is certainly a lack of training and delegates at the Landbridge event commented on this. Some have, of course, become effective project managers by working alongside advisers from other professions, in a deliberate programme of self-development. But I think that, as a sector, we could do better. We need to develop management training to improve skills of bringing professions together and establishing a joint project team and timetable to resolve what can be very complex issues. The agricultural colleges, for example, do a good job in many respects in preparing young people for the rural advisory professions, but they seem to fall down in this area of project management. Perhaps more importantly the professions should consider project management skills as part of their CPD programmes. To use the skills of individual advisers and experts effectively to help resolve complex issues and to achieve workable solutions we need people who have the training to lead a multi-disciplinary team.