Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Involving all industry sectors in identifying industry needs

Alison Spencer

Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences, Department of Primary Industries,

LMB 4, Moorooka Queensland 4105


Members of the DPI extension team working with the pork producing industry considered that a more structured method was required to focus our work (with industry) on industry priorities within DPI’s charter. A constraint was that ‘a day will be held’ had been announced.

The needs/requirements of the production sector, with whom the team usually work, include needs that are influenced by other sectors in the pork supply/demand chain. There is increasing emphasis on the whole chain both in the industry, and by DPI as outlined in the Budget (1999), and DPI’s Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences core business statements (1999). In industry this is seen as greater interest in alliances within sectors and between sectors. It is also reflected in the identification at the ‘Whole of Industry Summit’ event a year earlier, that collaborative problem solving in the industry was a priority issue.

Thus a multi-sector approach was adopted, to provide a unified, rather than a sectional approach. Identifying and addressing industry needs was to be planned and carried out with industry. The process was to involve a wider range of participants than at the Summit (about 20 participants), and was aimed at the operational level.

This paper relates to the learnings from the planning process, the event and the preliminary results.


Planning group

The planning group consisted of DPI staff, with industry members consulted individually and participating in a dry run of the proposed process for the day.

After an initial meeting, we asked a facilitator to assist us develop the plan as this event involving all industry sectors was different from our normal activities.

Planning process

For the overall planning of the event and afterwards, the situation with all industry players was mapped. The objectives to achieve the overall aim were decided by brainstorming, then discussing and clarifying then deciding on those of highest priority on which to concentrate. The SMARTA (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-limited and agreed) (Clark and Timms 1998) technique was applied to the objectives to ‘ground’ them. Objectives were then put into a Bennetts hierarchy (1976), so that they ranged from the highest level considered achievable, down to possible activities and inputs to achieve the objectives above. The highest objective was that industry members would change behaviour: have input into needs, and volunteer to be members of groups working on issues that applied to more than one industry sector.

As a ‘day’ had been promoted, possible activities to assist in achieving the aim were explored, such as meetings or interviews in other areas of the state; with the decision being to gain input into the event from non-attendees through phone, fax and mail. The event was held in Toowoomba, being central to the geographic location of most potential participants.

Following the clarification of the objectives/purposes, principles were listed that were considered important, such as ‘participants to have ownership’. Then the participating sector groups were listed, plus their expected perceptions eg positive or negative, ‘what is in it for me?’.

The purposes for the event (named ‘Partnerships in Pork’) were refined into sub-purposes for each session of the event. The next step was to determine the best process to achieve each of these session purposes. This was done on the whiteboard, brainstorming possible processes then circling the one that best met the purpose, and also the overall purpose, what level of knowledge, attitude, skills and aspirations (KASA), and provided a balance and flow from one process to the next on the day.

The purpose of the day (and the activity to achieve it) was to:

• improve awareness of the various industry sectors, their needs and how they relate to each other, and improve networks between sectors (presentation, draw the ‘whole’ supply chain with people from other sectors)

• exchange ideas about the industry’s needs in the next 5 years and its services (private, commercial and government (record changes in last 5 years, then single sector groups brainstorm next 5 years needs; needs combined)

• create opportunities for establishing collaborative projects/activities to address industry needs with people from all sectors; (in interest groups identify and discuss challenges and opportunities that exist within and between sectors in meeting these needs, nominate for after-the-day interest groups).

The day began with the introduction, welcome, explanation of the day’s process and boundaries, and expectations (which the groups discussed after introducing themselves). After the sessions listed above, the day closed with a general discussion on the follow-on from the day, and evaluating the day.

Groups containing representatives of as many sectors as possible was the structure for most sessions. The within-sector groups session was suggested by industry representatives after the dry run, to best use the knowledge within a sector of its problems and issues.

Other planning

Representatives of sectors were personally invited, and being a small industry, in most cases this was all the players. A procedure to invite participants was developed, to ensure consistency and as a guide for all planning members, as the task of inviting potential attendees was divided amongst the team. The invitation and the flier included points on the benefits of attending for the particular invitee.

To ensure input from invitees, they were asked to send a nominee or input (via a short open-ended questionnaire) if no-one could attend. Input was obtained from those not invited. This applied mostly to the largest industry sector, the producers, and input was invited by articles in industry journals and personally.

The remainder of the workshop was planned and controlled using project management tools such as a task breakdown list, a Gantt chart, a budget the quality/time/cost triangle (Barnes, 1990), a contingency chart, and communication.

Results and discussion

The workshop achieved its objectives as evaluated by the planning team, most participants and a random sample telephoned a few weeks after the workshop by a person external to the planning team. Sixty-two representatives from most sectors of the pork supply chain attended the event and identified Queensland’s pork industry’s needs (key requirements or issues) during the next five years and developed guidelines for addressing these needs. Industry sectors represented included feed suppliers, producers, bankers, live pig and meat transporters, consultants, trainers/educators, abattoir and processors, retailers and consumer research. Some considered (participants disagreed) that it would have been good to have greater representation from the retail sector. Although 30% of the small number of major Australian retailers attended, plus a representative of consumer research, in numbers this is not very visible.

In general, the feedback was that a good start had been made. Some respondents felt that the day did not achieve much, others wanted a similar day every year. Participants on and after the day indicated that the workshop helped communication with people in other sectors. Comments said the day provided an insight into the wider industry, and the presentation on supply chains and the drawing of the pork chain held a lot of interest.

Some feedback considered that in a group where competitors were present that some issues would not have been raised. This is probably true, but many issues are not specific to any one representative, and the opportunity for networking may have provided a start for discussions between different sector representatives.

The industry issues were grouped into thirteen broad areas. Communication was a common issue. Participants nominated for groups in which they were interested, indicating their preference for being a group leader, a member, or a reference member. The issues would be progressed in the direction decided by the interest group participants. DPI and bodies such as the Food and Meat Task Force (a joint DPI and State Development group) would provide support according to their role.


The sorting of names from RSVPs to form session groups with representatives of most sectors worked well. Coupled with structured tasks and with some time allowance, this provided the opportunity to communicate with others that they normally did not meet. The tasks set the background and explored the industry and promoted viewing the issues from different perspectives.

The size of the large group and the large number of issues made it somewhat difficult to put the issues under headings. It was suggested that the facilitators provide the headings and there would have been less argument/discussion. The group could then have been asked for additions and changes. Different-coloured sticky notes were used by each sector to record issues, which when put under the headings showed that similar points were raised by different sectors. Some felt that all points were given the same weighting of importance when maybe they were not equal. The planning group had discussed this and it was decided not to attach any weighting or economic value as it might belittle some areas, and for other areas eg alliances it would be difficult to value, especially on the day.

The external evaluator, a DPI colleague working with the pork industry, was introduced as an evaluator to the participants. She joined in the tasks of some groups, observing and obtaining feedback by open-ended questions on the day and afterwards by phone from a sample of participants. The KASA levels and the event’s purposes were used as a checklist to gauge achievement.

There was some feedback that the groups should not have gone into single sector groups, although this was what the industry representatives involved in the planning suggested worked better and the process had changed to this after the dry run. The change of groupings did temporarily upset the flow of communication.

There was some confusion over who was to deal with the issues after the day. Some participants were happy that the industry should take initiative, others wanted the DPI to keep it moving. This probably indicated that there could have been clearer position planned beforehand and communicated better on the day.

After the workshop

Each interest groups had an industry leader and a DPI link person. Only a few groups initially had a leader, the remainder nominated after direct approach from a facilitator at the session close. Two groups had only one and two members. Groups with similar industry requirements were combined.

Although some group members were keen, and they were encouraged to take initiative, the groups still require motivation from DPI members. This does however provide the groups with a possible collaborative partner, and with a source of experience in available funding and applying for funds. It will take time for this experience to be built up in non-DPI members.

Some actions have occurred (see TABLE 1) since the event although there is the opportunity for more. Most groups have communicated within the group, there have also been industry journal articles, discussions re alliances and funding, a seminar and workshops. Other issues are being dealt with by previously established groups (and the information from the day fed into these groups), or by research in other states eg pigmeat eating quality. Lack of funds leading to communicating only by phone, fax and email and not in person, tasks seen as additional to normal duties, as well as fewer DPI link persons now available, are considered to be major current constraints.

Table 1. Actions taken by interest groups

Broad areas/interest groups

Communicated with own group or wider eg industry journal articles

Other action

Consumer requirements




Yes, done by an outside group and through one group member



Risk management


Seminar by participating organisations and individuals open to industry

Pig production


Starting to develop a project

Industry strategic direction

Ideas fed into another external group with mostly same membership as this interest group



Yes, and members contacted re being involved in a research project


Pig health

Yes, members already in communication through projects


Research and development

No: seen as already happening.







Workshops held by DPI

To assist in improving the overall process and consider the whole situation, objectives and action needed to improve the situation, a soft systems approach (Checkland & Scholes 1990) could be useful. This would give views of the overall situation, possible actions, and better ‘bridging’ between the event and the interest groups, all towards the aim.

My perception of the current situation is that some sectors regard other sectors as ‘them’ versus ‘us’. An ideal situation is that a sector communicates more effectively and works with the adjacent sector, more fully understanding what the next ‘customer’ in the chain requires, and with some understanding of the requirements of all customers along the chain including the consumer; solving problems and creating opportunities for benefit of all partners in a chain; with our team acting only as catalysts. A feasible desirable change is to improve communication; as a precursor to the interest or other groups taking action.

The process of our planning, action and the result of this, based on Kolb’s (1984) action learning cycle, is shown in DIAGRAM 1.

Diagram 1. Cycle of learning




It is important to plan the event to meet the current needs and state of the industry. It is worth asking representatives to see if your understanding is correct or to check if people see the need and their expectations of such an event. This checking was useful for maintaining team confidence.

Stakeholder support

It is useful to gain support from all stakeholders including those in industry. This provides support to the project and team directly and also via supervisors/colleagues. It would have been even better for this event to involve industry people and supervisors more closely from the start.

It was also felt that there was insufficient support from supervisors even though the planning group discussions and directions were reported and discussed. Since the original plan had been announced for the day, the DPI had altered its focus and the new plan was aiming to keep in line with this. The Agreed part of the SMARTA technique is very important.

Planning group

Have a small core group of planners that are interested in working out a new process. Involve others, that are not interested in process, only in the project management meetings.


Communication with colleagues, supervisors and other stakeholders is important, and it needs to be done frequently and well. People do forget; and check to make sure the communicated message is received and understood.

Do not assume that those whom you expect to be responsible about tasks will get them done on time. Check up on progress. For example, for the Minister to attend, the arrangements need to be made well in advance.


Developing the event’s process by working through Purpose, Principles, Participants, participants’ Perceptions and Process worked well.

Practice runs do help. Even with two, there were some minor sections of facilitation confusion eg when others were to help; equipment not ready for one session.

Make absolutely sure all is clear about the process to those in the planning group, as any confusion here will also occur on the day.


Gathering expectations prior to this large event worked well as it saved time on the day, as the participants discussed these and could add to them.

Mixing people through a planned structure to undertake activities worked well, allowing them to communicate with people they would not normally meet.

Using an external evaluator who was involved in the industry and was introduced as an evaluator provided useful information for the groups and to improve future events. Her knowledge of the industry allowed mixing with participants. A grid based on KASA and the objectives gave the evaluator a good guide.

Evaluation of the day, as often happens, lacked energy, and would have been better if the positives and negatives had been done separately, by individuals on a card, or done informally.

Repeat important issues to ensure they are communicated. This could have assisted at this workshop on the topic of the roles of all stakeholders including DPI in the interest groups. Although participants discussed this at the end to clarify, the ‘unexpected’ emphasis on non-DPI motivation may have resulted in some defensiveness and thus less motivation to be involved in the groups.

New interest groups need a lot of support to establish, especially when not meeting face-to face due to distance. Meeting in person would allow the normal stages of a group to occur more easily. Funding for this should be sought, and ensure that the tasks for some members are within their normal role.


  1. Barnes, M (1990) Have project…will manage. Notes from the training video. BBD Education and Training Sales, BBC Enterprises, London.
  2. Bennett, C (1976) Up the hierarchy. Journal of Extension, March/April, USA
  3. Checkland P and Scholes J (1990) Soft Sytems Methodology in Action. John Wiley & Sons, England.
  4. Clark R and Timms J (1998) Ideas for Improving Change and Innovation Process. Rural Extension Centre, Gatton.
  5. Department of Primary Industries (1999) AFFS Core Business statements, Queensland.
  6. Kolb D A (1984) Experiential Learning: experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Prentice Hall, Eaglewood Cliffs.
  7. State of Queensland Budget 1999-2000, for Department of Primary Industries.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page