The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the Regional Extension Leader (REL), and the extent to which role ambiguity exists in relation to the role.
The REL role is both influenced by and involved in, the strategic and structural changes taking place within the Queensland Department of Primary Industries at the present time. These changes involve developing a comprehensive system designed to integrate and co-ordinate the functions and activities of the Department so as to better meet the needs of primary producers. One of these changes involves replacing the REL role with that of the Regional Co-ordinator (RC).
Using a multi-method system of analysis incorporating in-depth interviewing as well as survey research methods, the expectations of senior managers, branch managers, regional branch supervisors and the RELs themselves were examined to determine the extent to which role ambiguity was
The study has shown that, although no high levels of role ambiguity are experienced by RELs as a group, some RELs do experience more role ambiguity than others and in some cases this occurs at a high level. There was, as might be expected, more ambiguity associated with the changes taking place in relation to the REL role than with the role itself. This was evident both from the interview data as well as from survey research results.
According to Katz & Kahn (1978) expectations that exist in relation to behaviour may not be necessarily consistent with role description (Katz and Kahn 1978). Although a majority (91%) of persons interviewed described the role as that of "co-ordinator", a significant number (80%) of branch supervisors, who work in closest proximity to the RELs, perceived that what RELs were doing was different to what they (the supervisors), thought they ought to be doing.
This seems to suggest that role description of itself, is an inadequate mechanism for reducing role ambiguity. Role clarification techniques however, when used in conjunction with role description should provide a more reliable means of achieving this end.
The study has provided some insight into the degree of acceptance for the role of the REL and has highlighted the need for continuing research in this area. Although generally accepted the role of the REL has encountered some resistance, particularly from branch managers and branch supervisors. The newly created RC role is likely to affect the activities of branches to a greater extent than the REL and is therefore likely to encounter even more resistance, unless people are willing to support the role.
The action research approach with its emphasis on participative methods and team development has special advantages in this regard and also provides an effective means
for combating resistance to change.