Fall 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 3 // Forum // 3FRM1

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One Minute: Not Enough


Joan S. Thomson
Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology and
Coordinator of Staff Development,
Cooperative Extension Service
The Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Ask any Extension audience if they've read The One-Minute Manager1and many hands go up. What's in this small, readable book that strikes such a responsive chord among Extension personnel? It focuses on goal setting, feedback for positive performance, and reprimands communicated in private when work hasn't gone as projected.

Goal Setting. Those who work in Extension not only recognize the multiple demands on their time, they consider such demands among the most negative aspects of their jobs.2 Thus, the need within Extension to determine program priorities and performance standards is critical. Having a written plan described in a few sentences and based on consequences like those proposed by the authors can contribute to a sense of commitment and efforts to attain Extension's goals.

Feedback/Reprimands. Building in time to supervise personnel and comment on what has or hasn't gone well can create a sense of shared expectations. Feedback that focuses on behavior, not attitudes or feelings, can enhance the self-confidence of staff. Using dialogue, the authors show how such communication requires personal honesty and trust as well as a philosophy committed to continuing professional growth and development. Their intent is to create an environment in which individuals want to perform well. Accenting the positive is captured by one of the book's slogans: Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.3

Extension's working environment isn't as simplistic as the one-two-three formula that Blanchard and Johnson propose. Extension personnel could follow their step-by-step "how-to-do-it" recommendations to the letter and still fail. Why?

Management is both an art and a science. Being an effective manager requires selecting approaches that are appropriate in a specific setting and applying them using one's own style. Because management isn't based on the Pavlovian response, Blanchard and Johnson's formula doesn't work in all situations.

Although The One-Minute Manager offers insight into improving communications within an organization, it stops short of addressing many substantive management issues-real issues that face Extension managers. How can we ensure that colleagues are supervised according to agreed-on practices and objectives? How can sufficient direction for creative freedom be provided without manipulation? How can balance be maintained between Extension's needs as an organization and the needs of its personnel? Or how does Extension's decentralized organization provide quality control for its dispersed educational program as well as ensure that its program priorities are relevant and realistic or that program strategies are among the best available?

The One-Minute Manager provides a quick introduction to interpersonal communications. But Extension personnel, who are investing in others, must seek other references in management if they're to find concepts, ideas, and applications that they can synthesize and integrate into their work styles to meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities.


  1. Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, The One-Minute Manager (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1982).
  2. Tena L. St. Pierre, "Addressing Work and Family Issues Among Extension Personnel," Journal of Home Economics, LXXVI (Winter, 1984), 42-47.
  3. Blanchard and Johnson, The One-Minute Manager, p. 39.