Even More on ISA...

From Diana Bouchard (one of the first women to serve on the Executive Committee of ISA ever): Hello one and all: Jim's proposed plan might yield a new organization which would carry forward ISA's name and reputation and be of service to the automation community. But this organization would barely resemble the ISA we know. Assuming ISA continues its current activities, the "new ISA" would essentially be another technical publisher, training company, standards development consortium and exhibit organizer. Now, this might be the way that ISA could best serve the automation community. But such a drastic change would really need to be approved by the current ISA leadership, specifically by the Executive Board who legally hold the ultimate decision-making power in ISA. Whatever you may think of their "analysis paralysis and instant indecision" (which I too observe), they are the people who are in place now and must decide what actions should be taken. If anything is going to happen, you need to convince them. One of the most serious problems ISA now has, in my opinion, is that the leadership has collectively become discouraged and demoralized, and many leaders are either dropping out of active involvement or else warming their chairs but doing little else. So right at the time when major strategic decisions need to be made, the leadership has become largely inert. The challenge is to re-energize these people and involve them in an ongoing strategic conversation about the very future of their Society. I think that most ISA leaders have a clear perception of the situation that ISA is in, and they are more ready for change than some people give them credit for. We have a lot of 30,000 foot information provided over the past several years by a series of consultants plus our own internal studies. Most of it is true, and most of it we know by now. However, in ISA as elsewhere, the real question is how to get this information down to ground level and put it to work in the everyday world. People want to know how this will affect my job, how this will change what I do day to day. A consultant cannot give you this (sorry Jim, sorry Dick), it has to come from inside the organization. The only way that I know of to refine the high-level information into something that is useful for everyday decision making is via a series of frank, wide-ranging, no-holds-barred conversations among those involved in ISA's various activities. Unfortunately that is not what ISA spends its time doing. ISA holds endless meetings, generates endless documents, spews out lots of verbiage about how wonderful ISA is, and fine-tunes the n-th revision of its operating procedures. But we really spend very little time or energy in strategic conversations with each other. And it shows. It is clear to me that the proposed plan, if implemented, would result in an ISA without volunteers, and most probably without members. Now, this might end up being the way to go. From the difficulty I observe in recruiting, keeping and motivating volunteer leaders at all levels of ISA, I could well believe that the day of the volunteer-led professional association may be over. But I think if we want to "encourage volunteer involvement, but limit that to advisory suggestions", we are kidding ourselves. Remember we are now talking about a purely business organization. Do you feel any desire to volunteer for Elsevier or AMA? Of course not. Moreover, people tend to volunteer where their ideas are appreciated and used, and where they feel they can make a difference and are doing something useful for the world. How long do you think that volunteers will be willing to hang around and offer "advisory suggestions", especially once they perceive that these are often ignored? I need to know more about what the mission and role of this "new ISA" would be. What kind(s) of service would this organization render to the automation community? Would it be an industry advisory group? an advocacy organization? an industry leaders' round table? an "honest broker" among other organizations and companies in the field? a vendor of publications and/or training courses and/or exhibition management services? a standards development organization? or some combination of the above? These questions need to be answered before any new people are recruited for governance, because who you want will depend a lot on the answers. This is the kind of discussion that needs to happen throughout the ISA leadership: all cards on the table, no forbidden topics, no "bad" ideas or "bad" people, just a shared conviction that ISA contains something of great value that none of us wants to lose. Diana Bouchard P.S. Re the headquarters building in RTP: it's not a "nest egg" until and unless ISA can cash it in. And there has been a lot of empty office real estate in the RTP area for a few years now.
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  • <p>Diana &amp; all:</p> <p>Thanks, Diana. I appreciate the good thoughts and insights. Allow me to provide some additional ideas and comments.</p> <p>1/ Yes, the "new" ISA would not resemble the old ISA. That's necessary, because the "old" ISA is dying. We can wait for it to fizzle out - or we can give it new life and blood in the new age. The aim is NOT just to survive, but thrive.</p> <p>2/ Key point: Governance. The current "volunteer" board and endless committees are simply excuses to continue to continue the old governance. Everyone, including Diana, admits that "paralysis analysis" is rampant. Yes, no one has the clout to cause change. Indeed that's the nature of the problem as it stands.</p> <p>3/ Volunteers: Yes, Diana - we have maybe a couple hundred volunteers, but are losing thousands of members. My suggestion is to welcome volunteers but limit their ability to hold things up. Yes too, "the day of the volunteer-led professional association may be over."</p> <p>4/ Getting new members - satisfying current members: This has nothing (repeat NOTHING) to do with volunteerism. Membership has declined drastically and needs to be boosted. A full-time employee - VP responsible for membership growth - will have the sole job (working directly for the executive director). That person will find out why membership is declining (fast) and provide members (and prospective members) with the things that are important to them. Give them what they want, and they'll join. I should think that's obvious.</p> <p>5/ Leadership: Diana (and everyone else) is clear on this - weak leadership. The most serious problems. The only people who attain leadership roles are volunteers who have "stood in line" for a long time, to become one of the "old boys". Why is there no one (NOT ONE) senior executive from significant end-users and suppliers on the executive board? Because they recognize how ineffective it is. I have asked Presidents and VPs this question - that's their answer. How can an executive board with 18 people, not one of them with executive experience, be effective???</p> <p>6/ Consultants: Fire them all. There's no need for more "30,000 ft. information" as Diana calls it. Diana, I'm NOT a consultant - just a member for 35 years, and a Fellow since 92.</p> <p>7/ Role of the new ISA: Vibrant, vital, alive, exciting. Worldwide membership can and must exceed 100,000. ALL the things you're involved with as an Instrumentation &amp; Controls professional. People must WANT to join. All the present activities must remain - plus paid meetings like ARC (have you been to an ARC meeting recently?)</p> <p>C'mon guys. Let's stop analyzing and complaining, and start DOING!</p> <p>Cheers: jim</p>

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