Bylaw changes address decision making, structure, member demographics and more.
During the last two years, the normally sleepy corner of ASHI known as the Bylaws Committee was more akin to a beehive of activity! The Committee oversaw a series of changes intended to modernize the governance structure of ASHI and align with the best practices of association management. Sounds a bit boring, right? But not so!
The first order of business was to address the issue of how long it takes to have a valid membership vote for the purpose of pursuing an initiative, changing a bylaw, and changing or creating a Standard. The voting period is 45 days, but it regularly would take a year or more to complete a vote. Interestingly enough, the vote to improve this issue was passed on time with a considerable majority approval. Since then, all subsequent votes have been completed on or very close to schedule. ASHI is now able to be decisive in a timely manner and not be so much a “big ship to turn,” an excuse commonly used for many years that I personally have come to abhor.
Part of that same vote was an inclusion to allow errata changes to the Bylaws without the need to bring these to a full membership vote. Errata changes are nonsubstantive, or more commonly known as housekeeping changes, corrections or clarifications. These types of changes were historically not made in a timely manner due to the reluctance of ASHI to bother the members with required Bylaw votes to correct such things as grammar, spelling and punctuation. Allowing for errata changes afforded the Bylaw Committee the opportunity to do a full review of the Bylaws to address not only these nonsubstantive items, but also the appropriate location of provisions, remove sunsetted provisions, correct to assign erroneous wording, make clarifications and more. The result is a much easier read, correct and up-to-date version of the Bylaws that allows for easy reference when ASHI leaders make decisions.
We realized while doing the errata change exercise that the Bylaws had not undergone a full review in many years. There were many provisions that ASHI has stayed true to since its founding; however, while the Bylaws were created with good intent decades ago, we found that some items were now hindering ASHI’s ability to be nimbler and more responsive to its modern-day membership.
This assessment became a portion of the report compiled by the ASHI Relevance Task Force. Relevant suggestions to the Bylaws were used as a guideline for the revamping project of ASHI’s guiding document. In brief, the findings with respect to the Bylaws include the following:
- ASHI needs a culture change. This includes every member at one level or another and staff. The Society needs to be nimble, innovative, efficient and effective. Adversarial relationships within ASHI structure need to be resolved.
- ASHI’s governance model is inefficient and ineffective. ASHI spends too much time and too many resources on governance. In order to adapt to the new market, ASHI’s governance model must also adapt.
- The nomination process for elected positions does not follow best practices for an organization of ASHI’s size.
- The mission of providing communication between members and the Board is no longer necessary in the current environment. There should be a new positive mission that will help ASHI provide better member value. This would include an evolution of the Council of Representatives (CoR) to an all-inclusive Member Relations Committee that would have oversight of the Membership Committee, Chapter Relations and Legislative Committee.
- Chapters are becoming less relevant, especially to younger members who prefer other means of communication. Chapters can, however, provide value if led by committed local leaders. Being an ASHI member should be a primary objective of the Society, with the value of chapter membership being an addition to that.
These results were very telling, as well as frank. The Task Force was diverse and representative of non-chapter members, chapter and CoR members, and members of the Board of Directors. Their report and findings were valid, giving the Bylaw Committee goals for each of the areas. Not all of their suggestions were able to be fully achieved, but through a series of informational conference calls, group meetings and in-person negotiating during the Leadership Development Conference (LDC), a document that was acceptable to all was created. No one party got all they wanted, which is a sign of good negotiating, and represents the desire of all to move forward for the benefit of ASHI and its members.
A few of these changes were very substantial and were driven by technology, our evolving demographics and a desire to make better use of our volunteer members’ time:
A reduction in the size of the Board. To allow for more efficient in-person meetings and easier coordination of electronic meetings, four positions were removed from the Board of Directors (BoD). In addition to the benefit of time efficiency, there is a reduction of approximately $25,000 in BoD meeting expenses.
All voting members can serve on the Board as Directors or Officers. In the past, chapter members comprised the vast majority of ASHI membership. Due to factors including technology, logistics and personal time, among others, the trend has turned so that the majority of ASHI members are no longer affiliated with chapters. With that realization, we have shifted to allow all voting members to run for open positions on the Board. Previously, Directors were elected by a vote of only the CoR. Now, all ASHI voting members may participate in the election of your Directors to be more inclusive of the entire membership.
Combined Nominating Committee. The Officer and Director nominating committees were large, volunteer-intensive groups. Due to the reduction in Board size and larger pool from which our candidates will come, this job can be more efficiently done by a smaller group. In addition to making changes to the structure of the Nominating Committee, we also have made its task easier by removing the petition process. Now, all eligible candidates will be included on the ballot.
Renewed dedication to all ASHI members while continuing to recognize the importance of chapters. Way back in the day, chapter members dominated the demographic of ASHI members…so much so that at one point, there were 52 directors on the Board to represent each chapter! More recently, with the Board being comprised of primarily chapter members only, it was only natural that topics gravitated in that direction. With ASHI’s change in the number of chapter to non-chapter members, it became evident that ASHI’s decisions need to benefit the entire membership as a priority.
However, be assured that chapters will continue to present a great benefit to ASHI members. They will not only be supported, but expanded through the implementation of Meeting Groups that can get together locally, face to face, or nationally online. These groups also can be started for the purposes of specialty inspection interests such as infrared (IR), drones and more. The ability to join Chapters or Meeting Groups is recognized as a main benefit of ASHI membership, which allows for networking, education, cooperative marketing, group purchasing, legislative support and more.
Creation of the Member Relations Committee (MRC). At one time, there were 52 Directors on the Board. This number was unsustainable, both in terms of productivity and financially. The solution was to create a Council of Representatives (CoR) that sent a single representative to the Board. The year was 1995 when Bill Sutton took the helm of the first CoR. Most people were still communicating by landlines, snail mail and fax, and it was by those means that the CoR disseminated “timely” information to chapters and members. Fast forward 25 years, and we still were using that same structure.
However, as a result of innovations mostly in communication technology, the need for that large group and waterfall style of information delivery has passed. In the biggest change made in many years, the CoR evolved into the new Member Relations Committee (MRC), which is a standing committee within the ASHI Bylaws. The MRC will work together as a whole or in subcommittees to develop or provide benefits to the members of ASHI in terms of Membership, Chapter Relations and Legislative Relations.
The MRC will be smaller than the CoR in that it will be limited to a range of 12 to 30 participants representing all ASHI members. The MRC will annually make its own decision, based on its needs and goals, of how many people will be on the committee. Also, based on those same needs and goals, the MRC will annually select from the applications received to determine who its new members will be. This practice eliminates the “popularity” aspect of an election and utilizes the committee’s own desire for success as the driving factor. This also eliminates the feeling candidates may have of “losing” an election, as the committee population decisions will be based on the immediate personnel needs and specific talents needed to achieve goals.
For example, if the MRC sees it is becoming weak in education, they can fill that void with a candidate who is strong in educational skills. If your particular strengths do not match those needed, you may not be selected…not because you are a bad candidate, but simply because your skills did not match the needs of the committee for that year. ASHI members who want to be part of the MRC should apply annually, as needs will change every year.
By the time this article is published, the members of the first MRC will already be at work. However, at least four new members will be needed for next year’s committee. The MRC is designed to be a highly functional, forward-thinking group. Please give serious consideration to applying to this committee when its call for volunteers is posted. Not only is the MRC an important way for you to participate in ASHI, it is also a great stepping stone and educational experience for those who have intentions to serve on the ASHI Board of Directors.
These most recent Bylaw changes were approved on time and with an incredible approval rate of 85%. Great strides have been made in improving ASHI’s inclusion of all members, its governance structure, the speed of decision making, fiscal savings and the efficient use of volunteer time—all efforts that are paramount to the future and success of ASHI.
The main takeaway from the Relevance Report was that ASHI needs to be a nimble, proactive association in terms of actions and benefits. With these Bylaw changes, ASHI’s reputation as being “slow to respond” has come to an end. We may not be a speedboat, but thanks to the efforts of many, ASHI is no longer “a big ship to turn.”
INTRODUCING THE NEW ASHI MEMBER RELATIONS COMMITTEE Continued: