ASTMs MISSION is to produce the best standards in the world.
Thats our goal and our purpose. We know where were going. In
some areas, were already there. In some areas the ASTM standard
is the standard of choice for people all over the world. Goal
achieved. Mission accomplished.
But the last thing we want to do is rest on our laurels. Our mission
is to imbue every ASTM standard with the highest possible degree
of quality and relevance, the best attributes of the best standards
in the world. Our work is cut out for us.
But what is that work? What needs to be corrected, adjusted, re-evaluated?
What are the obstacles that stand between us and the ultimate
attainment of our goal? Lets identify one right now. It is a
malady called irrelevance; and it may be the greatest challenge
to those of us who are involved in developing standards.
Nobody likes to think of their work as being irrelevant, especially
people who develop standards, but it can happen. As improbable
as it may seem, it is possible to develop a good standard that
is irrelevant, a standard thats technologically interesting but
unrelated to events in the marketplace.
The growth of irrelevance in a standard is mostly a subtle process;
it is gradual and stealthy and can go for a long time undetected.
It may let time gently pass the technology by, or it may cause
work to drift in directions without destinations. It may permit
old versions of standards to glide comfortably through the process
to reapproval without passing through the rigors of progress.
A standards irrelevance is inevitable when the documents development
is disconnected from command centers, when it goes forward without
the benefits of consultation, or when it operates without a soundboard
to transmit the resonance of market realities.
What prevents insularity and inertiaand irrelevancefrom settling
into the process? Our missions. Irrelevance and missions cannot
occupy the same space. Irrelevance comes about when the missions
of companies, customers, and governments are not part of the standards
development plan. And vice versa. Irrelevance comes about when
an industrys plans for the future are not part of the committees
consciousness or when new or changing regulatory initiatives are
not conveyed and integrated. Irrelevance creeps in when standards
are developed independently of the vital flow of company or agency
Standards are not an end in themselves. They must have purpose
and they must fit into the scheme of things. When we examine the
ASTM committees that have developed the best standards in the
world, we find well-defined mechanisms for matching standards
with new directions, new technologies, new cycles, and new ways
of performing. We find constant communication between those who
define the needs of the future and those who develop the solutions.
We find goals in sync. We find quality and relevance and success.
We find missions accomplished.
James A. Thomas