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Strategic Planning

Part 2: Looking Beyond Your ASTM Technical Committee

by Katharine E. Morgan

This is the second of a two-part series of HowTo articles on strategic planning. Last month’s article discussed tools to use within an ASTM technical committee to assess the pulse of the industry and to identify new fertile areas for standardization. While canvassing your committee’s technical experts is an obvious and excellent place to begin, it is also important to solicit those not currently involved in the committee who have related industry interest.

Just as individuals find benefit in networking, so do ASTM technical committees. Committees need to know the critical players and organizations that are knowledgeable in their field of endeavor and who will be affected by and can contribute to the standards process. Conversely, these organizations need to know ASTM International. There are several ways to accomplish this networking or exchange of information:

Liaison Activities — Members knowledgeable of or involved in other organizations whose activities impact ASTM International often serve as liaisons between the organizations, keeping open the channel of communications. Many ASTM technical committees make excellent use of this tool. The playground equipment subcommittees in Committee F15 on Consumer Products start every meeting with a series of liaison reports that highlight activities of related ASTM International committees, university research programs, certification programs, federal agency initiatives and international updates from various parts of the world. These reports keep everyone current on changing dynamics that ultimately impact the standards being promulgated.

Invite a Colleague — Remember to utilize the new ASTM Web site feature, “Invite a Colleague.” As an ASTM member, you understand the value of ASTM standards and the opportunity to participate in the development of these standards. Your expertise is what makes ASTM standards so credible and well respected. Involving other experts of the same caliber will only enhance the value of ASTM standards. Don’t hesitate to use this feature as a method of membership promotion in order to gain more interest in a new activity.

Partner with Other Organizations — If there is a trade association, industry group or other standards developing organization whose activities relate your ASTM committee, it is critical to establish and maintain a good working relationship. Your staff manager is available to assist in making contacts and to arrange for periodic meetings to exchange information and agendas. Staff managers and committee officers for our plastics, cement and concrete committees have recently visited industry organizations to strengthen relationships, leverage resources and minimize duplication of effort. Topics of discussion might include industry trends, research initiatives, new products and processing techniques. In addition, it is possible to take a “grassroots” approach and do a targeted membership promotional project to the members of an industry association to encourage their participation in ASTM activities. Committee C24 on Building Seals and Sealants did such a promotional campaign to the members of the Sealant Waterproofing and Restoration Institute this past fall. As a sign of the times, the membership campaign was done mostly by e-mail. New members were recruited as a result.

Customers Can Be Members, Too

One external group that is very valuable to the ASTM International technical committee is the user or customer base of ASTM products. Customer lists for various ASTM products are available working through your staff manager. These lists have been used to:

• Solicit customer opinion — Surveys, as described in last month’s article, can also be used with a customer list to solicit comments regarding the utilization of and satisfaction with any ASTM product. Relative to new activities, customers can also be queried regarding voids in the standards portfolio and what other accessory products might be useful in the market.
• Attract local participation at ASTM International meetings — Committee D20 has been inviting local buyers of the volumes of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards on plastics to their meetings for the past year. These customers, based in the general area of the D20 meetings, are sent an invitation to attend with the message, “You value the product — did you know you could participate in the process?” Each meeting has seen some success from this promotional initiative.
• Recruit additional participants to the ASTM process — Committees in search of additional members, specifically those representing the user community, will often find related organizations on a customer list. Again, working with your staff manager, you can use this list as a tool to accomplish your committee’s membership objectives.

Focus Groups

ASTM technical committees have also taken advantage of focus groups to assist with strategic planning. A focus group is a representative collection of interested parties brought together to discuss a particular topic. Focus groups have been used in ASTM International to explore the use of a particular standard or cluster of standards, to examine government needs, and to explore new standardization opportunities within an industry.

Given proper planning and circumstances, participation in industry conferences and trade shows have also provided industry exposure for ASTM activities. Contact your staff manager to discuss any potential opportunities that might exist in this area.

One final tip: Listen to your external inquiries. Questions in the present are a precursor to the solutions of the future. ASTM technical committees need to keep their eyes and ears open for industry concerns and issues that might benefit from a remedy via standardization. //

Copyright 2003, ASTM

Katharine E. Morgan is general manager of Technical Committee Support at ASTM International.