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Mentoring and the Consensus Process

Pass on Your Expertise about Standards Development

The ASTM consensus process needs you — your perspective and your expertise — at the standards development table. Standards development, in turn, benefits when you share your knowledge about ASTM processes with newer members and officers. That mentoring, combined with ASTM training and electronic tools, facilitates effective participation.

The benefits and importance of mentoring may be greater than you think. Arthur Parker, P.E., senior fire protection engineer, Hughes Associates Inc., Baltimore, Md., says, “Mentoring is critical to the ongoing success of ASTM.”

That’s because mentoring helps facilitate a new member’s best contributions to a consensus standard’s development. Parker, who benefited from mentoring before and after he became chairman of E05.11 on Fire Resistance (the largest subcommittee — more than 200 members — in Committee E05 on Fire Standards), says that mentoring leads to a greater understanding of the consensus process, what a task group or subcommittee is doing, how it’s doing it, and why, so that the end result is a high quality standard.

“We need to make sure that the processes which we very carefully put in place are being followed so that these are truly consensus developed standards…with an unbiased, technically sound standard at the end of the day,” Parker says.

Mentoring can be as simple as copying a colleague on standards-related emails that you would send anyway, emails that provide insights on details of balloting, agendas and all the between-meeting work critical to the consensus process. You can also encourage new members and officers to attend meetings and social events and participate in phone calls and virtual meetings — and connect at meetings to discuss what’s being done and why. As part of its efforts to connect new members to the organization, ASTM headquarters sends welcome emails to new members followed by information packets and invitations to virtual orientation sessions.

ASTM also offers training and online tools to augment mentoring about the consensus process.

Recently, ASTM added website navigation videos that can be found on the ASTM website. The brief videos cover such topics as logging on to “MyASTM,” accessing and voting on ballots, and locating member-only information.

On the same webpage, you can also link to the always available training materials detailing such topics as new member orientation, work item collaboration areas, developing and revising an ASTM standard, balloting and using WebEx. You can also register for staff-hosted WebEx sessions on these topics. In addition, if your group meets at a committee week, consider taking advantage of lunchtime training sessions, and ask fellow ASTM members about special scheduled social or orientation sessions.

A new feature added to the electronic tools at “MyASTM” is designed to assist members further in tracking their ASTM activity. Numerals next to the individual tools alert you regarding:

  • Recent Activity, where you can access details about your ASTM work over the prior year, including Committee Activity (ballots returned, work items registered, collaboration areas launched, ballot items submitted); and Roster Updates (joined committees, dropped committees, contact information updated);
  • My Outstanding Ballots, which has a numeral next to it signaling the number of ballots that you need to return;
  • My Collaboration Areas, with access to your standards projects, including new drafts or revisions to existing documents; and
  • Minutes with the word “new” to alert you – for 60 days after posting or until you open the file – to newly available documents.

Electronic tools, training — and mentoring — make a difference in the work of ASTM’s technical committees. All members can play a part by sharing their knowledge of the consensus process. The end result comes with the high technical quality and market relevance of ASTM standards.

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.