Plain Talk

A Good Deal

ASTM Membership and Leadership Skills

Sometimes, one good thing can lead to another. As participation in a technical committee, for instance, can lead to a better career. This is not speculation, as many ASTM members can attest. It happens.

In many fields of endeavor, conflict among competing interests stymies progress. Widely diverse interests create nothing more than gridlock. Strong opinions, opposing viewpoints and participant investment in the outcome can make any project an exercise in futility.

Not so in the ASTM International standardization process. Here, diversity is strength. Conflict has merit. So what makes a standards project successful? What turns lemons into lemonade, conflict into consensus? Superior management skills, the ability to overcome obstacles, diplomacy, strength, commitment. In a word: leadership.

An ASTM International technical committee is a group of dedicated, talented experts, passionate people with differing ideas on how to solve the problem before them. Not an easy mix. And yet, the technical committee is a model of rationality, a place where plans are formulated and programs are instituted, a forum for debate where passions and conflicts do not inhibit progress, but drive the best in everyone to the top. It is where a superbly developed process is administered, and where a consensus is reached, time after time. The world’s best standards are developed here, and society at large is a better place. Quite an accomplishment.

It’s not a job for amateurs. It takes the best in leadership to bring a standards project to fruition. That is what defines the officers of ASTM International subcommittees and committees. They are not hired hands, but peers and colleagues, technical experts, members of the committee, people who have gone one step beyond what is expected of them; they are the ones who have stepped up to the challenges of leadership assignments. They’ve learned, through hands-on experience and by working alongside mentors, to navigate difficult situations, formulate strategic plans, devise programs, inspire, encourage and lead others. They’re the ones who make it happen.

But it doesn’t stop there. We know that ASTM International members who have developed these skills transform them into professional currency. Armed with this invaluable experience, they overcome obstacles in the workplace just as they do in their technical committees. They create their own opportunities and use their abilities to gain better positions and advance careers. And there is more. In the process, they find that they have gained increased recognition among their peers, broader representation within the committee for their company or organization, personal growth, and perhaps most important, the satisfaction that comes from making a positive impact and a greater contribution.

The development of standards is a good thing. The people who work at it make great contributions to society. If the byproduct of their work leads to personal growth and satisfaction, so much the better. It’s fitting and deserved. ASTM International recognizes this and is planning to increase its support of its up-and-coming leaders. Next year, there will be a new area on the ASTM International website that will include information on leadership opportunities and modules for developing leadership skills.

Accepting a leadership assignment within any group — a task force, a subcommittee or a full committee — is all it takes to begin. It’s a good deal, any way you look at it.

James A. Thomas

President, ASTM International

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.