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November/December 2010

Planning Provides a Road Map

A Tool for Technical Committees

Today’s work, tomorrow’s meetings and next week’s project deadline all take planning to some degree.

We may consider what needs to be done, in what particular order, and by when; what tasks are dependent on completing other tasks; whether other colleagues, and which ones, need to be involved; and so on.

However we do it, there is an important thing about planning — here, as it applies to your ASTM technical committee work. Planning is a tool that can assist your committee as it creates relevant standards for the marketplace.

“The strategic plan is the committee’s road map,” says Randy Jennings, who is leading the current plan work in ASTM International Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants. “Every organization must have a road map to follow in order to efficiently move in the right direction, and Committee D02 is no different than any other organization.”

Jennings, a member of the ASTM board of directors, is executive assistant for the Regulatory Services Division, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Nashville, Tenn. This is the latest plan that the committee has worked on; it’s not the first.

The current D02 planning process commenced last year with a self-evaluation to identify committee strengths and weaknesses plus what D02 members felt the committee needed to be doing. The executive subcommittee then organized a strategic planning working group to develop a draft based on the small group’s ideas brainstorming (no criticism, no discussion) session.

Jennings has compiled the brainstorming information into proposed goals with action steps, or performance measures, which provide a method to check on progress. He anticipates presenting the plan to D02 members in December with possible plan adoption by June 2011.

Committee E44 on Solar, Geothermal and Other Alternative Energy Sources has taken another approach to strategic planning. Building on the growing alternate energy industry and the U.S. commitment to renewable resources, E44 has contacted and worked with government agencies and industry organizations to determine potential standards needs. Through research and outreach, brainstorming and prioritizing, areas that will benefit from standards work have been identified, and several proposed documents are under way. Frequent virtual meetings and communiqués have kept members connected to each other; the contact also contributes momentum to standards work.

No matter which path and which tools your committee chooses to use for planning, the group will benefit. For more information and suggestions about the process, review the ASTM Manual for Development and Implementation of Strategic Plans. ASTM's reference guide and tutorial (found in the "Additional Information" box) can be helpful as well.

The manual walks you through the steps of surveying the status quo, identifying needs, defining and prioritizing goals, developing an implementation plan, measuring progress and reassessing status on an ongoing basis. These questions might help examine the process in a different way:

  • Where are we now?
  • What does our industry need, immediately and later on?
  • How will we get there?
  • How do we know when we’re partway there? Halfway there?
  • How did we do overall so that we can do better next time?

The answers form the basis for your plan.

Yes, planning takes time.

Yes, planning takes effort.

Yes, planning ultimately takes balance between the theoretical and the practical.

But, consider D02’s ability to stay focused: an active committee with more than 100 years of history, more than 2,000 members, and more than 750 standards. And, consider the several proposed standards now under way in E44. These are good results.

And that’s the point.