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September/October 2011

Keeping the Process Moving

The Effective Technical Contact/Task Group Leader

When you’re a technical contact/task group leader, you coordinate, communicate, delegate, motivate.

And in doing the work effectively, “you keep the process moving.”

That’s according to Jim Katsaros, product development leader for DuPont, Richmond, Va., who knows what the process takes. He currently leads an ASTM task group on installing photovoltaic modules on steep slope roofs in Committee E44 on Solar, Geothermal and Other Alternative Energy Sources as well as task groups in Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings and for other organizations.

To keep the process moving, the technical contact role requires time and energy, and one thing more. “With the consensus process, it’s important to have the right people involved,” says Katsaros. “Whatever you’re trying to write, it should be represented by people who are experts in that field.” If you do not already have the needed expertise on your group, check with others in your committee and contact your staff manager, who should be able to help recruit additional members for the group.

Right from the start of the standard’s development, take advantage of the tools that ASTM International provides to facilitate the project: the templates that help organize the sections of a standard and the collaboration areas that provide a space online specifically for a work item’s review and evolution. Editorial assistance is available from ASTM staff from the time you start writing as well as online resources, particularly Form and Style for ASTM Standards. Your committee’s staff manager is also there to help.

Like a project manager, the technical contact — along with the task group — has the goal of a successfully completed standard. The process, in its simplest form, calls for drafting and balloting and revisions. To keep the work moving, the technical contact needs to assign tasks (perhaps gathering needed information, for example), maintaining an online collaboration area and compiling information for the draft. When the task group considers the draft ready for ballot, the technical contact submits the item for ballot after obtaining approval from the subcommittee chairman or subcommittee.

Along the way, the technical contact reports to the subcommittee chairman regarding the standard’s progress and makes requests to the subcommittee regarding interlaboratory study assistance, if needed. The contact also responds to questions regarding the technical content of a standard.

Technical contacts also handle negative votes by contacting the voters to discuss the vote and proceeding with any needed revisions or writing nonpersuasive motions. More about this topic can be found in the SN article, “Getting Positive Results from Negative Votes”.

To learn more about being a technical contact, consider attending the module on the topic slated to be held Sept. 27 and 29 as part of the 2011 Virtual Officers Training Week from Sept. 26 to 29. For more about the program, click here, or contact Jennifer Rodgers, ASTM (phone: 610-832-9694).