Cicely Enright

Make Your Committee a Vital One

ABP. Always be planning.

That goes for new leaders (and new members). It's an ongoing process. It's also crucial for keeping a committee vital.

"Planning new leadership is key to the success of the overall operation of a committee," says Jack Germaine, Sc.D., chairman of Committee D18 on Soil and Rock.

Jason Lawrence adds, "Succession planning is vital to maintain the continuity of the committee. Officers need to be comfortable with their roles, with the policies and procedures that govern how committee work is done and with running an efficient and effective meeting." Lawrence is director of product development for McElroy Manufacturing, and chairman of Subcommittee F17.20 on Joining, part of Committee F17 on Plastic Piping Systems. He became involved in F17 at the invitation of company colleague and long-time member Jim Craig, P.E.

Find Your Future Leaders

"The best way I know to make this handoff gracefully is to plan ahead, to identify individual members who are interested in contributing, to familiarize them with the process of standards development, and to give them opportunities to contribute in leadership roles," Lawrence says.

Germaine, a research professor at the Tufts University School of Engineering, recalls that fellow D18 members started chatting about the possibility of his leading a group soon after he became involved in the committee. They asked: Would he consider moving into a leadership role? Would he be interested in leading a subcommittee? And now that he's chairman of the main committee - more than 1,200 members - the questions have shifted but not stopped. Now they are along these lines: Who might be the next chairman? Who is being mentored and readied for this role?

Germaine says you can tell when a member is ready to move into a leadership role: those who are extremely prepared for meetings, who understand the issues and contribute in a way that demonstrates their commitment. Consider asking these people to become an officer, perhaps a vice chairman.

To particularly support vice chairmen (D18 is structured so that there are plenty of vice chairmen), Germaine arranges conference calls in between regular meetings. He communicates regularly in general with emails and phone calls.

Find New Members

Attracting new members in the first place can be a challenge. The May/June Standardization News En Route column touches on what a few committees do. For example: invite individuals, companies or professional organizations who work near the site to the meeting and hold special programs of interest (workshops, networking receptions) in that region and invite area professionals.

Ongoing technical workshops and symposia may also attract visitors who might become new members. (Follow up here can be key.) And, Germaine adds, pursuing new standards development work - as D18 has with hydraulic fracturing - can also bring in new expertise and interest. ASTM can support these new activities with special membership promotions. If you're interested in doing one, contact your staff manager.


ASTM helps orient new members with email communications and programs (details can be found here). The Emerging Professionals Program, piloted this year and being evaluated for continuation in 2016, supports recommended candidates early on in their experience with developing or using standards. The program sponsors attendance at a committee week to help foster their work on ASTM committees.

Technical committees also hold programs geared toward new members. For example, D18 holds regular workshops about the ASTM process at its meetings, and its planning subcommittee discusses ways to further engage new members. D18 and other committees regularly host new member orientation sessions. And, the ASTM Technical Committee Mentor Program provides one-on-one help from a seasoned member before, during or after a meeting.

Regular ASTM online training sessions for members and officers delve into the standards process, from orientation to handling negative votes, and the ASTM tools supporting the process. That can help newer members and officers explore details of the ASTM process.

Once new members become a bit familiar with the process, consider whether they might be interested in more responsibility. Lawrence says, "It is essential that we give new members the opportunity to contribute through the processes of running task group meetings, developing standards and doing floor work (making motions and resolving negatives). We need to ensure that we teach new members how to get consensus standards developed in the ASTM environment, and how we can disagree and yet resolve our disagreements constructively."

Germaine and Lawrence also note the importance of recognizing member contributions. Lawrence says that doing so "assures each member that their contributions help improve the state of the standards that shape our industry." That best happens both with formal awards and with personal thank yous at a meeting or with a call or email.

The ASTM leadership web pages provide information and resources for members, technical committees and employers.

Wherever your committee may be in all this, remember that staff managers can be of help. ABP.

How Your Company Benefits from Involvement with Standards

The current SN series on Enhancing Your Role as a Standards Professional (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) which has run from March/April to this issue, takes a close look at how your standards involvement benefits your company and can be strategically planned. In addition, standards and conformity assessment impact more than 80 percent of global commodity trade; that's a good reason to be involved.

Remember (and remind your company if need be) the positive impact of being part of ASTM work:

  • Committee meetings provide opportunities to connect with clients and colleagues;
  • Meetings (and the conversations before, after and in between) keep you informed about what's going on in your industry;
  • When you're a committee member, you know what's going on with new standards and revisions that can affect your product, your market and your bottom line; and
  • Members develop communications, problem solving and negotiating skills while representing their companies on a standards group; these skills translate to effectiveness in professional roles as well.
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