The focus of this blog is construction-related topics. The purpose is discussion, so please feel free to comment! See Specific thoughts for thoughts from the daily life of a specifier.

12 January 2010

On the other hand...

After CSI’s October 2009 Board Flash, I wrote “A rose is a rose…”, in which I questioned the need for a change of member classification based on the vague explanation that was offered - “The Board believes the condensing of member classifications better reflects CSI's core value of building teamwork among construction professionals.” I also asked for more justification.

In response, I was accused of “old thinking.” Interesting, given that all I had done was review a little history, show that - with the exception of choosing leaders - there is no difference between members, and point out the need to again change chapter bylaws if the amendment is approved. I hoped we might have a little open discussion, and that advocates of change would provide sound reasons for the proposed change.

Remembering how much fun I had I college, taking any side of an argument just for fun, I decided to give the proponents of change a little help, and look at reasons for making the change from three member types to one. There is a good reason for making the change, and we’ll get to it. But first, I’ll comment on the claims that were posted. Sorry, but you’ll have to put up with more of my old thinking.

Following is the proposal, as stated on the ballot.

CSI should change its membership classifications to reflect its operations and to transparently welcome all members of the construction team, thereby solving the following problems:
  1. The current membership classifications create the perception of class distinction and hierarchy among members.
  2. The current membership classifications limit growth because they do not address the increasing diversity of the construction industry.
  3. The current membership classifications do not address the continuing changes in the project delivery methods within the design and construction industry.
  4. Prospective members cannot always readily identify their niche in the current membership classifications.

I’m not sure what it means to “transparently welcome all members of the construction team” so I’ll let that one go. It is claimed that there is a “perception of class distinction and hierarchy among members.” It is possible that there are some who, because of their occupation, believe they are better than others. If so, those feelings would exist even if we had only one type of member, so that is no reason to go through the work required to make the change.

It is claimed that “current membership classifications limit growth because they do not address the increasing diversity of the construction industry [or] changes in the project delivery methods....” Under the current classifications, you either:
  1. write, interpret, enforce or oversee the completion of construction documents,
  2. use and/or comply with construction documents, or supply materials for construction projects, or
  3. provide service, support and assistance to the construction industry.
That seems pretty flexible and all-inclusive to me. If you fit into more than one category, you get to pick the one you want, and changing category is a simple process. I have no idea what project delivery systems have to do with the issue. Because memberships are individual, one person working for a design-build firm may be a professional member, while another may be an industry member.

As for teachers, their offense at not being considered "professional" is amusing for a couple of reasons. They of all people should be accustomed to using defined terms that often include or exclude things that might otherwise not be, for the sake of convenience. They also have a strange reverence for the term "professor", which, according to its definition, could be used by anyone who has a soapbox, yet they reserve that title for only some of those who teach.

It is claimed that prospective members “cannot always readily identify their niche in the current membership classifications.” Again, our three types of members are simple and easy to understand. Although showing that another organization's approach is worse than ours is not justification for what we do, before you accept this argument, take a look at the membership applications for AIA, AGC, NSPE, and USGBC. If a complicated membership application is an obstacle, USGBC and AIA would be out of business.

“A single Member classification would reinforce the way that members interact with each other and the way the organization relates to the design and construction industry as a whole.” Member interactions are based on what they do, not on their member classifications. As far as I know, no member’s interaction with other members has been limited by existing classifications.

“While simplifying classifications, CSI would continue to capture current occupation codes [which would] be included [for] end users as needed.” I’m not sure how it will be an improvement for chapters to use the fifty-six member codes instead of three members types. If we’re concerned about how complicated the membership application form is, removing occupation codes would have more impact than eliminating member classification.

“…instead of simply ‘Professional’, specifications writers, architects, and engineers would be identified by their occupation; ‘Industry' members would be identified as contractors, manufacturers’ representatives, and so forth.” Does this mean we’re going from referring to all members simply as members, to calling them “Product Manufacturing Representative Members” and “Specification Writer Members”? If we’re after a single member classification, why mention occupations at all?


Is there a good reason to change to a single type of member? As it turns out, there is, though those who advocate this change appear reluctant to state it.

About the only time member classification comes into play is when we’re choosing nominees for elected office. Institute bylaws require that Institute and chapter boards of directors have representation of professional members and of industry or professional members.

As long as I have thought about such things, I have been told that a balance of member types is a Good Thing, and I have had reason to believe it. Imagine a chapter with only specifiers, or one with only manufacturers’ representatives, or one with all contractors; there would be none of the interrelationships that make it worthwhile to be a member. And requiring a certain number of each type of member on a board of directors is a Good Thing in that it prevents one group or another from becoming dominant; of course, this could be avoided by a nominating committee charged with trying to maintain some sort of balance. If all members are equal it shouldn’t make any difference who serves on the board of directors.

A valid reason for having a single member type is this: It allows nominating committees to look first for the best candidates, and later to consider what they do. As the Institute Board reaches its final size, it is possible that meeting a mandatory minimum number of one member type or another would mean passing over a superior candidate in favor of one less well qualified. The same applies to chapters, many of which have trouble finding enough volunteers to fill board positions. Should they be required to pass over volunteers just to maintain a balance?

And so, in addition to the things I asked you to consider before - which remain valid concerns - consider which is more important: the need for balance or the ability to vote for the best candidate.

1 comment:

  1. Tom Montero, FCSI Member Emeritus, CDT31 January, 2013 08:52

    This issue has me frustrated as well. In order to identify the "Industry" member, be it Mfr Rep or Contractor, one has to go the the Institute's Chapter/Region Member list. Time consuming and, I dare say, few members know about the "list" in order to identify the member's "profession". Why couldn't the Classification stay as it was and just place the word "Professional" behind the other classifications, i.e. Industry "Professional". After all, they ARE professionals in their field . . . perhaps with a few exceptions. :-) Oh well, I guess I'm "old school" as well.