As noted last month, CSI began as a group of specifiers, or, in today's terms, professional members. There also were a very few who would today be called industry members, but it was clear that this was an organization of design professionals, concerned primarily with the art of writing specifications. Over the years, the balance changed, and we now have almost equal numbers of professional members and industry members (for convenience, I'm considering industry and associate members as a single group). Along with their growth in numbers, industry members attained more rights and privileges, and there are now only a few small differences between voting members. Clearly, CSI has changed. It is not the organization it was in the beginning, but is an organization of design professionals and product representatives, with a smaller number of contractors and subcontractors.
Our bylaws presently mandate representation of professional and industry members on the Board:
The Nominating Committee shall select candidates for Officers and Directors at Large to ensure that at least three of the eight are either Professional, or Industry or Associate members.While this may sound like a good idea, at least if you're concerned that industry or professional members might get the upper hand and drive out the other group, it ignores other factors that are at least as important when choosing candidates for office. It also does not take into account the fact that many of our professional members work for manufacturers; it is quite possible to meet the stated requirement for balanced representation, yet have only Board members who work for manufacturers.
Part of the proposed change in member classification is a new way to track members. We currently classify members in three ways: by membership type, e.g., professional or industry; by the occupation codes that appear on the membership application form; and by firm types, which also appear on the application form. If you look at that form, you will see fifty-eight occupation codes and thirteen firm types.
Combining all three classification types, we have 2,262 possible types of member. That may sound impressive, but in my three year term as Institute director, only occasionally would I see a reference to occupation codes, and then only as a statistical report; that information was not used for anything useful.
The new tracking system will have six groups:
Group 100 - Academic OccupationsThese occupation groups are much more usable than the ones we currently use - more specific than three member types, and more useful and manageable than the current occupation codes.
Academic staff, educator, student, trade apprentice.
Group 200 - Construction Occupations
Construction craftsperson, construction manager, general contractor, subcontractor.
Group 300 - Design Occupations
Architect, BIM or CAD specialist, design consultant, engineer, interior designer, landscape architect, specifier, surveyor, urban planner.
Group 400 - Facility Occupations
Developer, manager, owner.
Group 500 - Product Occupations
A/E representative, dealer, distributor, manufacturer, manufacturer’s representative, manufacturers association, marketing, sales.
Group 600 - Related Occupations
Accounting, attorney, banker, building official, computer support specialist, financial advisor, graphic designer, inspector, insurance, labor representative, legal staff, public agencies staff, publisher, realtor, surety advisor, technical writer, testing lab personnel, trade association, other occupation not listed in any group.
Institute nominating process
Until recently, CSI nominating committees have been ad hoc committees, formed just before the annual election to find volunteers to run for whatever offices happened to be open in the next election. In theory, these committees give us qualified, capable candidates who will be able to run our organization and keep it current. From what I have seen at every level of the Institute, that is not always the case.
It is sometimes difficult to find volunteers for the nominating committee, and it may not get started on time. Only rarely does anyone actually volunteer to run for office, so the committee usually starts with a list of well-known members, whose qualifications may not be known; being friendly and a great guy aren't much to go on. Occasionally, the top candidates agree to run for office, but often they don't, and the committee works its way down the list. The scarcity of volunteers makes ballots with two nominees unusual.
A few years ago, significant changes were made to the Institute nominating process. It now is a standing committee, working year-round to find and evaluate potential candidates for the Institute Board. The process includes assessment of the current Board's knowledge and skills, which is considered when evaluating candidates. The nominating committee has always considered various factors, but it now focuses on finding candidates who will improve the Board's capabilities.
While it may be argued that the presence on the Board of one group or another is important, it is not the only thing to consider, and it probably is not the most important. Strong leaders have many characteristics: proven performance, good character and reputation, and, obviously, ability to lead; in comparison, what they do for a living is a secondary consideration. Availability also is important; Board service is demanding, and requires a commitment to do more than simply show up.
Gene Valentine, current Nominating Committee Chair, offers these comments about the restructured nominating committee.
"In the past two years, the Nominating Committee has embraced the spirit of the governance reform by intentionally broadening the potential candidate pool - especially for particular skill sets or experience. The committee has used the Balanced Scorecard system for attempting to identify the present skills and experience of board members, and then determining what gaps need to be addressed. The scorecard uses a comprehensive matrix for evaluating many factors, including skills, knowledge, age bracket, education, geographic location, and occupation to help identify the best candidates to fill a need or gap on the Board. The committee has focused primarily on the potential candidate's experience, background, and occupation rather than the traditional consideration mostly of immediate past service to the Institute or the organization. The committee has embraced a position that no individual is entitled to candidacy, rather that their past service is but one of the criteria used to evaluate their potential. In my opinion this has (and will) serve the best interests of CSI.Communication
"The committee has placed greater emphasis on potential candidates' abilities to think, evaluate, and make decisions with broad perspective in their past businesses, projects, etc. I have always valued members individually for what they offered and contributed to the organization, and I think we all believe that one of the features that make CSI special is the synergy that is created by all members of the construction team."
Some industry professionals have expressed a more practical objection to the elimination of the current member categories. Put simply, they use those categories in their businesses. As one member said, "When I want to send out promotional mail, I give the secretary the mailer and the member roster, and say 'Send it to everyone with a P after their name.'" The same thing can be said for communicating other information. A chapter certification committee might want to contact specific members about a CCPR or CCS class, or a chapter might want to target students and teachers for a specific event.
A compromise between specificity and usability will always be necessary; the six occupation groups are a reasonable refinement of the three categories we now have. They make it easier to target specific members than is possible by relying on the current associate, industry, and professional categories, but are much more usable than the current occupation codes, which appear to be ignored in any case.
It's not that simple - or that difficult
Meaningful representation on the Institute Board requires consideration of more than a member's basic occupation. While it is important to include the perspectives of both those who write, and those who use, construction documents, it is more important to find leaders who are able to think, to lead, and to determine what is important for the organization as a whole.
Communication will be improved by refining member categories. Three categories aren't quite enough, but if the number gets too large, it is likely that several groups would be combined for most purposes. The six proposed groups are a good compromise, and will serve us better than the three we now use.
There is no perfect solution, but the proposed changes will help the Institute Nominating Committee to choose the best candidates, and will make it easier to target communication to specific recipients. And, by removing mandatory representation based on a single criterion, it will be easier to respond to changes in membership and needs of the Board. Yes, we must consider the needs of large groups of members, but we also must have the flexibility to respond to changes as they occur, without the need to poll the members every time there is a change in those groups.