PASS Update #26 (Bylaws & Upcoming Board Meeting)

Most months we do a conference call, but a couple times a year we get to meet in person and it’s a much better experience for collaborating. For the first time since I joined the board we’re meeting on the east coast saving me some travel time and more importantly, avoiding the jet lag. We’ll be meeting at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fl on March 22 & 23, 2010. I’ll be driving down Sunday afternoon (about a 3 hour drive) for dinner with the early arrivers.

As always we have a busy agenda, and perhaps the most interesting item for me is a chance for us discuss what changes we want to make to the by-laws. The goal is to agree on the main changes, and leave the final language for a follow up discussion. I’m going to mention some ideas I hope to get support for below, but I hope you’ll read our by-laws and send me (or any other board member) your ideas on changes you would like to see. Changes are hard, as they should be, and it’s often tough to figure out what belongs in the by-laws and what should be a matter of our standard procedures. Come up with ideas, and we’ll sort it out.

Now, the changes I hope to put out for discussion:

  • Removing the concept of the Executive Committee (President, both VP’s, Past President, and Exec Director). Officers would remain, the committee would not.
  • Elect officers directly from the board – removing the officer nomination committee.
  • Require all board members to be elected/re-elected, right now officers are appointed by the board and not longer run for re-election
  • Change the term of officers to one year
  • Clarify and simplify the term limits
  • Move the date of the election to mid summer so it doesn’t conflict with the Summit, and thus would get the full attention of our members
  • Add language authorizing officers to speak and write without presenting an official position of PASS (much as I do here)(not sure how we do this legally, maybe just require a disclaimer)
  • Require meeting minutes to be published with 10 business days
  • Limit companies to no more than 3 employees/representatives on the board, and to no more than one serving as an officer

We’re also going to be discussing transparency, an area where I think we still do badly. Transparency is also hard, it means showing our members that we don’t always agree, that we make mistakes, and in general makes you feel a bit vulnerable. Yet, without transparency, PASS seems devoid of life and interest. Not all board members are bloggers, and we can’t expect them to just start – how do we get them to communicate better? Or said differently, how we can show you what they are doing in a way that’s helpful to all?

I like the suggestion from Jack Corbett that we should consider everything open by default, and only mark a very few things as confidential (an example would be a sponsorship package we negotiate with a vendor for the Summit). We really have relatively few areas like this, and it would remove the fear of ‘saying something wrong’. I think everyone who reads my posts like this one understands that it’s my own view, not an official ‘position’, and that i have my own ideas and biases. Should I run for re-election, you’ll have a lot of information to support your decision to vote for or against me – I think that’s largely not true for most of the other board members.

One final point on that. It’s not enough to just do. Our members have to understand what we do and how long it took, and if it worked. From time to time we’ll show them a failure, and in my experience being willing to admit failures is a requirement of good leadership, and pragmatically, failures almost always smack of truth, lending more credence to the times we write about our successes.

Let me know what you think.

9 thoughts on “PASS Update #26 (Bylaws & Upcoming Board Meeting)

  1. I agree 100% with your points to raise with one exception – I’m not sure about the 1-year terms for officers. Part of me says 1-year terms make more sense because our lives are so hectic – it’s easier to sign on for a 1-year commitment than anything longer. The other part of me says it’d be good to have some continuity. That’s a tough one. The rest are slam dunks though.

    When you rely on volunteers, transparency is more important than ever. The more that volunteers can see inside the organization, the more excited they get about things that matter to them. Otherwise, they can’t see anywhere that they could help out or get involved, because it looks like a giant monolith making decisions by itself.

    I’m probably the far extreme example, though – I’m the kind of guy who would say, “Why can’t we Ustream board meetings? Why does the PASS Board need to be more private than, say, Congress on CSPAN?” I’d make a list of the volunteer organizations that are doing amazing things and achieving very rapid growth, and model the organization on that. If you want to achieve success and buzz like SXSW or Ted, you can’t do it behind closed doors.

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  2. I guess I have to make this statement upfront: the following should be considered my personal view as a private SQL Server fan.

    Having worked with path the last 8 years, I believe the best way we can get the Organization Management consistent is by establishing the role of a “Director of PASS”. Somebody that is on PASS’s payroll and manages Staff and multiple Vendors on one side, and helps the BoD to be successfull with their work for the Community on the other side. That would eliminate the issues we have with BoD members changing portfolios and joining/leaving the BoD on the other hand and prevent us from being too dependent from Staff on the other. Of course that person needs to be somebody that has enough experience with PASS and his heart in the right place when it comes to the Community as such. Not an easy recruiting I guess.

    My two cents…

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  3. I guess I have to make this statement upfront: the following should be considered my personal view as a private SQL Server fan.

    Having worked with path the last 8 years, I believe the best way we can get the Organization Management consistent is by establishing the role of a “Director of PASS”. Somebody that is on PASS’s payroll and manages Staff and multiple Vendors on one side, and helps the BoD to be successfull with their work for the Community on the other side. That would eliminate the issues we have with BoD members changing portfolios and joining/leaving the BoD on the other hand and prevent us from being too dependent from Staff on the other. Of course that person needs to be somebody that has enough experience with PASS and his heart in the right place when it comes to the Community as such. Not an easy recruiting I guess.

    My two cents…

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  4. Brent,

    I’m curious about your statement comparing PASS to SWSX and TED. What do you think they’re doing in the way of transparency that we could learn from?

    -Bill

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  5. Christoph, I don’t know if that is the right solution, but I understand your intent, and look forward to discussing it in more detail when next we meet!

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  6. Great post Andy, I like the opinions and approach you’re taking.

    I think that with any group of leaders steering an organisation decisions can be hard and discussions can be heated, but all in all you’re all steering it together.

    The points you raised need to be fleshed out I guess and I agree in principle to most. One that is difficult to agree on face value though is the 1 year term for officers. I know its great from a commitment perspective as you’re mostly volunteers, but it takes a while, generally longer than a year to see things that you’re looking to implement come to fruition. 1 year terms may cause some instability in the strategic thinking and decisions.

    I think the Executive committee is there to help fast track decisions etc (my simplistic impression), but this requires faith in the leadership of the committee and due weighted responsibility on their part as well which I suspect they don’t take idly. If the board is at a stage where it can make these decisions quickly and effectively then great, it means that the board’s dynamics are synergised. it may just be a case of revising what critical mass is needed on a decision, which members are responsible for what actions and what types of decisions fall into the responsibilities of these focussed-committees.

    Great work in any case though to you, the board and all the other SQL Focussed Volunteers that make PASS what it is. The task you’ve all taken on is not a light one. The time you spend on PASS is time that could very easily be dedicated to your other personal commitments and hobbies 🙂

    Charley.

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  7. Great post Andy, I like the opinions and approach you’re taking.

    I think that with any group of leaders steering an organisation decisions can be hard and discussions can be heated, but all in all you’re all steering it together.

    The points you raised need to be fleshed out I guess and I agree in principle to most. One that is difficult to agree on face value though is the 1 year term for officers. I know its great from a commitment perspective as you’re mostly volunteers, but it takes a while, generally longer than a year to see things that you’re looking to implement come to fruition. 1 year terms may cause some instability in the strategic thinking and decisions.

    I think the Executive committee is there to help fast track decisions etc (my simplistic impression), but this requires faith in the leadership of the committee and due weighted responsibility on their part as well which I suspect they don’t take idly. If the board is at a stage where it can make these decisions quickly and effectively then great, it means that the board’s dynamics are synergised. it may just be a case of revising what critical mass is needed on a decision, which members are responsible for what actions and what types of decisions fall into the responsibilities of these focussed-committees.

    Great work in any case though to you, the board and all the other SQL Focussed Volunteers that make PASS what it is. The task you’ve all taken on is not a light one. The time you spend on PASS is time that could very easily be dedicated to your other personal commitments and hobbies 🙂

    Charley.

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  8. Charley,

    I think it’s a fair point about one year terms maybe leading to short term thinking, but in practice what I see is a lack of urgency to do things NOW, and it’s really hard to maintain the energy level needed for 2 years without going dark quite a bit.

    My understanding is that the Exec grew out of worries about having a President that worked for a SQL vendor. The problem we’ve had is that the Exec doesn’t communicate/share with the board, creating a very common problem called a ‘board within a board’ that causes a lot of negatives. We need officers that are empowered to sign contracts, we can certainly delegate many decisions, but the board deserves to be consulted on many decisions.

    We’ve also developed a culture that presumes VP’s will migrate to President by default, which tends to reinforce the two class system and also tends to remove any reason for them to work on their communications with the board – they are in, and can just do as they believe best.

    Boards exist for a reason, and here in the US we’ve had a lot of pain because boards were just there in theory – no teeth.

    Not trying to be overly negative, and I appreciate the feedback because certainly for any change we have to try to make sure the result is better than what we had.

    Like

  9. Charley,

    I think it’s a fair point about one year terms maybe leading to short term thinking, but in practice what I see is a lack of urgency to do things NOW, and it’s really hard to maintain the energy level needed for 2 years without going dark quite a bit.

    My understanding is that the Exec grew out of worries about having a President that worked for a SQL vendor. The problem we’ve had is that the Exec doesn’t communicate/share with the board, creating a very common problem called a ‘board within a board’ that causes a lot of negatives. We need officers that are empowered to sign contracts, we can certainly delegate many decisions, but the board deserves to be consulted on many decisions.

    We’ve also developed a culture that presumes VP’s will migrate to President by default, which tends to reinforce the two class system and also tends to remove any reason for them to work on their communications with the board – they are in, and can just do as they believe best.

    Boards exist for a reason, and here in the US we’ve had a lot of pain because boards were just there in theory – no teeth.

    Not trying to be overly negative, and I appreciate the feedback because certainly for any change we have to try to make sure the result is better than what we had.

    Like

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