Wrapping Up The 2013 PASS Election-Part 3

Today I’ll continue with my notes and thoughts on the 2013 election process and a good place to start is by returning to the role of the NomCom. As I discussed in Part 2 and as you might expect the committee exists to nominate candidates to the Board to be placed on the slate for voting – a slate that has to be approved by the Board by formal vote. I like that the committee is narrowly focused and I like that it’s an area where the Board successfully delegates a significant task. But is the NomCom all there is to an election? That is indeed the question.

Three years ago we formed an Election Review Committee (ERC) to review and reform the process used to govern elections. I was on that committee and given the history of the organization and the recent challenges in elections I think we did a good job. There have been calls over the last two years for another ERC to be formed, to review what parts of the process work and which need to be tweaked, but so far the Board has not deemed it appropriate to do so. My guess is that there is a reluctance to open up an issue too soon. The process has worked well enough that no immediate fix was needed so better to let it run a few cycles and then decide about tweaks.

So am I for or against a new ERC? Yes!

I think reviewing the rules every year is going to tend to have us making very tactical and perhaps unnecessary tweaks based on the most recent election – whose circumstances may or may not be representative. My first thought is to set up the ERC as a committee that re-hydrates every three or four years with a mandate to look at the cause/effect of changes made by the previous PRC. Essentially asking “did the changes have the effect that was expected?”. Part one would be to report the findings back to the Board. The Board would review and then either elect to leave things as they are, or to issue a charter to the ERC to propose solutions to some or all of the items identified in the finding. That would allow the Board to avoid wide course corrections while still allowing and planning for changes to the election process.

Another piece of the puzzle is that there is no committee that is truly tasked with overall election oversight. The NomCom sort of fills the role of answering questions from candidates, but that isn’t the charter and in practice the calendar and the rules are given to the NomCom, not set by it. I think there is some merit in having an “Election Committee” that would be responsible for the election calendar, message review, decisions on any questions candidates have about “is it ok to do x?”. I like the idea of an EC because its charter might also include things like surveying candidates and voters each year for their thoughts on how the election went. I like the idea of an EC that issues a final report back to the Board each year, a report that might trigger the need for a separate ERC to be formed (or not).

I think we’re missing one more committee, one that works on identifying and growing the next generation of leaders. I’d like to see a committee that puts together training that would target this group. Some could be recorded webinars, some could be full day sessions at the Summit. I would love for anyone thinking of running for the Board to have a chance to participate in a half or full day mock Board meeting. I think we need a way for people to better assess their qualifications – are they ready to run, or do they need to shore up some weak areas? Another committee? Perhaps, and I think an ideal place to leverage former Board members.

If you think that sounds like a lot of committees and a lot of bureaucracy, I’ll disagree. Committees are about delegating first and foremost, letting the Board focus on the road ahead. Committees are also places where we find and grow leaders. Committees (and their minutes) also form an important part of the history and culture, it’s how lessons are passed on so that changes are made with an understanding of how we got there.

Getting back into the details of this election there was a lot of talk about fixing IT. PASS has moved forward quite a bit in the past few years but there is no doubt that there is more than can be done. Just like any business PASS should focus on having an IT infrastructure that supports the goals of the organization. The part that bothered me was that it seemed like most of the discussion was on tactical issues around technology – I heard DBA’s talking, not CIO’s, and the Board needs CIO level discussions. I want to hear why IT needs fixing or more money and I want the IT team to clearly understand from the Board the goals and priorities for IT. My intent is not to denigrate candidates or platforms, but to say that we as voters need to ask for more in those platforms beyond things that appeal to us as technology workers and mavens.

Related to technology is a topic broached by Stuart Ainsworth and then by Kendal Van Dyke – how we manage our membership list. Or more accurately, that we don’t. Right now an email address equals a voting member. Sign up using multiple emails (and this is often done as we change jobs or blog names) and you may well get multiple ballots. This is a problem that predates my time on the Board that started in 2009 and as far as I know goes back to day one. We’ve never had effective member management, though the topic has been broached many times.

Obviously this is a key issue for elections. Elections could absolutely be gamed if someone tried. I doubt that anyone has, but I don’t know for sure and neither do you. Regardless of that or why it hasn’t been fixed before, it has to be fixed now, or at least get us on the path to a fix. Solving this isn’t just a matter of de-duping the list, it’s about deciding what constitutes a voting member – do we want to let 800 Oracle guys register this year and vote next year? I’m calling on Bill Graziano and Thomas LaRock to make a commitment to the members to fix this before the next election cycle begins.

I’m running out of writing time, so I’m going to finish with a few quick thoughts:

  • Ballots should go to every email address on file for a candidate,but only allow one vote for a candidate
  • Voting should work cleanly from a smart phone
  • I like the candidate driven election pages like this one that Allen Kinsel did, how can we leverage that for next time as part of Election HQ?
  • I liked seeing longer answers posted on candidate blogs
  • I think that getting elected without a blog is going to get harder and harder
  • I still think that elections are too much about name recognition. It’s an important part, but not the only part. The hard part is we can’t tell – we need some post election surveys to see, if only to decide how much effort to put (or not) into things like Election HQ
  • Name recognition does equal influence, and we want leaders that have made the effort (over a period of years) to build a network and earn the ability to influence.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate what said in my first post – this was in my opinion a good election and I was thrilled to see such a good pool of candidates. I’ve tried to share thoughts and ideas about this election and upcoming ones in a positive way. For all the things I’d like to see improved, I appreciate how far we’ve come.