Thoughts on the 2018 (and beyond) PASS Elections – Part 1

Last week Wendy Pastrick of the PASS Board posted PASS Election 2018 Timeline. It’s a good post for a few reasons:

  • It signals changes to an existing process (which leaves time for discussion/uproar as needed and any resulting course corrections)
  • It explains why the change is being made
  • It has measurable goals (though I’d argue that while measurable, they are not concrete – better goals would have numbers/percentages attached)

Having read it, what you and I should do is start with the why, because that frames everything else. When it comes to decisions, framing is a big part of it. If you don’t like the framing, you probably won’t like the proposed solution!

Seeking to increase engagement and increasing the number of qualified candidates seem like worthy goals to me. Shortening the timeline to increase engagement? There may be value in shortening the overall time from the submitting of an application to the announcement of the new members, but I’m not sure. In terms of the public facing part (candidates announced, campaigning, elections, announcement) it’s not a long period as it is. Still, I don’t see it threatening the election and so have no major objection.

I won’t go through all the changes (note to PASS, if you really want to drive comments, think about how you might structure a post so that we can easily comment on portions of it, “change #1”, “goal #2”, etc), but will comment on two areas of concern I see. Before I do that, think about this – is it unfair to only comment on the portions that interest/concern/excite/whatever me versus writing a line by line evaluation? My take is that any feedback is useful and that this is not a homework assignment to trudge through. If you can do a line by line analysis, go for it. If not, posting thoughts or comments is a way to help Board members assess and re-assess a course charted by not yet traveled. Equally those comments may inspire someone else to take a look and write something too.

So, back to the concerns:

  • Voting at the PASS Summit. A long time ago we did this because only paid members (yes, that was sort of a thing) could vote. It was good because you could in theory meet the candidates, though few did – we never put them up on stage at the keynote. The not so good part was that learning about candidates and making an informed vote while trying to go to sessions and after events was a lot to ask. We got votes, yes, but votes without much time for reflection. I’ll balance my argument by saying there are ways to offset both of those, if the Board works at it. But my real concern, one much more serious, is that it will be very hard to win a seat if you are not attending the Summit, and not every candidate will be able to commit to that due to schedule and/or cost. That has a big potential impact for international candidates. Is that reason enough to not do it? I don’t know. I know that just getting more votes doesn’t make PASS a better organization. It might be more interesting to ask “why don’t members vote” and then act on the answer(s).
  • Getting more qualified candidates. A great goal, but I see no concrete plan beyond ‘contact us’ which is what the plan has always been and it seems like (perhaps not fair) is that we’re positioning this election as being less effort for candidates (not something I agree with, because if you can’t handle the election process, actually serving on the Board is harder). Trying to say this next part carefully – I imagine qualified in the context means meeting the requirements, while I’d much prefer that it meant prepared. Preparation takes years, takes more than just leading a SQLSaturday or a group or being a regional mentor. All of those are good, but none is enough. If we want candidates that can serve us well (servant leadership), that can get things done, and that can end their terms feeling successful, we have to train them years in advance. That is and has been my challenge to PASS – if you want to fix this, invest.

Overall the changes and goals are ok, nothing here that sets off the alarm for me. But if it did, I would have time to craft a better response and to take the further steps of engaging with others and with the Board directly and that’s why as a member I really appreciate the post from Wendy. I’ll post a link to this post in the comments to her post, and then the Board can comment or not, act or not, but they’ll have a little bit richer sense of how their decision will be seen and perhaps how it might be tweaked some for even better results.