Saturday, January 12, 2008

I Visited the Sausage Factory (and did't throw up)--
Otto von Bismark said, "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. " I was wondering if seeing how STC really runs from the inside would be a similar experience. I'm serving as an interim director for the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and I am attending my first board meeting in Arlington, VA. Since I am also running for 2ndVP, this is my first reality check to see what I could possibly be getting myself into. I was pleasantly relieved to see that the process and the environment are pretty sane. (I'm not saying I expected them to be anything else, I'm just saying...)

I am very impressed with the caliber of the STC members serving on the board. I know we're a smart group of communicators, but I did not expect the breadth of business acumen and management skills. I was also impressed with the consultants who reported to the board on several areas of analysis the board had commissioned. One had been done by a CPA who specializes in associations, one by a publications consultant--once again who specializes in association and non-profit organizations--and one by an economist who had done a comparative study of the role of a formal body of knowledge and certification across four benchmark organizations. We also heard some impressive reports from member committees, especially one that had done a similar study of our publications from a more internal perspective. That study dove-tailed nicely with the one done by the consultant.

My impression is that we have a skilled set of professionals in the STC office, a mature set of governance principles, and some exciting challenges ahead of us. The two primary objectives that seem to be emerging are to create a stronger business model that mitigates fiscal risk and to move aggressively to defining our body of knowledge--a hallmark criterion for being a profession. The good part of that scenario is that "fix a broken organization" is not on the list.

So, if elected to executive leadership, I see a clear path emerging before me:
  • Continue to improve STC operations that will provide greater fiscal security. (Not that we are in trouble in that regard; it's just that we received some excellent advice about how we could improve.)
  • Implement recommendations to improve the effectiveness of our publications
  • Aggressively support the Body of Knowledge project
I know there has been some turmoil over the past few years, and I have certainly seen threads of discontent running through some of the forums and blogs. As a profession, we have some great challenges as we see our roles changing, and I think STC is as relevant and necessary as it has ever been for technical communicators. I think the professional and volunteer leadership is as ethical and expert a group as you could ever hope to assemble to meet these challenges.

So I'm going on record: If you are looking for a candidate of discontent (the throw the bastards out platform)--Don't vote for me. I'm pretty happy with what I saw.

And if you've felt alienated or discontented, let's give it a new try. Don't just look to STC to solve our problems, become active and make yourselves part of the solution again.

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