Let’s reach back to look towards tomorrow!

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

In this my fourth and last Policy Statement, I want to cover the concept of Strategic Planning.  Almost every corner within the ACS has been urged to go through a Strategic Planning Retreat at least every five years.  This includes Local Sections, Divisions, and committees and yes, even the Board of Directors.

This Strategic Planning process has been used to guide the various ACS identities into the future, to re-focus their efforts and align them with the duties and purposes as presented in the ACS Governing Documents.  However, in looking at the big picture, there seems to be one major Strategic Planning event missing – that of the entire Society. 

Reaching back through the 145-year history of the ACS, we can see a tradition of expanding with new efforts, ideas, levels of governance, etc.  But, in order to insure no one felt as if they were being replaced, the Society just kept adding on and adding on.   Now, we see a Society that is so large and cumbersome, that it is hard to get it on a “diet” to readily meet the needs of today.

Here are some examples:

  • The ACS now has a Council larger in size than the Congress of the United States, and expanding with the addition of an “ex-officio” Councilor each and every year.
  • The ACS was set up with Regions, Regional Boards holding Regional meetings.  However, someone came forth with the idea of Election Districts and added them to the mix.  Now we have Districts, District Directors, Regions, Regional Boards, Regional Meetings, etc.
  • The ACS has often come forth with new focus areas and added more bureaucracy in the process instead of seeing where such efforts could fit in.  Look at the focus now on diversity, equity, inclusion & respect – a noble effort for sure, but there are now at least 18 Subcommittees, Working Groups, etc. all within the ACS presently doing the same thing and all reinventing the wheel. 
  • The ACS has a committee structure that allows multiple committees to be working on the same efforts, stepping over each other to accomplish the same thing.  And when that is realized, those committees send out liaisons to the other committees to let them know what they are doing – taking members out of their own committee meetings to do so.

The bottom line is that we have allowed the ACS to be more complicated than it really has to be – and far too complicated to react in a timely manner in today’s world – the same lack of coordination and focus that lead to all of the Strategic Planning efforts.

Yes, this is a Society with a great history, but we seem to have spent a lot of time and finances trying to organize the individual components and actually wound up adding a lot of new concepts to the present structure, which often simply added more weight, bureaucracy and confusion to the Society.

Thus, as a Member of the Board, I will push for the “ultimate Strategic Planning Retreat” that will look at a membership society in the year 2022 and design how that would look and work.  To do this right, I would suggest the following participants in such a retreat:

  • One Director-at-Large,
  • One District Director,
  • The ACS President-Elect,
  • The ACS Executive Director,
  • The ACS Secretary,
  • The Chairs of the three (3) Elected Committees (Nominations & Elections Committee, Council Policy Committee and Committee on Committees),
  • Three Division Chairs (representing one large, one medium and one small Division),
  • Three Local Section Chairs (representing one large, one medium and one small Local Section), and
  • A Chair from one International Chapter.

About 50% of these participants should represent industry or government labs and 50% academia.

To do this right, I strongly feel this group needs to work with a blank canvas and be willing to keep an eye on the past, but with a focus on the future.  They need to certainly respect the foundation this Society was built up, but they will need to redefine a governance body that can act and react quickly to ever changing needs and focus not on what is in it for the Society or for any individual body or person, but rather what is in it for our members.  The number one enemy to this process will be our own territorialism and resistance to meaningful change.  You know, that is where we say that “resizing is good, just not my Section”, or  “Term limits are a good idea, but not in my area”, or  “Being inclusive is right, but we need the same people on our Committee”.  Now more than ever, this needs to be a time when we focus on the whole picture and do the right thing while not focusing on individual interests and doing the most expedient thing.

We all know that life has not been the same since March of 2020.  Many have lost family and close friends to Covid and we see so many people experiencing problems in their personal life and careers.  We have all had to do things differently and refocus our lives.  The past year has been a stark reminder that we do not know how much time we have left here.  But if I have learned one thing and I make it a pledge to you, it is that whatever time I have, I plan to use it to make a difference.

Join me in making 2022 the first step on a new path forward for the ACS!