Experience has shown vividly that we are not all naturally endowed with or well practiced in the skills of Chairmanship. In general, our business experience does not prepare us well for the challenges of leading a committee of industry volunteers in the accomplishment of major industry goals. For most people, specific skills must be discovered and practiced before they become truly effective committee chairs.
This document was prepared to assist CIECA volunteer leaders in clearly defining their role and to provide some tips to those who may for the first time be taking on the challenge of chairing an industry committee. It has been reviewed and approved by the Policy Committee of the Board of Trustees and will be modified regularly to incorporate information that may be of additional use.
Please check the revision date to ensure you have a recent version.
ROLE OF CHAIR
Everyone knows the Chair of a committee is a critical resource, but many do not understand the most effective role of a Chair. The Chair is the one that gets the committee to do its work in the most efficient and effective manner. A common mistake is for the Chair to assume it is their responsibility to do the work of the committee. This is not so, and is often the cause of disappointing results. The key to good chairmanship is the same as for an athletic team coach; facilitate the players working together as they do what they are best at. Whenever the coach tries to play a position on the team, there is no longer anyone coaching.
Achievement of mission
The most important responsibility of a Chair is to ensure that the committee understands and achieves the mission it has accepted on behalf of the industry. This requires some planning and critical thinking on the part of every chair. No matter what it takes, the chair must get this done.
The Chair is responsible for gathering and coordinating the resources the committee needs to get the mission accomplished. This includes people, materials, specific knowledge, tools, or any other kind of support or resource. The Chair is not alone in this quest; CIECA staff will always assist as will the Chairs of the full committees or Action Teams, the Chair of the Operations Committee, The Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees. The resources of an entire industry are available through the Board of Trustees.
Type of Participants
CIECA’s greatest responsibility is to meet the business needs of all its constituents fairly and efficiently. Our work is and should be 90% business concerns and 10% technology concerns. This is true, simply because the technology is of no value without a solid business context and the solution is not right if it does not fairly address everyone’s business need. Too often, member companies do not understand this and send only technical people to represent them at committee meetings. It certainly is true that technical issues must be addressed, but every chairman must be alert to the potential for technical discussion to dominate business application. There have been instances where business people like shop owners (really non-technical) have felt isolated and out of place in committee meetings because technical people dominated the discussion with technical talk. Unfortunately, the business people are the ones the solution must work for, and everyone must recognize they are a critical part of the process. When CIECA members ask, they are told they will best be represented by business oriented people that have access to the appropriate technical expertise when needed. Chairs may find they have the wrong mix of people in their committees and must seek to remedy that. The staff will always be available to assist with such problems. It is better to have all involved parties represented by business people and only a couple represented by technical people than to have the reverse. Technical issues are generally easier to resolve than business issues, that is why each committee is asked to start its work by identifying all business issues and developing a business case for every standard or guideline It is the Chair’s responsibility to establish an agenda that makes it clear the business of the committee is the business of the industry first, and the technical solutions to problems second. In support of this practice, chairs should attempt to clearly identify meetings as to their business or technical content. Some committees have very successfully separated the technical and business people with the former drafting the business requirements and providing them to the Guidelines for Chairs 3 Revised 4/98 technical team for development of the standard. Totally technical meetings can be an important tool for development of a solution to be proposed to the business people for determination that it meets all business needs
CIECA is governed by the Board of Trustees that are elected annually by the full membership. The Board establishes major policy and strategy and relies on volunteers and staff to carry them out. The work of CIECA is done by Action Teams which are created and empowered by the Board of Trustees. Each Action Team may have as many subcommittees as it deems necessary to accomplish its work, and each subcommittee may create as many work groups as it needs. Work groups and subcommittees that are within scope may be created without Board permission, but any that will broaden or change scope must be approved by the Board. Staff stands ready to assist in the interpretation of this policy.
The Chair is also responsible for representing the committee to the rest of the CIECA organization. Chairs of subcommittees keep the Action Team Chairs informed and they in turn keep the Operations Committee and hence the Board informed. The staff is always available to assist in this reporting process, and is responsible for informing the CIECA membership through the Action Update and other communications. The most effective Chairs use the assistance of a committee secretary in this function.
Consensus is the means by which CIECA makes official decisions. There are many definitions of consensus, but it is not “majority rules”. Intentionally, CIECA has adopted consensus to ensure that its standards and industry agreements are best for the industry by being best for all parties in the industry.
The achievement of consensus was once described as “when everyone involved in the achievement of the same goal is able to honestly say .... ‘I can live with that, this time, for now’” .
Committees need to understand and use consensus, but not for every simple decision that they make. A show of hands may always be used to test for consensus or to decide relatively minor issues. It is only those difficult decisions where there are obviously differences of opinion and/or the apparent decision of the committee is challenged by one or more members. Any participant, at any time can insist that consensus be confirmed.
Consensus is established when a substantial agreement has been reached by directly and materially affected interests. Substantial agreement means much more than a simple majority, but not necessarily unanimity. Consensus requires that all views and objections be openly and honestly considered, and that a concerted effort be made toward their resolution.
Committees do their work through meetings, so the conduct of a meeting is critical to success and the efficient use of the precious time of volunteers. The Chair is the guardian of the time of the meeting participants. He or she is the only person that can ensure it is time well spent. The finest compliment a Chair can receive is after a long meeting someone says “We really got a lot done; you run a good meeting”.
Meetings must be scheduled effectively, and this is the Chair’s responsibility. Often this means having the CIECA staff or someone else contact the participants to determine the best time for a meeting. It always means allowing enough time for the notification to get to participants so they can rearrange schedules if necessary. Calling a meeting for two or three days from now is unacceptable in most situations. Our experience is that many people spend a lot of time out of the office and don’t get notices immediately.
The most effective scheduling tool is to always set the next meeting (at least tentatively) before ending the current one. It is even more effective to set the next several meetings or select a particular day and time for all meetings going out several weeks or months. Many CIECA volunteers have to plan their schedules way ahead, and find it easier to remember meetings that are on a recurring schedule.
The agenda for every meeting should be published in advance, and if possible with the meeting notice to ensure that participants are aware of the planned content of the meeting. This can often ensure attendance when someone may otherwise feel the need to skip the meeting. It also allows participants to properly prepare. It sets the expectations for the meeting and provides an invaluable guideline for the Chair and committee participants.
It is very wise to review the agenda at the beginning of every meeting to ensure all participants are familiar with it and have proper expectations for the meeting. This also provides an opportunity to make adjustments in the agenda by adding or dropping items based on changes in priority, and it lets the Chair judge how tightly to control the meeting to ensure completion of the agenda.
Meetings must be managed by the Chair, and when this is done effectively the committee members are free to concentrate on the substance of the meeting and not be distracted by the form. We have all been in meetings and been distracted by thoughts such as “why are we talking about this?”, or “he talks too much”, or “I wonder what that person thinks about it”. These distractions arise when the meeting is not being managed properly; they are meeting management issues. The Chair is the only manager a meeting should have, but if they don’t do the job well others try to do it for them. How many times have we heard a committee member say “Can we get back to the main issue?”
Facilitate; Don’t participate!
That is the challenge for the Chair of a committee. Robert’s Rules of Order address this problem by stating that the Chair must turn over control of the meeting to the Vice Chair if desiring to speak for or against a motion. It is perhaps the most difficult challenge a Chair faces; to keep quiet on the issues and manage the process.
Ensure effective communication.
The chair can assist the committee very often by requesting clarification of statements that may not have been well worded, or asking for motions to be re-read, or by confirming the relevance of a statement. A good Chair will politely but firmly say something like “I’m having trouble seeing the relevance of that to the issue on the table.” Each Chair must develop their own style in this, but cannot be reluctant to make such challenges on behalf of the committee.
Create balanced participation.
The most effective chairs bring out the best results by shying away from individuals that try to dominate the meetings, and drawing out those that are less forward about their opinions. Make it clear that you grant permission to speak, and practice doing it fairly and wisely.
Ensure ownership of every issue:
No “orphan issue” should be entertained by the committee because they lead to wasted discussion and time. Every issue must be germane and have an owner. If a new issue appears, it should be immediately assigned an owner or owners who are responsible to research it, make a recommendation, and ensure the committee has ample information to make a proper decision, and that should be the only discussion allowed on it.
Keep everyone focused by providing example.
Never allow yourself to be distracted from the agenda, the clock, or the process. It must be the Chair that completes the agenda, within the dictates of the clock, by controlling the process. Never allow disorderly members to penalize the orderly ones. Start on time, never allow side conversations, and make sure every discussion is relevant. Periodically restate the issue at hand, and insist on completion of it before any Guidelines for Chairs 7 Revised 4/98 new one is introduced. Let everyone else get into the discussion while you stay focused on the agenda and control the process.
Avoid going backward.
Someone has to ensure that once progress has been made it is not plowed up again and wasted. Any challenge to the committee’s direction should be entertained, but the person making the challenge should bear the burden of making their case with minimum time loss for the committee. If decisions are carefully documented in the minutes, and the minutes are ratified at the next meeting, it is the chair’s responsibility to protect the prior accomplishments of the committee.
Robert’s Rules of Order
Most organizations rely on Robert’s Rules of Order to resolve disputes about the proper conduct of process, and so does CIECA. Chairs may borrow a copy of the rules from CIECA or they can buy their own. Only a portion of the book is usually needed for CIECA Chairs. Some main points are listed on the attached primer.
Because CIECA Committee meetings bring competitors together, there is always the risk of inadvertent reference to a taboo subject or more likely, a suspicion by some outsider of restraint of trade. It is our goal to keep everyone comfortable about such issues at all times. Chairs are asked to ensure the quick reading of the attached anti-trust statement at the beginning of all meetings.
The maintenance of good minutes is an important tool if CIECA is ever challenged on the basis of restraint of trade or collusion. The minutes of meetings are the evidence of what was discussed at the meeting. If there are no minutes, what happened is left to guesswork and debate. If minutes are attested to as being accurate and they show no inappropriate discussion, we are generally well protected.
Although the above may be reason enough to maintain good minutes of all meetings, the record of past work can be very important to standards development work. Having the ability to find out when and why a change or decision was made can be very beneficial. The minutes of standards meetings should include all work papers, and a complete record of all committee work should be kept somewhere; preferably at CIECA offices.
CIECA’s policy is to rely on the Chair of each committee to ensure the maintenance of a good record of the committee’s work and to pass it along to CIECA when the work is completed. CIECA staff will be happy to maintain this record at the request of the Chair. Most Chairs find that a committee secretary is invaluable for maintaining the minutes because of the attention the Chair must devote to meeting management.
There are three reasons to hold meetings. To share information, make decisions, and make assignments of follow up work. The suggested CIECA Meeting Minutes Format attached is divided in that fashion so the three parts of the meeting are readily identifiable for referencing. Minutes should always list the names of those present, with those absent being optional. Some committees like to track attendance for record purposes.
The amount of detail incorporated into minutes is basically a style issue. Some want to record nearly every word that was spoken, while others prefer just to summarize. It is recommended that CIECA minutes be closer to the latter type with all significant issues summarized and names of individuals recorded only when pertinent to the issue. Such as “Jack went on record that his company has a problem with the proposal”, or Peter reported for the subcommittee.
CIECA staff is always ready to support the volunteers by scheduling and setting up meetings, publishing agendas and work papers, and publishing and distributing minutes. Many chairs prefer the convenience of managing this process themselves with their own company staffs, and CIECA welcomes the help. The Chair is free to choose because the responsibility rests with him or her.
ROBERT’S RULES of ORDER PRIMER FOR COMMITTEES
The Chair does not vote unless there is a tie. The Chair should “pass the gavel” before taking a position on an issue.
Motions: (The basic form below should be followed as carefully as the Chair feels is necessary. Often it is permissible for comfort’s sake to allow withdrawal and resubmission of motions for wording change, to avoid having to vote on amendments and so on. If however, someone challenges the process, Robert’s Rules should be as rigidly followed as practical.)
Motions can be made as allowed or requested by the Chair.
Once a motion is on the table it must be disposed of before another can be placed in consideration, except for motions to amend the motion.
Proper procedure is for the Chair to ask if there is a “second” when the motion is made by an individual. Motions offered by subcommittees need no second because of the presumption they are coming from more than one person.
Once seconded, the Chair then asks for discussion of the motion and controls the discussion, cutting it off when it seems appropriate or provoking it to ensure fairness or a good debate.
A member may seek closure by saying “call the question” or “let’s vote”. This is a non-debatable privileged motion and may be passed by two thirds to force an immediate vote. There is seldom reason to be so rigid and formal, but the Chair must decide whether to treat it as a formal motion or a simple request.
The matter may be tabled by a motion to table and this temporarily disposes of the motion. The Chair can speed matters up by saying “If there is no objection the matter is approved by unanimous consent”. It is up to a dissenter to object and force a vote. Obviously the Chair’s judgment as to the sense of the committee is critical here.
CHAIR MEETING START GUIDE
Welcoming remarks Introduce guests Introduce board members
Is there a quorum present?
Any outstanding issues or problems. Praise for staff, a committee, a board member. Pep talk?
Has everyone reviewed it? Anything to add or questions? Agenda approved (unanimous consent if nobody objects)
Does anyone have a comment about the minutes of (Date) The minutes are approved by unanimous consent (if nobody objects)
Motion Management Motion is made Seconded (if needed) Open for discussion Call the question Chair’s judgment when discussion dries up) All in favor say “aye” or raise your hand. All opposed say “nay” or raise your hand. All abstained raise your hand. Announce result.
Motions by a committee need no second
The Chair can dispose of an obvious situation by saying “If there is no objection we will accept (reject) the motion by unanimous consent”.