Our most recent board meeting was in Nashville on Aug 19, 20. We had originally discussed meeting in Seattle/Redmond/Vancouver, but by the time we scheduled the August meeting a few of us had already committed to attending the SQLSaturday in Nashville, so it just made sense to have it there. I think that worked out well, and hope that we’ll try to do this more often. It’s a chance for Board members to mix more with the community, and for those of us that attend these events often, it’s nice to have one trip instead of two.
The minutes will be published in the next few days, so I’m just going to share notes on stuff I found of particular interest and/or had added to the agenda.
The first area was marketing for the SQLRally (coming to Orlando in May 2011). Right now we essentially have a 12 month marketing cycle for the Summit, and the concern has been that marketing the SQLRally takes away from the Summit. It’s a fair concern in many ways, but if we’re going to run multiple events per year (in whatever format), then we have to figure out how to do overlapping messages in an effective way – effective in making sure everyone gets news on both, but we don’t just send them twice as much email. Much of the marketing for the SQLRally will be grass roots and hopefully less intrusive. The net was the Board supports doing what we need to do to make our first SQLRally successful.
Next was transparency and I’m going to paste my raw notes at the end of this post, and you’ll notice I don’t have all the answers. Still, I felt like it was a good discussion and good support for taking the next step of moving much of our internal monthly reporting to posts on the PASS blog. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I’m thrilled at the progress we’ve made, the conversations about transparency are now about how to do it and not about whether to do it.
On Friday we spent a lot of time brain storming where we want to be in five years. I’ve had people over the years tell me a five year plan is just dreaming – and they are right. That’s exactly the point. When you look at what you want to do in a year, or during your elected term, those define things in a way that make you look at what you know you can do, you want to finish things, you know you have finite resources. A five year plan is a chance to ignore constraints and focus on vision. We ended up talking about two areas; global development and Summit improvements.
For global development, we have more questions than answers, and that’s a result of having a Board that is largely North American. If we want to do more in —insert country of choice here—, what can we do to help, and what should the governance model? I’m condensing a long and interesting conversation to about a line, but the net was right now, without understanding all the details, we think that each country or region probably needs to be their own entity, setting their own agenda, managing their own funds. The other part is we have to figure out how to make all that work together. Should we give country X as seat on our main board? Should PASS global get a seat on country/region boards? How do we make sure we work together yet still allow self direction?
The other part was how to make the Summit better. One big part of that talk was that bigger doesn’t necessarily equate to better. Anyone that has been to TechEd and walked half a mile to get to the next session knows that at some point the technical value remains, but the social/networking value seems to drop. We talked a lot about networking, we really see it as one of the big ways we can make a difference, and we listed a lot of ideas we’re going to investigate more. Some of that is tactical, but the real value was trying to understand what a really big 5 year win would be. If it’s not something concrete like doubling attendance, what is the goal? No final answers on that either.
That kind of work is hard, maybe the hardest. You don’t get to finish the topic with a firm sense of ‘did something’, there is no deliverable to show off, but it’s the way that a shared vision evolves, everyone tugging and pushing on a problem until a shared understanding results, even if the result in realizing there are a lot more questions to ask.
Finally, as you might expect, the recent election slate announcement was often a topic of conversation. I mention that not to restart that debate, just to tell you that we did discuss it, often in heated fashion. Mostly healthy debate, but it did add strain, and at least for me, was both tiring and a source of frustration. It was a hard conversation at best.
-We’ve made progress on our minutes, but if you just read the minutes, that shares very little of the work that is ongoing and the thought behind the decisions.
-Goal is to not to be 100% transparent, but rather in general to be translucent, fully transparent in some areas, opaque in some, and in between on most
–Builds trust in the community, they have to believe we are working in their interest, very few secrets
–Shows we trust them enough to share thoughts, take the risk that they may not agree
–It showcases what we do, all of us. How can we be an organization about community if we can’t share what we do?
–It showcases us, it’s really the way that we ‘get credit’ for the work we do
–It’s a chance to get feedback outside the core group, reducing the risk of group-think, and shows that we are interested in getting opinions
–Risk that we publish something that is "secret". We learn to manage that by tagging things as NDA, and understanding that we have few real secrets – salaries, launch dates for partner products come to mind as real secrets.
–Risk that info/opinions is incorrect or heavily biased, and contrary to "official" views of PASS
–Risk that community will sharply disagree with a decision, or even a few vocal members, and that could escalate
–Not all our volunteers are comfortable sharing, writing, making the decision about what is ok to share
-_BOD has to believe in this for it to work
-We have to make decisions that are right for PASS, but also sensitive to perception. It IS politics
–How to move forward
–PASS blog is primary method for sharing our activities
–Ever Board member writes a monthly update (or more frequently) for posting to the PASS blog. Any NDA items will be forwarded to the Board separately. I propose eliminating the PDF monthly report and only maintaining the blog report. We time these to release at staggered points. Absolutely ok to cross post to their own blog. Clarify what can be published as a board member vs a ‘plain old member’.
–We also require that HQ staff (maybe a subset?) post on their activities monthly
–We build a short document that explains our info policy to volunteers, something in the range of 1-2 pages. They also post to their own blog at any time, also send to us and we’ll post if we thinka appropriate.
–We need to teach our volunteers to write (including BOD) and to understand that even if they don’t think it’s interesting, just showing that volunteers are working benefits both them and the organization. We will have some that cannot write, so we need some ghost writers to make sure that their work is captured
–We need a process for dealing with ‘bad’ posts/conversations. This means we have to teach how to avoid being defensive, how to end a conversation, how to find the good in even the worst exchange. also making sure that BOD monitors.
–Open discussion at Summit as last year, also encourage all board members to hold a discussion at any SQLSat or chapter meeting if attending (have to ask leaders for a slot/space)
–Make sure our event leaders are publishing summaries, lessons learned, and get that on the PASS blog too.
–Tag posts as "official", "BOD", "cross post" —-but who can post? Do we link/discuss negative items?
–volunteer profiles, could probably do one bi-weekly?
How do we measure success?
–Survey of trust/openness
–# of comments on posts?
–Name recognition/task recognition
–# of blog posts
–Score each volunteer on #posts???