A Lesson from My Air Force Days

, 2010-08-19

Yup, you guessed it, another post about the nominations for the PASS Board of Directors. If you're tired of reading such, I wanted to give fair warning. Here are some thoughts I have after thinking about things and talking with a few folks.

Remember, the NomCom Are Community Members, Too.

It's easy to think that a fix was in when something doesn't go our way. I was watching an episode of Chopped a couple of nights ago that went down that way. A chef felt he should haven't been cut. On his walk down the hallway, he used profanity to express his displeasure. What was the number one reason he was cut? Raw bacon. Yeah, you read that right. Why would any chef think they would advance when they served a meat not intended to be raw (and by his own words, he didn't feel it was raw when it was obvious that it was)? You got me. In any case, he thought it was wrong to cut him and made a comment about how it was bull*&$%, implying that he was cut because of bias or a vendetta or something related. Dude, it was raw bacon. Let's not accuse the NomCom folks of doing something maliciously just because we may disagree with the results. That's a terrible start.

Your Organization Is Perfectly Engineered for the Results You Are Getting.

And therefore I can fully believe every NomCom member who says they followed the procedures to the letter. And I believe that an adherence to the procedures produced the results it did. And I believe that Tom LaRock and Stuart Ainsworth are right in saying that you can't suddenly deviate from the results just because you want the results to be different. So let's accept the fact that they followed the procedure and got the proper results. This adds credibility to not putting malicious intent on the NomCom members.

Sometimes a Majority of One Is Right.

This is a concept given to us by Henry David Thoreau in his essay, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Therefore, let's start with the understanding that just because the majority of vocal members of a group feel something is one way, it does not make it so. A majority of physicists thought at the advent of the twentieth century that we had solved all the big questions in the realm of physics and that we were at a stage that it was all about getting greater precision. The truth of the matter is they were wrong. And thus came Quantum Mechanics, General Relativity, and QED. So I'm withholding saying things like "process FAIL" and the like because as a student of physics, I've seen a practical illustration of Thoreau's point, albeit related to science instead of society.

Great Candidates Were Put Forth.

Let's not forget that. Look at the slate of folks who did make both cuts. Now you could say that the NomCom had all great candidates to begin with. That may be true, I'm not going to debate either side of that one. But realize that we do have great candidates going forward for the board.

You Can't Publish Everything

This fails the "treat others as you'd want to be treated" rule. Think about it. If the reason a candidate didn't make the cut was because he or she bombed an interview, and you were that candidate, would you really want the community to know that you bombed the interview? Would you want a potential boss to discover that in a future web search? Now, that's not to say that those who didn't make the cut shouldn't have received better notification and an understanding of why. They should have. I've already posted a suggestion on the forums to this. Call 'em up before you publish anybody's name. Make sure they know and understand. They may not agree with the why, but I know that if were said eliminated candidate, we'd want that courtesy phone call to understand why we weren't advanced.

If There's a Perception of a Problem, There Is a Problem.

This is a saying from my Air Force days. It's valid everywhere. It was applied to the issue of fraternization, where enlisted-officer relationships overstepped proper bounds needed for good discipline. The point that was made was that even if the relationship was proper, the fact that there was perception problem meant there was a problem. And that meant something needed fixing. For two years in a row there has been a loud outcry that there's a problem with the nomination process. If there's not a problem with the nomination process, there certainly is a strong perception that there is. And that means there's, at the very least, a perception problem. Therefore, rather than saying there's no problem because the procedure was followed, we need to accept that there is a problem. The question is, where is the real problem? I think Andy Leonard did a presentation on that about leading teams. If we're not attacking the real problem, we're fighting metaproblems and they're just going to keep coming back up. So if the real problem is perception, let's deal with that. But if the real problem is the procedure, then saying the procedure was followed doesn't solve anything and attacking the perception problem doesn't, either.

So let's figure out where the real problem is and deal with it. In my not so humble opinion, looking at the names who haven't made the cut over the last few years, as well as a particular name who did make it last year, I'm of the mind that the procedure is where the real problem is. I know that's my opinion and everyone has one. But this isn't just as simple as saying, "We had too many good candidates and we could only choose a few." There was the potential for more slots last year and this one, if I remember right. And when you start looking at the ones who were never even given to the community to vote on as a potential dream team, I think that says we need to do something about the procedure. And I agree again with Tom LaRock that he's serving with a dream team. And if were a we only had 3 slots and 6 great folks I could live with the fact that 3 didn't make the cut. But that's not the case.







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