I read the PASS Officer Election announcement from June 15th with a bit of trepidation. There was something about the announcement which made me uncomfortable, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
As a bit of background, the PASS “officers” are also known as the Executive Committee (ExeCo), as described in the PASS Bylaws in section VIII.10. The ExeCo was added to the governance of PASS back in 2004-2005 as a check-and-balance against the extremely powerful office of president as described in the version of the bylaws PASS currently had in place at that time. Prior to the ExeCo, the president could do pretty much anything they wanted at that point – sign contracts, make binding pronouncements, etc. – while the overall duty of the board of directors was to manage specific portfolios and to set strategy. The ExeCo verbiage was added to PASS governance to ensure that there was a reasonable balance of power by requiring a 3 out of 4 vote to enact major initiatives before they were brought before the board of directors. (I should point out that my job as an employee of a major vendor was directly responsible for bringing the ExeCo into being. When I was first elected by the board of directors to serve as president, the PASS board also wanted to ensure that a president working for a vendor would not show his employer undue favor with perks like better spots on the exhibit hall floor, mentioning them by name in presidential communiques, and so forth. So the bylaws were changed to establish the ExeCo so that the president, any president, could not govern by decree). OK – so the ExeCo makes executive decisions, comprendo?
So in looking at the the slate put forward for the 2012 officers, I noticed that two members of said ExeCo will now be working for the same company and this is deeply troubling to me. (As an aside, those persons are Rushabh Mehta with Solid Quality Mentors India practice and Douglas McDowell with Solid Quality Mentors USA practice).
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a personal attack in any way. I know both Rushabh and Douglas personally and consider them both friends. I have endorsed them for ExeCo leadership roles in the past, as individuals. However, I have a deep conviction that the Executive Committee should not have any two members from the same company, even when they represent different business units. Again, my feelings in this area transcend the current persons on the slate. I simply feel like it’s a dangerous precedent to set because we cannot know or control the character and ethics of future PASS leaders.
Consider that the ExeCo can govern with a 3 out of 4 vote. That means that two members of the ExeCo, with either an implicit or explicit alliance, could block any initiative each and every time it came up. Furthermore, they could pass any initiative they wanted by winning one other vote.
I also feel that the ExeCo and the wider board is responsible for securing the future of PASS, one of which includes reasonable checks and balances on executive leadership. We cannot know and should be somewhat skeptical that all future board members will be as ethical and upstanding as those currently on the board. By allowing a single company to hold multiple seats on the ExeCo, PASS would set a dangerous precedent for future boards.
The press release makes no mention of Rushabh’s future plans. It’s possible that he intends to resign at the end of this year and not assume the role of Immediate Past President, thereby avoiding the possibility of two ExeCo members from the same organization. There are probably some other ways to remedy this situation. But with only the information of the press release, I’m sorry to say that I cannot endorse the 2012 ExeCo slate.
What are your thoughts?