Sunday, September 1, 2013

Connecting the Dots: Strategic Governance Defines Our Future

2013 ASSE President
Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH, EurOSHM
Think for just a moment about the following quote from Peter Sheahan, author of Flip: How to Turn Everything You Know on Its Head and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings: "Things are changing faster and faster, new opportunities and new markets are opening up every day . . . it is important to understand exactly what is changing and what impact this is having on your existing business."

His words certainly ring true in today's fast-paced, dynamic global marketplace. Sheahan's statement also captures the essence of strategic thinking and how fundamental it is to our success each day. To excel in today's world, you must know what is changing, understand how those changes will affect you and your organization, then capitalize on the opportunities those changes present. Each of us must think strategically in our work as SH&E professionals, and ASSE must think strategically as an organization whose mission is to be a thought leader for the SH&E profession and an advocate for SH&E professionals worldwide.

Let's connect the dots between strategic thinking and ASSE, and what it means to you. To capitalize on opportunities as they emerge, ASSE's Board of Directors (BOD) must be visionary and strategic minded, and it must have the agility to be decision?al, timely and focused on the future in order to advance SH&E professionals and the profession. Rather than focus on tactical, day-to-day matters, ASSE's Board needs to focus its attention 3 to 10 years into the future to identify emerging trends, recognize new opportunities, and develop goals, strategies, partnerships and alliances that will benefit members, the Society and the profession.

ASSE's governance model must enable the BOD to continuously focus on our profession's long-term viability and sustainability. A strategically focused BOD helps to ensure that ASSE is continuously helping SH&E professionals discover new opportunities by creating value for our stakeholders in business, industry and government. Creating value increases jobs and expands career opportunities. It gives SH&E professionals a seat at the decision-making table within our organizations. And, it expands our influence in ensuring safe, healthy workplaces around the world.

Several current ASSE initiatives aim to help us demonstrate our value to employers. These include the recently launched Risk Assessment Institute; our focus on connecting safety and sustainability; our efforts to develop a student strategy to ensure a strong supply of SH&E professionals to meet future demands; and our implementation of a global strategy.

For these initiatives to succeed, we must scan the horizon to determine what's next. What influences will affect our profession? Where does ASSE need to be 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Consider, for example, the current emphasis in the oil and gas industry and the sustainability world, embracing "safety assurance" from internal operational integrity to supply chain accountability.

A strategically focused BOD can identify these types of emerging trends and position the Society to capitalize on new opportunities to create value for the SH&E profession. That's why, at its meeting this past June, ASSE's BOD unanimously approved new bylaws to change ASSE's governance structure. These changes reflect alignment with the proposed ASSE governance model. (See more on this topic on p. 43 of this issue or visit This new model will help the Society govern more strategically, while providing expanded leadership opportunities at the region level, streamlining the workload of region and council vice presidents, and engaging more diverse voices and perspectives in the Society.

The next step in this process is for ASSE's House of Delegates to review the approved bylaws. ASSE's BOD has used an open, transparent process to arrive at this point, and has strived to clearly communicate the thought process behind this proposal with all members. See the article on p. 43 for more details on this process. We will continue to reach out in coming months to answer your questions. I also encourage you to talk with your regional and council vice presidents to better understand how these governance changes will make ASSE a more strategic, agile organization that is best positioned to support our chapter, region, practice specialty and common interest group networks, while enabling the BOD to actively focus on identifying and pursuing opportunities for ASSE, our profession and you.

"You need to have the mind-set, flexibility and courage to innovate and change not just your organization but yourself . . . you cannot really do one without the other." Peter Sheahan