April 2014



As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - November 2003

Change can be difficult, as we move from comfort zones into the unknown. Change can "happen" to us or we can shape the change. ASSE must take this latter approach to ensure its future success.

2003-2004 ASSE President James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP

Thoughts on Change

As we look at our vision and strategy to provide and maintain the highest levels of value to our members, an old axiom comes to mind: "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." Another one follows: "You don't have to be bad to get better."

Comments made during the recent Leadership Conference by current grassroots leaders such as Kevin Quigley, West Michigan Chapter; Jim Gallup, Arizona Chapter; Silvia Zemgals, South Texas Chapter; Ron Cummings, Metropolitan Chapter; Herb Bell, Orange County Chapter; and Sanobeia Christmas, Greater Chicago Chapter, indicate that ASSE is differentiating itself from similar organizations in a positive way and providing quality service. Yet, these members expressed need for change in several areas as well. Our communication is better than ever before, yet we still need more communication, and it must be delivered in a manner that is more readily accessible to members. Our model was built to create member value, but can it provide what is valued by our younger members-or our future members?

The message is clear: ASSE is good at what it does, but others are improving. If the Society continues to do the same things, it may get passed by. As John F. Kennedy said, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Change can be difficult, as we move from comfort zones into the unknown. Change can "happen" to us or we can shape the change. ASSE must take this latter approach to ensure its future success. Leading positive change encompasses many steps:

  • Create a shared need. This must be a real need, not just change for the sake of change.
  • Shape a vision. Use a strategic plan to define the change and desired future state.
  • Mobilize commitment. Communicate and share the reasons/rationale for change.
  • Make the change endure. A dynamic process ensures continued success.
  • Monitor progress. Develop solid, visible metrics to track performance.

During this journey, we'll pass many milestones. First will be denial, as we act as though nothing has changed-or needs to be changed. Next comes frustration-driven by fear of the unknown, a sense of isolation, and lack of information and understanding about the need to change. Then, as change starts to occur and the first results are seen, exploration begins. Finally, integration sets in as the new process, skills and knowledge take hold and we become more competent in performance.

In the midst of change, counterproductive conclusions and assumptions may leap to the forefront. As we climb this "ladder of inference," the further we may get from reality. At the bottom rung are facts and observable data molded by experience. Interpretations of that data and those observations begin at the next rung, where meanings are associated with the data. At the next rung, conclusions are reached based on these interpretations. At the top, action is taken based on those conclusions. None of these steps can be skipped. Each is critical to ensure that appropriate action-aligned with the data and facts gathered-is taken.

ASSE has been asking questions and listening. The Leadership Conference afforded a wonderful opportunity to hear from our customers. The Strategic Planning Committee is gathering data that it will use to formulate a revised plan. ASSE is conducting a member needs assessment to gather data that will be used to determine future direction. A Sunset Task Force is assessing the Society's processes and programs to ensure that our energies and resources are expended on those which add the greatest value. Calls continue to individual members to seek their feedback.

Where will all this data and knowledge lead? To change, perhaps, as we develop strategic action plans based on the information gathered. We ask that you use your uniqueness as the customer and owner to further this process. If asked to complete a survey, please do so. If contacted personally, offer constructive feedback. Shakespeare may have said it best, "We know what we are, but know not what we may be." Share your vision with me at skipperk@members.asse.org .

James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP