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Well, after 3 years of being an IET Vice President and also writing this blog, now I finally get to know how the dead parrot felt. Not so much an ex-parrot as an ex Trustee. So now is a good time to reflect on what the Romans (or your Trustees) ever did for us.

It’s gone in a flash, my second and last term as a Trustee has whizzed by and now my in-box can finally take a well-earned break. It’s also useful to point out that it’s not the same bunch of Trustees that I’ve been serving with. Since one third have the nail which holds them to their perch pulled out every year, the entire board has changed in the 3 years I have been there. And that’s healthy.

So it’s a good time to ask just what the Romans/Trustee ever did for us?

Well, given that the SGM took place last week, you might expect to me to bang on about Governance for the Future. The result, in case you missed it, was a good victory for the Trustees. Nearly 64% of those who voted supported the continuation of work on G4F leading to the real decision (another vote by the membership) early next year.

As the guy who dreamed up what started as Plan 42 and who has been one of the main architects of G4F, you might expect me to draw parallels between the engineering achievements of the Romans and this new and improved IET governance. However I most certainly won’t do that.

We’ve had 2000 years to properly look back at what the Romans did, but we won’t know if G4F really is as good as I believe it can be for at least 5-10 years. And only then if the membership supports it strongly in next year’s vote. So while I’m very optimistic, I can’t and won’t set this out as an achievement your Trustees have done on your behalf. Ask me in some years’ time perhaps.

There is however another interesting thing to come out of the SGM. Nearly 6,000 members voted for the resolution to stop work on G4F and consult (yet) again. On the face of it, this looks like a big number who are not happy with G4F. However personally I don’t believe this.

I know it’s fashionable to place all sorts of interpretations on why people voted the way they did, but I think it’s helpful here. If those who called the SGM had produced a clear alternative, then their votes could only be interpreted as supporting this. But they didn’t.

I saw a number of statements over the last few months which had some common themes but no clear coherent picture. So it leaves the door open to another interpretation – that some proportion of these voters were voting against the IET for a variety of reasons. A protest vote, at least in some proportion.

No-one can actually know the real answer to this of course. And, even if I were completely right in this interpretation, it would still mean there is a clear message to our Trustees – that some of our membership are not happy.

In fact this point has already been picked up by our incoming President Naomi Climer who has said that we need to listen to this voice and be more responsive to it and any underlying reasons which drive it.

This whole area is full of ironies, but one certainly is that the Trustees and Council will be making more efforts to get more connected and to try to pick up the issues which can annoy our membership. So in opposing G4F which sets out as one of its three main drivers to put members and volunteers at the heart of the IET, the petitioners have helped to actually do this.

So, if G4F isn’t the Trustee equivalent of the Roman road system, then what is? Just what am I most proud to have been a part of in the last three years?

The answer will not be immediately visible to the membership, but it will be. It’s the new relationship between staff and the Trustees and senior members. This will seem odd, so let me explain.

When I was first on the IEE Board of Trustees there was a clear separation between the CEO (as he was then called) with his staff team and the member Trustees. The system operated, the numbers were good, but there was no underlying basis of deep trust.

Today there has been a root and branch change in this and not just at the BoT level. A full change programme was instigated 3 years ago to bring all the staff on board. The Trustees too went through a lot of debate and changes and, not least under the careful chairmanship of President William Webb, that hard to define thing called trust has built up.

I’m not going to go into details of the many examples I could highlight, but the difference is clear and tangible. But I will give one and it’s rather topical.

We had a similar SGM around 10 years ago – funnily enough with many of the same people driving it. I’m sure you know that then the petitioners won. At the time, the CEO took it upon himself and the staff to run the campaign against what I’m sure he saw as a small bunch of trouble makers. Shortly after the result, he left the Institution.
Contrast this with the full one team approach this time around. A small group of Trustees and senior staff met weekly to manage the process and it was almost impossible to differentiate between staff and members as they worked (very hard) together. The Trustees were prominent in getting out to members at LN and community level to both talk and listen to them.

I’m not saying that this is why the results turned out as they did. What I want to contrast here is the difference in approach taken.

When you have trust (but not blind trust, the Trustees are still responsible for everything in the IET) you can get so much more done. Things happen quicker and better and this will reflect in time right across the IET.

Another recent example of this is the work done to instigate a new much more open classification system for IET documents. Did you know that you can now read many of the Trustee papers openly these days? This system would have been so much harder to put in place 10 years ago.

OK, this may not knock the Romans into a cocked hat. But it’s good stuff and something I’m very proud to have been a small part of.

Now the parrot may be dead, but what of the new parrot?

Those of you who may have thought that you can finally get a life – and not have to spend many hours trying to make sense of the ramblings in this column are in for a shock. There is a new parrot and in the words of Monty Python :

I never wanted to do this job in the first place!
I... I wanted to be...

Well Peter Bonfield, incoming IET Vice President, is taking over this column. His style will be different (loud cheer from the readership) but his mission will be the same. To provide better communication about what’s going on in the IET and at the Board of Trustees.

So Peter will be singing -
Oh, I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay,
I sleep all night and I work all day.
Actually, I’m not convinced that Peter ever sleeps, he does seem to have boundless energy.
Clearly I don’t want to press this analogy too far, but you might like to be reminded that this song goes on to say :
I cut down trees, I skip and jump,
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women's clothing,
And hang around in bars.

While I’m sure Peter would look rather dashing in a Mounties’ uniform, I don’t for one minute want to suggest that this is his modus operandi!

Fortunately for me however, he does have a very good sense of humour!

But he, with the other Trustees, will be working tirelessly to make the IET an even better body to inspire, influence and inform to engineer a better future.
“All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health ... what have the Romans ever done for us?”
Watch this space…..
The Ex-Parrot.

Posted by Alan Watts on Sep 26, 2015 10:55 AM Europe/London

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