July 12, 2021

(Guest Post) Mary Rowe Comments on the Proposed IOA Bylaws

The following commentary was submitted by Mary Rowe, IOA Distinguished Emeritus and former Ombuds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a founder of the Corporate Ombudsman Association, the first professional group for Organizational Ombuds, Adjunct Professor of Negotiation and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and thought-leader in the Ombuds profession. [Emphasis in original.]

I have been thinking hard about the proposed by laws. I think the inclusion goal is wonderful and wish to support it. I thought many of the proposed changes very helpful. If each of the proposed changes were, separately, up for approval I believe that most would pass. If I had time, I would list every change that I personally support and I very warmly thank those who put so much work into this discussion. I hope we keep most of the proposed changes.

I also agree with those who believe that the Board of a profession needs people who have demonstrated deep understanding, commitment to—and some years of service for—the specific standards of practice and the ethical principles of the particular profession.

We appear to some of our colleagues to be setting these two goals up against each other.
Can we better integrate these two goals? I ask for us to keep the meeting and postpone the vote for a month or two.

I am asking here for yet more discussion about diversifying the Board and supporting a diverse profession, in new ways. And for supporting a Board comprised of members all of whom have manifested sustained, serious, specific commitment and years of service to the OO profession and its SoP/EP. I agree with what Doris Campos-Infantino wrote about the bylaws: "Let's Talk Before We Vote;" she eloquently presented many robust ideas for us to discuss.

I am aware that many OO colleagues have been working on this for many months. Each of you who worked on the Bylaws is a good model for the rest of us—to think deeply about our Bylaws. I can imagine that anyone who is exhausted by many months of discussion now hopes for a quick, up-or-down decision of an all-or-nothing proposal. My present thought is however, that the rest of us may need to follow your own example of talking about these issues for some months, not three weeks. Like you, some OOs may wish to talk, at length, about these issues in our own groups. I would like to hear what the IOA-RAC international outreach groups think, EON, COFO and COOR, ECOG, Ombuddies, the Ombuds who work in health care ......and all the other regional and affinity groups in our profession. What is Elaine Shaw hearing?

To illustrate what I am hoping for, let me touch on a couple of ideas that have popped up in my listening. Each of these may well have been considered by the Board; maybe they would not work; maybe there are better ideas. I mean only …humbly…. to illustrate how some colleagues have been thinking.

Many of us believe the diversity that we require, immediately, begins with race and ethnicity, and, also, gender, nationality, and disability. Many would welcome diversity by sector. (I know there have been proposals in the past for the Board to have at least one Board member for each of 6-10 major sectors, plus consideration of an “Other" sector to include small sectors— like OOs for faith-based organizations, professional associations and start-ups.)

Many of us are just beginning to understand a little about structural racism. Everyone of us needs to understand it. In the last few days of listening, I have also heard about structural ablism—if I am sight- or hearing- or mobility-challenged, would I nominate myself for the Board? would I feel, and be, supported by IOA? We clearly need these discussions.

Are there options other than the all-or-nothing proposal that has been presented? It may be that the specific ideas that came up this last week in discussions with OO colleagues have all been considered by the Board, and the DEIB work group, and if so I offer another apology. 

However, here goes:

If six years as an OO is too much, as a requirement for Board Membership...

1) To be included on the nominations list for the Board could we consider requiring four full years of service (aggregated years ok):

--as an SoP OO, or

--as an O who worked as hard as possible to practice to OO SoP and explicitly supports the SoP, or

--who has served the OO profession for four full years as an IOA Committee chair, or in other easily-documented, serious service to IOA and to the OO profession? (For example, some allied professionals have spent years setting up multiple SOP OO offices, or on research and teaching highly focused on the OO profession.) The interest here is in service demonstrating a deep understanding of OO SoP/EP and years of actual service.

For Board nominations: self-nominees could lay out what they have done thus far and could do, to support OO SoP/EP and IOA. A nominator could aggregate supporting notes from OOs who have benefited from the service to OOs, of the potential nominee.

2) At the moment the Board can seem (to those outside it) to be a closed unit, lacking steady-state outreach and input.

We could set up a very diverse, (IOA-member) Advisory Panel for the Board. All IOA members could self-nominate, that is, list themselves asking to be consulted on specific issues. And others— with subject matter expertise—could be asked to join such a Panel.

Are there easy ways to ask for input from IOA members with respect to the agendas of each Board meeting? And might service on the Board Advisory Panel help to recruit a more diverse group of Board candidates?

A Panel like this could also have someone from each sector.

3) How have we been recruiting Board members? Have each of us asked all of our OO colleagues, including all those of color, all international OOs, OOs in each of the many sectors…... if they would consider being nominated?

Have we considered all the structural barriers for some OOs to serve in IOA, like the need for interpreters, or editors to help in writing in English for the Board or JIOA, or for having all expenses of Board service met, or an accommodation for a member's inability to serve the Board in one or another month of the year?

4) How have we been reaching out to diverse communities to consider ombuds? In the past we had OO tee shirts showing a very diverse collection of OOs, (including one in a wheelchair) with a banner OMBUDS ARE AN INTEGRATIVE PROFESSION. (This was a pun on the notion that where there is conflict we always seek integrative solutions.) We talked all the time in Board meetings about inclusion.

This past week I heard discussion about whether we could be communicating more widely in communities of color, (e.g. HBCU) to see if our profession might be of interest to others.

Again, I offer this note humbly aware that a lot of time was put into the proposed bylaws. I look forward to the discussions on July 15. And I am asking the Board to consider a vote postponement to a time certain, not too far off, that allows much more discussion among organizational ombuds. Our Bylaws are at the heart of our work. We want to do whatever we can to mobilize support for our decisions AND deep support for both of these two goals.

Respectfully, MR

1 comment:

  1. I suggest that this vote be postponed until the next regular business meeting, at the 2022 conference. Something of this magnitude deserves a full airing, which is more likely at a face-to-face conference than at an online special meeting.