Archive for the 'Transformation' Category

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The Member As Customer

When the RAC board and executive group meets in Ottawa in October to discuss the future of our national association, what will be the focus of the meeting?

How about if we focus on the member as a customer?

So what does that mean? It means that fixing problems is all well and good but does it actually serve the customer – RAC’s members?

For example, does the much discussed governance model serve RAC’s customers in Quebec? With approximately 25 per cent of the Amateur Radio population in Canada how does it serve VE2-land to have one representative on the board?

How about The Canadian Amateur Magazine? It costs the members over $6,000 an issue to publish (so with six issues per year times $6K = $36K divided by 5,000 members = $7.20 a year out of your $55 membership dues).

If it went online with a PDF version there still would be the editorial and layout costs. (Despite calls to end paying positions no one with professional editorial, sales and publishing experience has yet to commit to doing the job.)

Would an online TCA serve the members if the magazine was available free to everyone (thus eliminating fears that someone could freely post it online)? Would that attract more paying members thus creating a stronger national organization?

Does it make any sense when it comes to time and effort to sell $50 ads to a handful of small amateur radio retailers? Will major manufacturers spend their limited ad dollars inTCA? Or does the advertising model even apply to in-house magazines like TCA?

It comes down to whether or not TCA serves the members.

What about non-members? RAC claims to represent all Canadian licensed Amateur Radio operators. But does it? Does it serve the paying members to ignore the needs of the non-members? That’s the model most clubs run on and rightly so as the members get the benefits but does it serve RAC’s members to exclude non-members thus weakening our claims that RAC represents all Canadian hams?

What about the costs of running a bricks and mortar office? Does it serve the members or would a virtual office work better for the members? (One of the reasons an office was created was to better serve the member’s needs around reaching a “real person” as opposed to a telephone answering device or service. The virtual office had its issues.) Does that still serve?

So why are the board and executive members coming to Ottawa (at their own expense BTW)? If it’s just to fix the old leaky administrative plumbing then what’s the point? What we end up with is expensive new plumbing but we end up drinking the same old tainted water.

What do you think the board and executive should discuss in Ottawa in October? What is your future vision of RAC?

Housekeeping and A Few Thoughts

Hi All: I’ve taken the individual pages down that were about the Transforming Radio Amateurs of Canada and added links to all 14 submissions from John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ into the newly named permanent page (found in column on right) called “Transforming Radio Amateurs of Canada.” These new links include all of John’s graphics where the individual pages were text only.

At Saturday’s Contest Club Ontario’s annual members-BBQ and annual meeting, I heard from lots from the RAC members in attendance. (Of the 80 plus contesters in attendance a good 85 to 90 per cent said they were RAC members. The non-members got application forms handed to them with a request made by me for them to join me in supporting our national organization. Several said they would.)

The overwhelming comments I heard on Saturday were demands for more openness. And the Ontario hams want more representation of their needs on the board.

Gee if the Ontario hams want more representation, what about the Amateur Radio operators in Quebec who have roughly 25 per cent of the hams in the country and are represented by one director?

One of the hidden benefits of going through a visioning process which is inclusive of all the members and non-members alike is there are many issues that get brought out into public where they can be dealt with.

Not everybody is comfortable with this process. It’s messy. It’s public. It screams out for action. It’s tough to ignore. It takes time. And it requires a certain amount of courage.

But what this process does do, is create a culture of openness and trust. And isn’t that what you the members are asking for from your national organization?

(Keep those emails and comments coming in folks and renew your membership and ask at least 20 other hams in your club or community to join with you in supporting your national Amateur Radio association.

The Magnificent Seven

Bob, VA3QV, has got to be one of the best friends Radio Amateurs of Canada has in the blogosphere. His VA3QV Blog is must reading around here and today’s posting is no exception. Bob has got a pretty good grip on what’s being ailing RAC and has the courage to speak out about it. I highly recommend  you read Bob’s post. And watch the video :)

Bob makes some good points and I’d like to add my comments to them here.

Bob is correct in saying that John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, created a document called RAC’s Strategic Future which was presented to the Radio Amateurs of Canada’s board meeting held in Cornwall back in 2008. Why was it not brought forward to the membership and acted upon is something that happened in 2008 and don’t have an answer.

What I can say is if you’ve read John’s work in bringing us back to this visioning process, you’ve not only seen everything that was in the 2008 document but a whole lot more.

What concerns me is in some of the communications dating back to the 2008 meeting there are some references to what might happen if RAC didn’t change. The conclusions back then were, among other things: that RAC would face declining membership; loss of revenue from sale of ads and  products; which would result in a  financial deficit.

Guess what?

Flash forward to 2010 and as Bob points out in his blog that’s where RAC finds itself.

Now Bob moves forward in his commentary to point the fickle finger of fate at what he calls the Magnificent 7 (which was really a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic The Seven Samurai) which is composed of the seven regional directors of RAC. (Well at least he didn’t lump President Geoff, VE4BAW into this as we might have had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but that’s another movie.)

Under RAC’s current governance structure the seven directors are the only folks with an actual vote when it comes down to making decisions. And, as much as I’d like to see this change, it’s not the real problem! In a year and half I have yet to hear the directors make a decision that hasn’t been for the overall good of Amateur Radio and Radio Amateurs of Canada.

What the larger problem has been is getting board and executive members to enlist the help of all members of Radio Amateurs of Canada to act upon the things that need doing. This board/executive group (and I’m including myself here) and the boards that preceded it have been pretty good at doing some things right but, the question remains, have we been doing the right things?

That’s why several of us are pushing very hard to implement this visioning process in 2010. If we members leave it in the hands of seven guys who got voted in and a dozen or so folks who got appointed (like me) to do the work then we’re in a lot more trouble than we might have thought. There’s too much work to go around and it’s all important work.

Let’s face reality here. Over the years some of the guys on the “team” haven’t been pulling their weight and some are working way too hard in their volunteer position but this is the nature of any group and should come as no surprise.

The problem is this fact has been pretty much ignored. There are no job descriptions and no work reviews. No one is held to account. This is a serious flaw in our management structure and needs to be addressed.

And I disagree with critics who say you can’t hold volunteers to account. Tell that to the volunteers who work fearlessly for organizations like the Canadian Red Cross Society or the men and women who put their lives on the line working for volunteer fire departments across Canada. Nonsense. We should expect more and demand more from our volunteers and those who aren’t willing to work hard during their tenure should make way for new blood. I believe strongly in rotation of leadership and I will rotate my way out of the VP of PR position to allow somebody else to get involved and make a contribution.

Take the national membership campaign for an example. I got all kinds of heat around not offering some incentives to encourage people to join. I don’t believe in offering incentives to join an organization where the benefits are so obvious. What I asked for was that everyone in the leadership group take personal responsibillity to ask at least 20 other hams to join our national organization.

So far, I’ve had two reports of minimal success. When Ontario South Assistant Director Doug, VE3JDF and I worked the Ontario Hamfest in Milton, which is a medium-size fleamarket, we got 25 people to join or renew in three hours. How? We asked everybody who walked passed the booth whether or not they were a RAC member. Those who said yes, we thanked for their support. Those who said no, we asked them to join us in supporting their national organization.

Poor President Geoff who has been with us for a year or so, I am certain sits up in bed and asks himself “what did I get myself into?” I, on the other hand, wake up in the middle of the night and go back to a restful sleep knowing we have a president with huge amounts of group experience and government work behind him. (Geoff’s a big mucky muck in the Manitoba government in case you didn’t know.) The few calls for his departure are both premature and uncalled for.

I’m not saying that President Geoff is going to save the day but I am saying he’s the best shot we’ve got right now and I for one do not intend to let him down by keeping my comments to myself or by not doing what I say I will do.

Now as to Bob’s comments about the directors’ comments. If Bob is speaking about the 2010 Transformational Process, I agree with him. There has been little comment or public support of the process and that concerns me.

However, if Bob is speaking about the directors’ willingness (even eagerness) to communicate directly with members and non-members who have raised issues, then I can clarify the situation. Every comment or blog posting that affects the board or RAC or has been a complaint aimed at an individual has been forwarded by me to the board/executive group email. In every case where there has been an accusation of neglect, the affected board member or members have communicated directly back to the person.

So far in 99.99% of the cases where we’ve been accused of ignoring someone it has been my experience that there was a simple breakdown in the communications. (When it comes to emails, we have the ability to search our database for the original email and often it just isn’t there. Some people put way too much faith in sending a single email and then not taking responsibility to follow it up or to make a personal telephone call. All of our phone numbers are on page 4 of TCA so really folks there’s no excuse to claim you were ignored if you didn’t take the time to call.)

Finally as to Bob’s comment about RAC being a secret society, I agree. Member-driven public organization should not have any closed meetings with the sole exceptions of issues dealing with competitive bidding for services or matters involving paid staff (where professional reputations are involved). Again in almost two years I have never heard a single decision discussed and voted upon that could not have taken place in public.

I hold a minority point of view here and have been told as much but that’s why we have annual general meetings which are run under Robert’s Rules of Order and are open to all (not just members) and subject to motions from members….like me and you :)

So Bob (and the rest of you) remember the power to change RAC for the better rests in the hands of the ultimate authority – the members – you OMs and YLs who care about Amateur Radio. This might come as a shock to a few folks.

Part 12 – The Man In The Mirror

John Bartlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ, has sent us Transforming RAC – Part 12 where he encourages us all to step in to the transformational process.

Over the last few weeks John and I have spoken almost daily and somedays several times a day about the process RAC has embarked upon. Initially I indicated that I was fearful of where this process could take Radio Amateurs of Canada. Based on my reading of the attempt back in 2008 to offer RAC the same process, which was not implemented, I asked John why he thought this time would be different. I said I didn’t think the leaders in RAC or the greater Amateur Radio community would step up and get involved.

We talked for days about my fears of the process and the participation of others and then my training as a group coach kicked in and I realized it wasn’t the process that I was afraid of it was my ability to participate in it!

So when I hear that some leaders in the Canadian Amateur Radio community question the public process we’ve started I can sympathize. Change is always challenging but the challenge isn’t about the process, it’s always about ourselves.

It’s about how we stay true to our word. How we retain our own integrity and trust ourselves to remain open and engaged especially in the face of anger or ridicule (which is always shame-based and is one of the great weapons that men in men’s groups try to use to defend themselves and their point of view).

Once I realized that my fears were all about me, I was immediately ready to engage because I know my agenda (and we all have agendas – I got that from President Geoff who laughed me off the telephone when I said I didn’t have an agenda when it came to this process) and it’s to do my very best to make RAC a better organization for all – members and non-members alike.

So don’t be afraid of the process. Here’s some gold from the men’s groups I coached:

Go look at the person in mirror and ask yourself what can he or she do to make RAC better for everybody who loves Amateur Radio in Canada.

Transforming RAC – Parts 8 and 9

John, VE1OZ/HK3OZ has sent us Parts 8 and 9 of his Transforming RAC series of documents.

These documents, from one to nine can be found as PDFs with all artwork, photos and graphics on this blog at the page entitled Transforming Radio Amateurs of Canada - Introduction (and without graphics in the right hand column).

As always, we welcome your comments and emails about this opportunity to involve everyone in RAC’s future vision.

Visions or Memories

When it comes to the transformational process are you living in vision or memory?

Critics who say let’s kill RAC and start again are living in memory. They remember every slight – every failure – every criticism that was inflicted upon them in the last week – the last year – the last decade. Sadly these critics (both men and women) live in the same place as the characters in the Coen brothers movie No Country for Old Men. I know. When I saw that movie especially the scene where Tommy Lee Jones goes back home to visit his father, an old man now no longer vital, I saw myself sitting on the porch of the broken down cabin watching the desert winds blow up the dust. This was not a good moment for me.

And so it goes with the debate about RAC’s future.

What we take from the past, which has been shared by some so eloquently and forcefully, are the lessons of wisdom and age. I say most of us OMs and XYLs have expressed the desire to see a stronger, more open and democratically run national organization. These commentators (and they’re not all old like me) are serving Amateur Radio in Canada and should be lauded for their contributions.

And when it comes to their vision and my vision and your vision let us make happen.

It is not up to President Geoff. It can’t be left in the hands of a few. It must come from all of us who want a strong national organization.

Is RAC perfect? Ah! Far from it. But it is the RAC we deserve! And, if we want a better RAC, then I invite you – no I implore you – to get involved. If this means a change in personnel – then so be it. If it means changing the governance structure – we can do that in a heartbeat. If it means working harder – I know there are amateurs out there who will work hard for the hobby they love.

But to those who insist on living in the past, I fall back on a quote from the other John (not Bartlett) but John Lennon:

We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

Keep those emails and comments coming in. You are creating the RAC you deserve :) and bless you for it.


Just a point of clarification:

The discussion was not initiated by John Bartlett. He was invited by the Board to facilitate a process and John is part of the process of renewal. The material is posted on the RAC Blog for reading by hams everywhere. The board and executive are confident that the on-going public debate will help inform the board and executive and contribute to the creation of an effective go-forward strategy for RAC. In my view the long standing accusations that RAC is an “Old boys club” or a “secret society” have been put to bed by this process.

The new RAC welcomes debate.

Geoff ve4baw

President and Chair

Former RAC President Post

With great respect, in my humble view RAC President Bawden’s latest posting seems sadly not to have much, if any, relationship to John Bartlett’s seven (or it is eight)-part oversight of how the RAC might pull itself out of its present woes.

Are John’s recommendations being taken seriously and being acted upon by the president or directors, or are they not?

After all, it is those recommendations that started this entire discussion in the first place. It was not inititated by the president or board. Yet we members are left in the dark as to what, if anything, is actually taking place. Surely it isn’t secret.

The RAC could be seen as burning while its leaders fiddle with plebiscites, wringing their hands in a show of concern, if not confusion.

Frankly, talk is cheap, especially when it has little bearing on the matter at hand. Action, on the other hand, is what is needed. And now.

Afterall, isn’t that what the RAC leaders were elected to do?

Of course, this is just my humble opinion.

Bob Cooke
Past President RAC
Past Ontario South Region Director RAC
Past Vice President Field Services RAC
Past Ontario South Assistant Director RAC

But I’m just new!

A ham who describes himself as being “new” said in an email to me that he wasn’t sure he should speak up since he really didn’t have a vision for the future. He also questioned the wisdom of going public with the transformational process. He said he’d wait until he heard what the leadership of RAC had to say.

Since his email was addressed to me and a few others in the RAC board/executive team it wouldn’t be good protocol for me to reprint it here but I can share my reply. Here it is with names changed:

Hi Bill:

I disagree with you (so what’s new with that?). As an inexperienced amateur your comments are just valid as mine as we’re talking about what we’d like to see (vision) and your vision is as valid as my own. Maybe even more so since you come at the issues with fresh eyes and no baggage from the past. We have enough of that already :)

I’d suggest you not wait for the direction from us in the exec/directors group. President Geoff has supported the public airing of the process and this is a brave and progressive stance. Based on the silence from some, I have a story that he is not universally supported in this.

I support him and after answering emails and posting comments to the blog for seven straight hours today alone I can tell you he has the support of some of the best people in Amateur Radio in Canada.

If we were running a corporation or private company, going outside to the public would be inappropriate and perhaps even unethical. However Radio Amateurs of Canada is not owned by the directors or executive.

In fact, as a public members-based organization, our executive and board are but trusted servants and should never govern. As a member I would reject being “governed” by anyone but I’d appreciate being “served” by those I elect or appoint into positions of trust.
That’s why this transformation discussion must be held in public and engaged in by the members. It can’t be relegated to a back room discussion by a few “officials” who then do the thinking for the rest of us. That’s not going to fly with the members.

It’s going to come as no surprise to anyone that RAC needs work. We have a few specific problems that need addressing right now. We have a much larger issue around governance and how do we work together. I fear these maybe the insurmountable issues.

When we come to the meeting in October I will be calling for transparency and open access to anyone who wishes to monitor the process. I’d love to live stream the discussion online. We’ve nothing to hide. No one has any special agenda here that doesn’t benefit Amateur Radio in Canada and Radio Amateurs of Canada specifically….do they?

In a year and half of teleconferences I’ve never heard anything that could not have been heard by every member. By being open and transparent our members will see for themselves that we’re less of an “old boy’s” and are a group of dedicated members just like them.

Don’t wait to speak up Bill. Radio Amateurs of Canada needs to hear from you and from every member.
Any folks, the same applies to you. Let us know what you think and get involved in the future of Amateur Radio in Canada. This is much too important a debate to be left in the hands of a few.

How to Grow Ham Radio

Thanks to Bob, VE3MPG for this posting on 26 ways how to attract more people into the amateur radio hobby.

  1. Have brochures designed and written and approved by RAC members in the know – find target mailing list and mail the brochure out regularly through the year with updates – keep them in the loop. Should be published in both official languages. Make sure they are copy-edited.
  2. Distribute these information pamphlets at various locations – tech high schools, Scout of Canada headquarters, Boys and Girls Clubs, CEGEPs etc. (both official languages)
  3. Place ads in local computer magazines – yes, hams do use computers for various functions – psk modes, logging, low signal work, aprs – yes, it’s still a young person’s hobby if they apply it to computers and the internet. Show how the internet is used for logging and call sign servers, remote operation of stations and all other manner of amateur use. Have an advertising committee to work up some copy.
  4. Skywarn and weather spotting activities appeal to the younger hams. (see WorldRadio Online, August 2010 issue)
  5. Emphasize the public service aspect, emergency comms, antenna building, alternative power solutions like solar; low power can yield DX – good antennas are the solution.
  6. Emphasize youth in other countries – it may seem like an old man’s hobby but there are large youth groups involved in amateur radio. See the attached WRO PDF file, turn to page 12 for a story on the Youth Forum at Dayton this year – impressive! Also see page 42 of this issue – “The Power of Demonstration: Our Top Recruiting Tool” – we must get more RAC members to demo different aspects of our hobby – once new hams are recruited get them to subscribe to a Canadian Amateur Radio magazine with articles written by their peers.
  7. Kit building can be a money saving solution to expensive commercial radios. Solicit more easy to build kit articles in TCA and provide clear stick-on RAC logos to put on the finished kit. Let’s be more visible – with the stickers.
  8. Emphasize high-tech comms with satellites, the International Space Station etc. – all accomplished with hand held low powered dual band radios and computers.
  9. Set up easy to understand amateur activities at the Museum or in schools and high schools.
  10. Provide schools and youth clubs and Scouting Canada a free subscription to RAC’s publications. Target new groups on a regular basis. Provide NRC library with subscription. Don’t rely on the Science and Tech museum to adequately distribute out of date publications.
  11. Find new hams to write as guest bloggers on the RAC blog.
  12. Keep this momentum going – organize a task force with new ham emphasis and to target youth.
  13. Provide universities with promo pamphlet. (see VA3STL’s efforts at Carleton University!)
  14. Provide timely relevant information to new and prospective amateurs on the RAC blog – have proof-readers and copy-editors to go over any text for spelling and grammatical errors! Let’s make the right first impression. Yes, even bloggers need help with the English language.
  15. Have non-hams look at our efforts for relevancy – they may have some unique perspective in attracting new amateurs.
  16. Don’t discount or ignore any complaints or suggestions about RAC’s operations at all levels. Someone should be keeping a to-do list with recommendations and actionable items to be completed. This should be an on-going process – not something to be looked at only during the AGM.
  17. Find qualified persons (yes, it takes more than one web person!) to bring the RAC web site up to modern standards – it is arcane and difficult to navigate and poorly designed. It’s not attractive and internet users stay away from it.
  18. Encourage a local Youth Net.
  19. Leave brochure material or give presentation with the Canadian Forces Reserve Barracks at Dows Lake. Established in 1943, this military emplacement is home to HMCS Carleton (Canadian Naval Reserve), 30th Field Regiment(RCA) (Canadian Army Reserve), as well as 3 cadet corps.
  20. Assure that current copies of TCA are available at all local school libraries.
  21. Find a young ham to write a column for future issues of TCA.
  22. Assure that the local public libraries have copies of TCA and RAC brochures.
  23. Answer ALL emails to RAC in a timely fashion. Don’t let any email go unanswered. RAC must act like a legitimate business. Have an action list and log of responded to emails.
  24. Solicit donations of better and more computer equipment for use by volunteers at RAC headquarters. Have an attractive volunteer work area at RAC headquarters. Encourage in-office help as well as online work for volunteers. Set up a ‘jobs to do’ area on the RAC website.
  25. Find people that represent the culture RAC wants and hopes to create.
  26. RAC magazine should feature new young hams – interview (and a photo) should reflect why they became hams and how they studied to become hams – new column should be Youth oriented. RAC website should have a youth page/new hams page, with photos of new hams.