November, 2007
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Cole Greenberg #373


My first taste of the political scene in ASHI came at the national conference in San Antonio. I was not privy to the intricate details of the internecine process, but I knew something was up when I heard some lively debates between the leaders during the conference. I’m glad I was just a newbie still absorbing everything I could from this great organization.

I did learn however, that there were some warts just below the surface of this living, breathing, body of knowledge. Having come from a family of five siblings, I could sorely appreciate differences of opinion. What was occurring within ASHI, however, was more than just a squabble. To this day, I’m not privy to all the details of the power struggle that had been going on, and I’m sure whatever I write will not be completely accurate. But that’s not the point. If you want to know the facts, ask the principals involved. The more important thing is, that as a group, we have a tendency to bring out the best and, unfortunately, the worst from each other … as if there aren’t enough outside challenges for us to face! San Antonio was just my first knowledge of this bitter pill.

We’ve probably all heard the debate about the “best” way to perform an inspection. Start on the outside vs. start on the inside. Walk the roof while still on the outside vs. don’t walk the roof until you inspect the attic sheathing. Give cost estimates vs. don’t … they’ll only remember the low price. Cracks in heat exchangers allow CO to enter the house vs. the positive pressure from the blower will prevent CO from entering the crack. I could go on, but in my experience, if you put two inspectors within shouting distance of each other, you’re bound to get three different opinions about anything. I myself have been known to argue with a sign that I put up.

So it’s not a great leap to recognize that there will be opposing views on the “best” way to run an organization the size of ASHI. If we were to separate the personalities from the debate as much as possible, I believe governance within ASHI, boils down to two approaches:

A) More control by fewer people

B) Less control by more people

Once in power, it’s tempting to succumb to the advantages of concentrating and consolidating authority in a smaller, more manageable group — more control by fewer people. Quicker decisions, fewer opposing ideas to deal with, less money needed to spend on travel, food and accommodations for a larger group. Many type A personalities believe that’s the only way to govern and get things done.

The second philosophy, less control by more people, has it’s advantages, too. Wider selection of ideas from which to choose. Larger pool of people to glean for those ideas. Robust debate. More “buy in” on final decisions. More time to figure out if the final decision is correct.

I am firmly planted in the second group. While the siren song of ‘just do it’ may be appealing on the surface, the long term consequences can be catastrophic. What some leaders fail to recognize is that people in ASHI choose to follow or not. The goal, in my opinion, is to get people to want to follow. After all, they voluntarily pay ASHI dues.

Which leads me to something Cole Greenberg said in his ASHI’s Annual Report Letter from the President in 1993:

“The next time you talk with a chapter officer or director, or one of ASHI’s international leaders, please thank him or her, for devoting so much time and energy to make ASHI work.

“Where do we go from here?  I have always been outspoken about the goals I think ASHI should have and I promise that will not change. I support:  Formalized education developed by ASHI for Candidates and Members; A professional designation program for Members willing to work for extra accreditation; ASHI’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics in the hands of all home buyers before they arrange for an inspection; Review of disputed report sections for conformity to the Standards of Practice; Acceptance of ASHI’s Standards of Practice as the definition of “home inspection” and ASHI Certified Member as the definition of “home inspector” in every residential purchase contract … I will be working on all of them until they are realized, until I am talked out of one, or until I am too old to be useful.”

Cole, I’d say you got pretty much what you worked for. That’s quite a legacy. I’ve learned a lot from your battle in San Antonio and I thank you for opening my eyes to ASHI politics. By the way, we’re still working on some of your goals.