February, 2003
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



First Challenge of the New Year: Creating an Enjoyable Culture

RICHARD C. MATZEN

Probably at ASHI’s inception in 1976, the compelling challenge was to define the home inspection profession and to educate each inspector to a minimum level of competence. Therefore chapters hosted education programs as their first priority.
Our world has changed in subtle ways. Perhaps you’d agree that after several years of education, home inspectors reach a similar level of proficiency, and education programs no longer have the urgency they did during the candidate period. As inspectors achieve a solid level of skill and proficiency, they tend to drift from chapters or identify other reasons for chapter involvement.

After providing a fundamental education, ASHI has not done all it could to create the attraction for continued involvement. Otherwise why would 50 percent of our members choose not to be involved in a chapter?

We identified this shortcoming during strategic planning in 1999, and included an objective to create an enjoyable culture within ASHI and its chapters. It is difficult to define an enjoyable culture, and even more difficult to measure it. But last year as your President-Elect, I visited many chapters, and from what I observed I came to believe an enjoyable culture can be defined as an environment where there is a mutual acceptance of all participants and of their points of view.

Also, there must be a high level of trust among members; both trust that leaders are leading well in the agreed upon direction, and trust among leaders that members will follow as leaders identify the best course.

Most importantly, there must be an agreed upon understanding that positive relationships are more important than outcomes.

Last year I attended a chapter meeting held in the Texas Rangers baseball stadium. After the meeting, we shared a bag of peanuts and watched the ballgame. I don’t remember who played or the outcome of the game, but I do remember the pile of peanut shells and the family stories I heard from the guys around me — enjoyable.

Many chapters organize meetings around food, always a good choice. There isn’t a culture in our world that eats and bickers at the same time. Food causes people to bond.  Several chapters have elevated eating to a high art. I heard from Past President Casey that Garden State does a wine and cheese event I shouldn’t miss.

It’s always a correct step to include the family. Where spouses and kids get involved, the connection between members strengthens and the fabric of the inspectors’ experience broadens. I’m aware of friendships among families that have extended far beyond ASHI activities, and I hope we seek more opportunities to include families.

I, like many of you, have volunteered throughout my ASHI career. Yet few of the tasks seem strikingly memorable when compared to the friendships that were formed during the days and weeks we concentrated together on completing our projects. It’s the people who leave lasting feelings of success, pride and mutual respect. It’s the sense of pleasure in friendships that causes me to believe the work products of our groups are secondary to the culture that produces the work.

A few months ago, a member used a phrase that stuck with me. After a long tough deliberation over a concept in our written work he said, “Okay, I’ll compromise. This is not a hill to die on.” We have few hills to die on in ASHI, but many opportunities to compromise and build friendships.

Earlier I discussed our objective to create an enjoyable culture. To achieve this objective, change needs to occur at the chapter level and at the national level. Several years ago the Board of Directors adopted a method of operating called Knowledge Based Governance. One element of Knowledge Based Governance is the concept of dialogue before deliberation.

As we use this concept, we simply divide the 21 member Board into smaller groups and move from the board table to small round tables to discuss and examine an issue as a committee of the whole. This is the dialogue part. We note our important conclusions.

Then the Board reconvenes to conduct a traditional board session. Using “Robert’s Rules of Order,”  motions pass or fail. This is the deliberation phase. The key to this process is the face-to-face conversation and the meeting of the minds that occurs during the dialog phase.

Through this new process trust has increased, respect has grown as people are heard and understood, and tolerance has increased as individuals are encouraged to express complete ideas. The increase in trust, respect and tolerance we achieve in small groups moves seamlessly to the large Parliamentary debate and effective decisions are made with mutual regard.

I encourage chapters to use this method. It has worked well for the Board and could help create a more enjoyable culture throughout the Society.