An interview by Vicki Gremelsbacker, M.S.Ed.
In early 2017, Chuck Ramani announced his retirement as President of the International Accreditation Service (IAS). A newly appointed successor would need to take the reins by March 2018. Credentialing Insights spoke with Chuck and his successor, Raj Nathan, for a behind-the-scenes look at the succession planning that took place over the course of about a year.
In Part I of this interview series, we learn from Chuck what leaders should look for when identifying a successor, tips for a smooth transition and lessons learned during the process. Stay tuned for Part II, where Raj will share insights gained from assuming the role of President.
What qualities should a leader look for when identifying a successor?
Absolute competence and vision for the business is crucial. However, in my mind, the most important qualities are empathy and kindness. I have always believed that when you have an option between being right and being kind, choose the latter. It is easier being right, but it is more difficult to be kind. People often make decisions without looking at all the facts and make decisions based on hearsay.
Taking a step back and looking at the human side of things always results in better strategies and better decisions for all of us. It goes without saying that a potential CEO must have high morals and unquestionable integrity.
What was the process like in selecting Raj Nathan for the position?
In a non-profit organization owned by a membership-based parent association, it is critical that succession planning is thought out ahead of time. Since IAS is a subsidiary of International Code Council (ICC), and although the IAS Board of Directors had the sole responsibility for this decision, the parent had significant influence in the selection of my successor. While the process took time and was managed by a Washington, D.C.-based recruiting firm, the outcome was exactly what I expected in that my long time deputy was chosen to replace me. In the end, it all worked out well.
In addition to deep knowledge of the profession, I wanted someone with high integrity, passion and vigor to succeed me; and Raj Nathan has these qualities. He is also very familiar with the IAS Board’s operations and the parent-subsidiary relationship, which is very important to nurture and grow both organizations while maintaining operational independence.
What are some tips for those ready to pass the reins over to a successor?
The ability to effectively and transparently pass on critical details of one's best and worst decisions of the past to the incoming CEO or president is very important. This way, the successor can learn from the “victories” and avoid repeating past mistakes.
Adequate transition time to introduce the new CEO to the senior staff and major clients is also essential so policies enunciated by the incoming CEO are gracefully accepted by all.
What lessons have been learned regarding accreditation and credentialing?
In almost all countries there is a single accreditation body controlled or “blessed” by the government. In the United States, ISO-focused accreditations are administered through a mix of both governmental and private-sector agencies, introducing active competition in the accreditation field. In my belief, competition is good. It brings the best talent and the best practices to the surface. However, competition may negatively impact service quality when accreditation bodies of questionable ethics compete for market share.
When there are “for profit” commercial interests, there arises the need for strong oversight to make sure that only competent conformity assessment bodies (CABs) are accredited. In the personnel certification arena, some accreditation bodies of questionable reputation accredit private certification bodies offering “mail-order” certificates upon payment of a fee, with little or no verification of quality. While international accreditation standards do emphasize the need for total impartiality and accountability in the conformity assessment field, lacking legislative mandate for accreditation, many fly-by-night “certificate mills” operate freely within the global economy. In today’s cloud-based digital trading in goods and services, strong measures are needed to put these “certificate mills” out of business. Legitimate accreditation bodies have to get the message out to regulators on the importance of effective rules of operation and support legislation that demands accreditation of certifiers by recognized accreditation bodies.
Both ICE and IAS believe in the continuing need for training-based certificates of competency, while also supporting NCCA and ISO/IEC 17024 standards to accredit certification bodies that certify professionals who have significant impact on the public’s health, safety and welfare.
ICE and IAS thus have an obligation in the coming years to appropriately support both training-based “certificate” and assessment-based certification schemes run by industry associations.
When it comes to the changing landscape in technology and certification, more broadly, there are still many lessons to be learned and artificial intelligence (AI) is certainly something we should continue to keep an eye on. It is being applied at a rapid pace to automate many tasks previously done by humans. A new generation of technicians with in-depth knowledge of robotics are entering the manufacturing and service industries. Unfortunately, the accreditation community is slow to recognize the fast changing landscape brought on by AI, and may thus have to accelerate their assessor induction and training processes to ensure proper support to certifiers.
As stated by management guru Abraham Maslow, above all, people yearn for recognition and respect of their peers. Personnel certification bodies which hold ICE/IAS accreditation to the ISO/IEC Standard 17024 enjoy international recognition and respect, by virtue of global recognition and regular peer-review oversight of IAS through the regional arm of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). With appropriate support and participation by the members of ICE, the ICE-IAS joint program has a tremendous future of being the one-stop accreditation service provider to the emerging 17024 market.
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