Thank You Sponsors!
















Putting the Pedal to the Metal

The post Putting the Pedal to the Metal first appeared on the ISA Interchange blog site.

This post is authored by Jim Keaveney, president of ISA 2016.

Since this will be my last column as Society President, I want to start by thanking you for all of your contributions to our profession and ISA as well as for your support over the past year. I also want to thank our volunteer leaders for their passion and dedication.  It is our volunteers who develop our standards that serve as ISA’s foundation and work with staff to deliver world-class training, certification, and networking opportunities that make us better automation professionals.  Never lose sight of the fact that we make our world a better and safer place.


I also want to take this opportunity to update you on our progress in 2016. As you know, I have been committed to “staying the course,” collaborating with our volunteer leadership to remain laser focused on our five strategic goals: Content (the “WHAT”), Data (the “WHY”), Coolest Delivery (the “HOW”), Cybersecurity (the “TODAY”), and Advocacy (The “TOMORROW”).

It was just three years ago that we started down a new path in order to better define and achieve our strategic objectives. The first year was really about the process itself and communicating the goals — first with our volunteer leaders and then throughout the rest of our association. The second year centered on identifying, prioritizing, and measuring progress of the underlying objectives.  We also identified staff and volunteers leads and liaisons for each goal. This past year, we continued to build on our efforts, refining our objectives, and better integrating processes to ensure continuity.

To accelerate our progress, we placed greater emphasis on several core areas: Enhanced Alignment with “End Users,” Leadership Pipeline and Training, Globalization, and Voice of the Customer.

Enhanced Alignment with “End Users”

We are working to develop a program that — in similarity to our successful Corporate Sponsorships program — targets corporate marketing budgets. In doing so, we seek to:

  • Better connect with the corner offices of end user and engineering firms in order to understand their key initiatives and challenges. Though we are not leading discussions with a specific product or service, most companies tell us that their critical areas of focus include workforce development, cybersecurity, and process safety.
  • More fully leverage our core strengths. Who is better positioned than ISA to assess and develop programs that address these vital issues and satisfy these critical needs?
  • Mobilize ISA business development consultants—supported by ISA volunteer Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), references, and an arsenal of effective marketing collateral—to initiate and maintain productive peer-to-peer discussions.

Leadership Pipeline and Training

The Executive Board approved two task forces — the Nominations and Recruitment Task Force (NRTF) and the Leader Training Task Force (LTTF) — to conduct research and provide recommendations.  There are many aspects to the leadership pipeline challenge, including search, identification, recruitment, nomination, skill assessment and fit, training (ISA and leadership), mentoring, and diversity and inclusion.

Here are some of the important actions taken by these task forces during the year:

  • The NRTF recommended to adjust the membership of the Officers Search Committee and rename it to the Leadership Search & Oversight Committee to better reflect its role.
  • The NRTF laid the groundwork for a Leader Information Repository & Portal to allow us to identify and mentor potential leaders through their ISA roles. By creating a new email address (, we want to make it easy for members to submit names of potential leaders for consideration and follow up.
  • Another task force, the Nominations and Recruitment Implementation Task Force (NRITF), was established to work with staff on further developing the process and associated tools.
  • The LTTF developed five online courses to help leaders better understand their roles and expectations. We want to show them “what good looks like.”

Globalization Focus

The Globalization Focus Task Force (GFTF) is evaluating our current governance and operational models with respect to providing support and services for members outside of North America.  You may have heard the phrases that apply to this effort: “Think Globally and Execute Locally” and the “Devil is in the Details.”

Below are some points to recognize about the GFTF.

  • The GFTF is a diverse group that is meeting bi-monthly.
  • The group has confirmed its charter and has completed some comparative baselining with other associations.
  • The task force is expected to submit recommendations to the Executive Board by the Spring Leaders Meeting in 2017. This will allow time for dialogue and feedback with ISA’s wider volunteer leadership. For example, there may be recommended amendments to ISA’s Bylaws that would need to be supported by our Council of Society Delegates.

Voice of the Customer

To improve the customer experience, we need to consistently deliver a better experience. We need to continually assess the quality of the experiences we are delivering and listen to what our customers are saying. Our customers take many forms — members, volunteer leaders, customers, automation professionals, automation companies, educational institutions, governmental agencies, and staff all come to mind.  We’ve made some progress in 2016, but this is a never-ending journey. Some of the noteworthy accomplishments include:

  • Incorporating our three Assembly (Geographic, Operational, Technical) Chairs in all of Executive Board meetings and planning sessions. This has provided the Board with new perspectives and input, and has enhanced awareness and understanding among the assemblies of our core initiatives.
  • Utilizing the “at large” Board positions to add both competencies and perspectives. For 2017, Danaca Jordan and Colleen Layman will serve in these roles.  Danaca brings a millennial perspective to the Board and Colleen offers her expertise and experience as the 2016 President for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  Both also deliver unique insights as women in the automation profession.
  • Adding review and “what’s next” sessions at both our Spring and Fall Leaders Meetings.
  • Involving “end users” (DuPont, ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble) in our Automation Advisory Council (AAC), which provides us with useful feedback, direction, and validation on our initiatives.

In closing, I want to bring attention to all those that have positively impacted my ISA experience, career, and professional life; there is no way that I could adequately thank each one. I do need to thank my company for its support (to the extent that it did not impact my day time job). In particular, Nelson Norden has helped us become more market driven thanks to his market data and analysis expertise. Bill Bowden has led multiple leadership development sessions and has worked with our sales team to help us on our journey to become “trusted advisors” to industry.  John Herczeg walked us through a stage gate and product lifecycle process to help us frame a similar program at ISA. Finally, Jim Cahill provided invaluable guidance as we developed our social media strategy.

Mentors can make such a positive impact and I have had many throughout my ISA engagement. There would not be enough space for me to thank each one. I would, however, like to acknowledge Bob Ives who coached me through my entire ISA involvement.  I am also grateful to Ken Baker, Leo Staples, Steve Huffman, Nick Sands, Ian Verhappen, and Dr. Peggie Koon for their ongoing guidance. I would also like to thank Charlie Longo, Ken Moyer, Hal Thomas, and Ed Cooney who got me started in my section leadership role as well as Bob Swan, Jim O’Connor, and Charlie Ackerman for prompting my district involvement.

I would also like to recognize our staff — they are the best!  Pat Gouhin and our ISA staff team have done a fantastic job supporting the volunteer leadership. We have made them partners in our strategic planning process and they have stepped up big time. They also have joined us in our journey to create a culture of continuous improvement.

ISA’s Executive Board also has stepped up to provide the strategic direction and oversight needed to move our great association forward.  Without a doubt, we accelerated our progress in 2016. I look forward to supporting Steve Pflantz as he leads our 2017 Board and Society in a new year of opportunity. I have never been more optimistic about our future.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Barbara, and our family. Much of our ISA commitment comes at the expense of personal and family time. I will be forever grateful for their patient support.

I wish each of you Happy Holidays and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

About the Author

Jim KeaveneyJim Keaveney is northeast regional manager and key account director at Emerson Process Management. He brings a strong track record in automation technologies sales and marketing and business planning to his role as Society president. Jim has been an active ISA member for more than 30 years and has served in numerous leadership positions, including Society treasurer, finance committee chair and District 2 vice president. He has received numerous ISA honors, including the Distinguished Society, District 2 Golden Eagle and Lehigh Valley Section Dannenberg Service awards. He also received a Certificate in Instrumentation from the Philadelphia Section of ISA. Jim received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Temple University and a master’s degree in business administration from Penn State University.
Connect with Jim:
48x48-linkedin Twitter48x48-email


A version of this article also has been published in ISA Insights.

Source: ISA News