Managing the Working Group
All Working Group meetings should run according to an announced agenda that is distributed well in advance of the meeting itself. This follows part of the principles of due process and openness. By supplying agendas, minutes, and meeting announcements, all interested parties have a chance to be informed and to participate in the development of your standard. Another item that helps to coordinate Working Group meeting is having established procedures. These procedures would include information on voting rights, officers, what records are to be kept, and other pertinent information.
Another principle of the standards process that comes into play at this point is that of consensus. While most widely employed during the balloting process, consensus can also be used to help resolve contentious Working Group issues as well. Consensus means the majority agrees on an issue. It is useful for a Working Group to consider what “approval” will mean in its voting. Does it mean satisfying a simple majority or should it mean more than that? (Unlike balloting, there are no strict rules here.) Applying the principle of consensus can help Working Groups move forward on controversial subjects.
Moving the Working Group forward is one of the primary goals for a chair to keep in mind. It is the chair’s role to make certain that everyone has had an opportunity to voice their opinions on a subject. Meetings can be run informally, or formally, usually operating under Robert’s Rules of Order, the venerable guide to the use of parliamentary procedure during meetings. Robert’s is particularly useful if there is any expectation that a meeting will be contentious.
Robert’s may also help when the group confronts the possibility of antitrust or collusion appearing in discussions. While certain actions that the group may make may not be unlawful in and of themselves, discussion of certain topics among competitors may suggest a tacit understanding to act together in a way that violates the law. This implication of collusion must be avoided at all costs. Some ways to do this are avoiding specific discussion of prices or any of the elements of pricing, such as pricing policies, discounts, warranties or guarantees, terms or conditions of sale, credit, shipping, or commercial liabilities. Discussion of general elements of prices, such as saying that including something may be too expensive or that the benefits may outweigh the costs, is allowable. All parties have a right to be heard under the imperative principle of openness.
Conflict is almost unavoidable at Working Group meetings, since not everyone will agree on the best method for doing something in a standard. It’s the chair’s role to serve as a balance in such situations. The chair must be objective and cannot speak to one side or another on an issue unless they recuse themselves. The chair also cannot make motions (although the chair can entertain them). As such, the chair should anticipate where a major conflict might arise and plan how to deal with it.
While anyone can attend Working Group meetings, the chair should strive to have a balance of interests represented and to have active, interested, expert participants. It is also the chair’s responsibility to ensure that the members of a Working Group follows the individual method know they represent only themselves.
In addition, many Working Groups use teleconferences and video conferences as a means of holding some of their meetings, or of allowing Working Group members who can’t travel a means to participate. Some Working Groups have found they can increase their non-US participation by using these technologies, while others have found that they increase their meeting attendance in general.
Sometimes, however, it’s unavoidable that the meeting site will need to be at a hotel, which involves charges for hotel meeting rooms. In such cases, a Working Group will sometimes have to charge meeting fees. If this is necessary, it’s recommended that the Working Group appoint a treasurer to manage the funds and any bank accounts involved. Fees are often charged on a per-meeting or an annual basis, and the Working Group chair or treasurer should estimate the costs for the period and divide it per expected number of meeting attendees.
Standards Committee must ensure the submission of an annual financial report for the operation of the Sponsor and all of its standards development committees (e.g., working groups, task groups).