Facing the Future

By Dennis A. Lindberg, P.Eng.

In this era of rapid change, associations such as APEGGA must make every effort to anticipate, recognize and respond in a proactive manner to evolving needs of their membership and the changing expectations of society. This is not a simple task.

We are all well aware of many words, approaches, tools and devices which are in common use today but which just a decade ago were unheard of or were known only to those actually involved in their development. Had we participated in a planning session ten years ago, how well might we have forecast these changes and the impact they would have on our lives? Probably not with a high degree of accuracy, but this is no excuse for not trying to foresee what lies ahead. This is true for individuals and certainly applies to organizations such as APEGGA. I would even go as far as to suggest that longer-range planning is critical to an association's existence and survival. Simply put, if you don't have a plan of where you should go, how will you know when you get there?

Planning Sessions

APEGGA has held periodic planning sessions since 1989. The early sessions clearly identified our responsibilities to society. They helped to develop the Association's Mission and Vision Statements which emphasize this responsibility, and which, despite changes that have occurred around us, are still valid today. These statements have provided the foundation for discussions at subsequent planning sessions.

By way of a reminder, APEGGA's Mission is: "To serve society by regulating, enhancing and providing leadership in the practice of the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics."

Our Vision is: "To be the focal organization which is the recognized leader of the engineering, geology and geophysical professions involved in the application of science and technology for the benefit of society within Alberta."

Business Plan Evolved

A planning session held last year proved particularly productive. Discussions covered a broad range of topics and ultimately resulted in six policy statements to guide the future direction of the Association. The Executive Director and staff incorporated these, along with earlier Council policies and our regulatory responsibility, into our Business Plan, 1997 and Beyond. (My predecessor Fred Otto, P.Eng, PhD, in his President's Notebook of April 1997, provided an excellent explanation of key provisions and implications of the business plan.)

While the business plan attempts to make projections forward as far as the year 2007, the plan is very much a living document that needs to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. We began this process during an APEGGA strategic planning meeting held last month (May 8 to 10).

Doug Macnamara, vice-president and manager of the Banff Centre for Management, helped guide our discussions and kept the group in focus. Doug wisely reminded us that without an idea of where we are headed, there is the danger of believing that every change represents an opportunity. If we have a better idea of where we are headed, we are better positioned to pursue the appropriate opportunities.

Ten Years Ahead

In looking ten years into the future, the strategic planning session tried to predict the makeup of our membership by the year 2007. Participants attempted to profile the roles APEGGA members might fill ten years hence. We sought to paint a picture of the types of skills and experience our membership might require and the responsibilities they might have to meet in a more fluid and more demanding work environment. This led us to a preliminary examination of services that APEGGA could facilitate, arrange or provide to assist members in the future. The possibilities discussed require further development before they can be taken to Council in the form of a proposal.

Useful Presentations

In addition to the valuable guidance of Doug Macnamara, the group benefited from the insights of two invited presenters. Gerry DeSorcy, P.Eng., is a veteran member of the Association who has served on the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers' Accreditation Review Committee. He drew on his recent work with the Canadian Engineering Human Resources Board to predict the profile for a professional member ten years from now. Richard Motyka, P.Eng., is a more recent graduate working in the rapidly expanding field of computer software development. He explained the skepticism that he and some of his colleagues share regarding the relevance of APEGGA in the non-traditional areas of engineering.

Attendance at the 1997 gathering included new Council members, those staying on Council, and APEGGA staff Directors as well as two senior members of the Association's communication staff who play a key role in delivering APEGGA's message to members and the public.

Besides allowing us to look forward, the meeting served as an orientation for new Council members as they prepare to join the Council table as Councillors for the first time June 18-19. The gathering also provided an opportunity to review Council's governance model and the Association's organizational structure.

There was active debate but also a willingness to build consensus on critical issues facing our professions. From my observations of the planning session, I am confident that we have a strong and dedicated team of Council members and a competent staff that will permit fulfilment of APEGGA's Mission and Vision.

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